Earlier today the New York Mets announced that ace pitcher Noah Syndergaard is headed to an indefinite stay on the disabled list due to a “partial tear of his right lat muscle.” The team hasn’t provided a timeline for his return but a similar injury kept Colby Lewis out for nearly four months last year. In other words: it doesn’t look good for the fireballing righty (who, for some reason, refused an MRI last week).
But baseball is a zero-sum game and the Mets’ loss could be the Rockies’ gain.
It’s May 1 and the Rockies (16-10) currently stand in first place in the National League West. Regardless of what anyone thought about the team before the season, they don’t have to give those wins back, wins they gained without Ian Desmond, Tom Murphy, David Dahl, Chad Bettis, and mostly without Jon Gray (injury) or Tyler Anderson (performance). In short, they’ve had bad luck on injuries and they’re still winning. It’s not outrageous to think that, should they get back to full strength soon, they will be able to keep winning and make good on those dark-horse predictions.
Right now Fangraphs has the Rockies playoff odds at 33.8%. That puts them behind the Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Cardinals; they’ve already passed the Mets and the Giants (let that sink in). Let’s assume the first three are locks for their respective divisions. What does is the new outlook for the Rockies to make the playoffs?
The Mets (10-14) were widely considered to be wild card favorites, if not NL East contenders. Now, without Steven Matz or Seth Lugo in the rotation, or star outfielder and primary offensive catalyst Yoenis Cespedes, the team will need to count on an injury-prone rotation and an inconsistent offense to keep them afloat in the playoff race.
They aren’t the only ones, either. The other wild card favorite, the San Francisco Giants (9-17) currently have the worst record in baseball (let that sink in) and have also lost their best pitcher, Madison Bumgarner, until at least the All-Star break. Several of their offensive stars are struggling out of the gate and the bullpen seems to have the same problems as last year.
The surprise Arizona Diamondbacks (16-11) seem poised to make a run, considering their biggest weakness right now seems to be the bullpen. But they, too, have taken a big blow to their rotation, losing Shelby Miller to Tommy John surgery. And the perennial contenders St. Louis Cardinals (12-12) are quietly solid throughout the 25-man roster. Then they will call up a journeyman utility infielder from Double-A who will win Rookie of the Year because Cardinals. But when Mike Matheny is your manager there’s no telling how he might screw up even that.
This leaves the door wide open for the Rockies to make a sustained run at one of the two National League Wild Card spots. There are 136 games left and, save for six-straight against last year’s World Series teams, there isn’t any part of the schedule that stands out as fear invoking right now. The players on the disabled list will slowly be trickling back into the active roster over the next few weeks. Even If the Rockies only play .500 ball from here on out they’ll finish with 84 wins.
While 84 wins may not seem like a lot, with the rest of the contenders falling off, it may be all the Rockies need for a wild-card spot. If the Rockies can continue to play over .500, which they should, then their chances are that much greater.