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Some observations on half-season records

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Have the Rockies historically been more of a first half team or a second half team? Or neither?

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Woe, we're halfway there.

Or is it "whoa, we're halfway there?"

Yes, baseball fans, the Colorado Rockies have reached the midway point of the 2015 season with a record of 34-47. Even with the team's struggles in recent years, that seemed like an unusually bad mark to me, so I decided to look up the team's historical records before and after the 81 game mark of the season. Unfortunately for me, Baseball Reference defines season halves as being before and after the All-Star break, instead of by the actual mathematical halfway point. Luckily for me, the Rockies are only in their 23rd season of play, which made compiling the data for their entire history fairly easy. I wound up with a chart that looked like this:

This is a lot to digest, so let's break it down a bit.

As it turns out, I wasn't wrong in thinking this year was a particularly bad 81 game start. In fact, it's the 6th worst in Rockies history, behind only 1993, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2012. It's just one game worse, however, than last year's 35-46 start.

It's 2014's 31-50 second half record that is more interesting, as it was actually the worst second half the franchise had ever played, and the only time any Rockies team played at a 100-loss pace in the second half of the season. In most of the Rockies' other worst seasons, like 1993, 2005 or 2012, the team got off to an abysmal start, but the 2014 team was still flirting with .500 in mid-June before eventually fading to wind up with the second worst record in franchise history.

I highlighted that all-time worst split in red, and then went hunting for the other extremes, which I highlighted in green for good and red for bad.

The best first half of a season the Rockies ever played was in the playoff year of 1995, when the team led the division for most of the season. That 40-32 record was compiled in the first 72 games of a 144 game season, but their 46-35 mark over the first 81 games of that season is also a franchise best. The team record for a 162 game season actually came in 2000, when the team started 45-33 before a three game losing streak brought them to 45-36 after 81 games. That club would fade to an 82-80 record.

Unsurprisingly, the best second half records belong to 2007 and 2009. Each of those clubs went 50-31 in their second 81 games, but the 2007 team gets the distinction of having the better record, as the Wild Card playoff game gave them an extra victory for a total of 51-31. These are the only two times the Rockies have played half of a season at a 100-win pace.

The worst start to a season is also a tie, with both the inaugural 1993 squad and the 'Generation R' 2005 team limping out of the gate at 28-53. Both of those clubs managed to avoid losing 100 games by responding with respectable 39-42 second half records.

After determining these bests and worsts, I went through and highlighted every half-season and full season in which the team finished above .500, as well as bolding and italicizing the playoff years in the righthand column.

This didn't reveal anything earth-shattering at first. The Rockies have had seven winning seasons in their history, and they have had fourteen winning halves, seven in the first half and seven in the second half. Seems simple enough. However, it was the distribution that eventually stuck out to me. The Rockies winning seasons have come in 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2007, 2009 and 2010. There are two obvious "good" periods, with one 82-80 outlier in the middle.

The winning first halves came in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2010. This is a far more even distribution across the history of the franchise, and two of those teams failed to finish with a winning record.

It's the winning second half records that I found to be the most interesting, however. They came in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2008 and 2009: Two multi-year streaks with nothing in-between or since.

It's easy to look at that and jump to the conclusion that the way those teams were constructed led to them being second half warriors, but I feel I should point out that the 1998 and 2008 teams were not good, and that 2007 and 2009 teams were incredibly different, even featuring different managers. Still, I feel it's worth pointing out that the two eras that Rockies fans consider to be the best were the only times when this franchise has ever performed well in the second half of the season.

The 2010 team lost 13 of its last 14 games and still finished just one game under .500 in the second half, but no Rockies squad since has even come close. In the last four seasons, they have lost 47, 48, 47 and 50 games in the second half, meaning that the Rockies haven't played at better than a 94-loss pace in the second half since the September collapse five years ago. This is not the first time this has happened to the franchise. The 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2006 teams all saw promising seasons slip away with dismal second halves during the first dark period of the franchise. It's pretty obvious now, with 4 1/2 years of data, that we're living in the second one. The Rockies will need to significantly outperform their recent second halves this year if they want to avoid losing 90 games for the third time in four seasons.

Next, let's look at the team's cumulative first and second half records. I have not included this year's first half in the tally, so that we can compare across an even number of games. Well, an almost even number. 1994 and 2007 featured an odd number of games, and I stupidly gave their second halves the extra game each time, so in this chart the Rockies have played two more games in the second half than the first.

There isn't a dramatic difference to be found here. In 1,750 first half games through the 2014 season, the Rockies have gone 815-935 for a winning percentage of .466. In 1,752 second half games, they have gone 826-926 with a winning percentage of .471. Despite having only three winning second halves since 1998, the Rockies still have a slightly better record in the second half of the season, likely due to the torrid finishes in 2007 and 2009 and the abysmal starts in 1993 and 2005. Both records, multiplied out over 162 games, give the Rockies around a 76-86 average record with a .4685 winning percentage.

Finally, I looked at which seasons featured a winning record in both halves of the season. 1995, 1997 and 2009 made the cut. The '97 team was consistently decent, while the other two seasons featured some of the best baseball the team has ever played. The 2007 team was 39-42 in the first half before posting its franchise best second half mark. It's possible to make the playoffs while only playing one half of good baseball, but we all remember what it took to get there that year and that's not exactly something that can be counted on reliably.

The Rockies need to put two good halves of baseball together if they want to be a contender again, but it would be nice if they could even start with one. There have been several stretches of good baseball over the last five seasons, but nothing sustained enough to give the team a winning record in any half of a season since the first half in 2010. That ten half streak is by far the longest franchise history, with the longest previous droughts being from 2000-2003 and 2003-2006. To be entirely fair, the 2003 team went 41-40 in its first 81 games, and that was the only winning half in that six year stretch, while the 2013 club just missed a winning first half at 40-41.

No matter how you look at the numbers, it's obvious that the Rockies are currently in the middle of the worst period in franchise history. Whenever I get too down about that fact, I ask myself who could have predicted in 2005 where the franchise would go in the next few years. Hopefully if I do this article again in five years' time there'll be a lot more black ink on the page, but maybe I'm just living on a prayer.