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Will the Rockies join the 100 loss club this year?

The 2014 Rockies are now on pace to do worse than 2012's 64-98 record - will the 2014 team be the one that finally breaks through the 100 loss barrier?

Doug Pensinger

The Rockies are bad this year. Really bad. This is not news. With the loss last night to San Diego, the Rockies fell to 46-73 on the year through 119 games in the 2014 season, falling 22 games back in the NL West (ha) and taking a one game lead in the race for the #1 pick in next year's draft over the Rangers.

Over a 162 game season, that .387 winning percentage is roughly equal to a 63-99 mark. This is not a new season, when it would have been unwise to extrapolate a 22-14 record on May 7th into a 99-63 record. It's the point in a season where we have enough data points to in fact declare that the Rockies are really bad. Groundbreaking journalism, I know! The Rockies are so bad that the team might approach a new frontier for the franchise - the 100 loss club. As unsuccessful as they've been since the franchise's beginning in 1993, the worst the Rockies have been is the 64-98 mark from 2012. This year's club has the chance to be record setting.

That 99 loss extrapolation mentioned above might be selling the Rockies short in terms of just how low they can go. Since that high water mark of 22-14, the Rockies are an abysmal 24-59 in their last 83 games. In other words, in a period of over half a season's worth of games, the Rockies have been a .289 ball club. Injuries are a factor, sure, but it's really really hard for a major league team to be so terrible over that long of a period.

Remember the concept of a replacement level player - a key component in the calculation of the WAR metric? The replacement player is NOT league average. The replacement player is a AAAA player, a waiver claim, or a Rule 5 guy that has somehow made his way to the major leagues. He is cheap and eminently replaceable, a player that costs your team two wins by playing him every day over a league average player. He is Brandon Barnes (per fWAR).

A team that is completely comprised of replacement level players would be expected to win only 30% of its games (48.6 over a 162 game schedule). At the pace they've played at over the past 83 games, the Rockies would be a 47-115 team, two games back in the division on the Replacement team. Heck, since that road sweep against the Giants back in mid-June that brought the team to 34-35 on the year, the team has gone 12-38 (.240 winning percentage) over its last 50 games. So for a little less than a third of the season, Colorado has played at a 39-123 pace. Egads!

Here's where the 2014 squad ranks against its predecessors through this point in the year:

Year Record through 119 Final record
1993 43-76 67-95
1994 53-64 53-64 (strike)
1995 62-57 77-67 (strike)
1996 61-58 83-79
1997 57-62 83-79
1998 54-65 77-85
1999 52-67 72-90
2000 59-60 82-80
2001 50-69 73-89
2002 56-63 73-89
2003 60-59 74-88
2004 54-65 68-94
2005 45-74 67-95
2006 58-61 76-86
2007 62-57 90-73
2008 53-66 74-88
2009 66-53 92-70
2010 62-57 83-79
2011 55-64 73-89
2012 46-73 64-98
2013 55-64 74-88
2014 46-73 ???

As crazy as it seems, this year's edition of the Rockies is only tied for third worst in franchise history at this point of a season. Only time will tell if 2014 Colorado has the finishing kick of the expansion team (24-19 over its last 43) or will continue to crash and burn. So, will the 2014 team be the first in franchise history to break the 100 loss barrier? As a reminder, the Rockies would need to go 17-26 or better in their last 43 contests to avoid the mark.

Projection systems at sites like Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus don't think the Rockies will get there, projecting the Rockies to play their remaining 43 games at around a .500 pace, finishing about 66-96. The method behind this is that, warts and all, the Rockies only have a -76 run differential, which is only fourth worst in MLB, well behind the Texas Rangers at -122.

This run differential, when adjusted for quality of opponents, is what leads Baseball Prospectus to suggest the Rockies are underperforming by about 6-8 games so far this year. In addition, projection systems in general tend to be pretty cautious - the best team in the Fangraphs system is projected to go 26-19 the rest of the way.

It's a reminder that this team, even as currently constituted, has the potential to be much better than the squad we've watched over the last three months. I know that I wasn't alone in being extremely encouraged by Colorado's hot start. Still, it's hard to ignore the 83 games of terrible baseball we've just witnessed.

The ridiculous events that have somehow lead this franchise from division contention to #1 draft pick contention in just three months boggles the mind. Down the stretch, it's hard to believe that this version of the Rockies will be able to avoid 100 losses, but it's really hard to lose 100 games in a year. Will Colorado do it?