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Rockies still have good playoff odds despite rough August

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The next month will shape the Rockies playoff hopes

You’d be forgiven for thinking the Rockies season is in the dumpster. They finished the month of August at 12-15 after losing two of three to a Detroit Tigers team that just decided to sell off its biggest stars (you couldn’t have done that last week, Mr. Avila?). That represents the first month in 2017 the team was below .500. They scored 117 runs in 27 games, 31 runs fewer than they scored in 24 games in July, when they went 12-12. What’s worse is that this was perhaps the easiest month on the schedule, yet they went 10-12 against teams that are a combined 83 games below .500.

Meanwhile, as the Rockies have stumbled, the Arizona Diamondbacks increased their lead for the first Wild Card spot by winning seven in a row, including a three-game sweep of the Dodgers. The Dodgers, who can’t even use their magical winning powers to help the Rockies, have lost five in a row to the teams sandwiching the Rockies in the standings, after dropping two-of-three to the Milwaukee Brewers last weekend. That’s helped the Brewers pull to within 212 games of the Rockies for the last playoff spot.

It’s been a bad month for Rockies baseball. So you might be surprised to hear that the Rockies are still a strong favorite to take the last playoff spot.

National League Playoff Odds

Team Record GB Run Differential BP Playoff Odds FanGraphs Odds Five Thirty-Eight Odds
Team Record GB Run Differential BP Playoff Odds FanGraphs Odds Five Thirty-Eight Odds
Dodgers 91-41 -- +209 100.0% 100.0% >99%
Nationals 81-52 10.5 +147 100.0% 100.0% >99%
Diamondbacks 76-58 16 +112 98.6% 98.4% 97%
Cubs 73-60 18.5 +94 92.9% 96.9% 92%
Rockies 72-61 19.5 +48 67.3% 70.5% 62%
Brewers 70-64 22 +15 21.7% 16.4% 24%
Cardinals 67-66 24.5 +50 14.3% 12.6% 16%
As of September 1, 2017

Let’s not sugarcoat this: the Rockies have taken a tumble in the odds since our last update. They are down from the low-to-mid-80’s to the mid—to-high-60’s; going 5-8 over the last two weeks while your nearest competitor (Arizona) goes 10-4 will really cut into that.

And yet, the Rockies still have a sizable advantage over the Brewers, whose most optimistic projection tabs them for 24 percent. One key difference between the Brewers and Rockies is that the Brewers’ odds still reflect an outside possibility that they may take the NL Central crown; all of the Rockies odds are wrapped up in the wild card. That amounts to a 50 percentage point lead in the odds the Rockies have over the Brewers. So, once again, the comfort for Rockies fans comes from looking away from the standings and over to the projections.

Already we’re set up for a more exciting September than the Rockies have had in a long time. Going back to 2014 (and beyond, really), the Rockies have been well out of a playoff race by the time September 1st rolls around. In fact, last season was the first season the Rockies entered August—let alone September—with playoff odds greater than 0.0 percent.

Rockies September playoff odds, 2014-2017

Season BP Playoff Odds, Sept 1 Last day with odds >0.0%
Season BP Playoff Odds, Sept 1 Last day with odds >0.0%
2014 0.0% July 19
2015 0.0% July 27
2016 1.3% September 17
2017 67.3% ???
Baseball Prospectus

The Rockies face the Wild Card leading Diamondbacks tonight for the first of seven meetings over the next 14 days. Those meetings will go a long way in deciding the Wild Card race. And while they also face the challenge of taking on the Dodgers seven times this month, they also have the luxury of 12 games against the Padres (59-74) and Giants (53-83) this month as well. Such is life in the National League West this year.

If the Rockies can cash in even just a .500 record over the course of those 26 games (not unreasonable, considering they are 18-8 against the Padres and Giants in 2017), they will finish with 86-87 wins, which, considering the Brewers’ tough September schedule, should be enough to clinch a shot at playoff glory. If they don’t, the season will likely go down as the most disappointing in team history.

But one thing is for certain: this September will not be boring.