clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Rockies have had mixed results after making the postseason

New, 2 comments

There hasn’t been a postseason hangover, but there hasn’t been a repeat appearance either

In 25 seasons of play, the Rockies have finished below .500 18 times. The team earned a spot in the postseason in 1995, 2007, 2009, and 2017. Those seasons account for four of the seven times the Rockies have finished with a winning record. Two of the other three winning seasons were either one or two years after making the postseason. The Rockies followed their first Wild Card berth with two more winning seasons in 1996 and 1997, and they also had a winning record in 2010—the year after they won their third NL Wild Card. 2000 was the only time the Rockies had a winning record that didn’t follow with a postseason appearance and 2008 was the only year they didn’t follow up a postseason appearance with a winning record, but that seems like a blip.

Let’s dive in to what has gone into the Rockies’ history of repeat success. Multiple factors can be attributed to how they have responded to a postseason appearance.

The Season After

If you look at the seasons immediately after successful seasons, each one paints a different picture.

  • 1995: Finished 77-67, second in the NL West, and earned the National League Wild Card spot in the postseason
  • 1996: Finished 83-79 but finished third in the NL West, which left them out of the postseason
  • 2007: Finished 90-73, second in the NL West, and earned the NL Wild Card which eventually led them to represent the National League in the World Series
  • 2008: Finished 74-88 and third in the NL West, which again left them out of the postseason
  • 2009: Finished 92-70, second in the NL West and once again earned the NL Wild Card
  • 2010: Finished 83-79 and third in the NL West
  • 2017: Finished 87-75 and third in the NL West, but due to the expansion of the Wild Card in 2012, they made the postseason
  • 2018: ???

What Makes the Season After

Strength of Schedule Against All Divisions

“Strength of schedule” changes from year to year. In fact, the last team to repeat as World Series Champions were the 1999-2000 New York Yankees. Even if you take a look at other teams such as the Chicago Cubs or the Houston Astros, a few years ago these teams were some of the laughing stocks of Major League Baseball. Now they hold the last two World Series titles. In 2013, the Atlanta Braves finished first in the NL East and lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. They had another winning season in 2014 but haven’t had a winning record since.

There is a lot more parity in baseball than in some other sports, but as long as the Rockies win against the teams they’re supposed to (i.e middle and low end of the division teams), they tend to do much better. Here’s how they’ve stacked up against other divisions:

Rockies’ Strength of Schedule During and After Postseason Appearances

Year vs. Eventual Winners vs. Eventual Runners Up vs. Eventual 3’s and 4’s vs. Eventual Last Placers Overall
Year vs. Eventual Winners vs. Eventual Runners Up vs. Eventual 3’s and 4’s vs. Eventual Last Placers Overall
1995 15-23 .395 9-8 .529 30-26 .536 23-10 .697 77-67 .535
1996 23-14 .622 17-21 .447 25-25 .500 18-19 .486 83-79 .512
2007 18-17 .514 11-4 .733 41-35 .539 20-16 .556 90-73 .552
2008 11-21 .343 12-25 .324 33-25 .569 18-17 .514 74-88 .457
2009 13-21 .382 8-7 .533 45-32 .584 26-10 .722 92-70 .568
2010 16-19 .457 19-12 .613 29-31 .483 19-17 .528 83-79 .512
2017 21-16 .568 16-19 .457 28-26 .519 22-14 .611 87-75 .537

In 2007, the Rockies’ highest winning percentage came against eventual divisional runners up (NY Yankees, NY Mets, and Milwaukee Brewers) and an above .500 record against every place except previous last place finishers. In the subsequent 2008 season, that winning percentage changed to eventual divisional last place finishers, but the difference was that they had a 35% or lower winning percentage against divisional first and second place finishers.

Against the NL West

In the NL West especially, the parity isn’t as evident. In three out of the four Rockies postseason runs, the Dodgers won the NL West. They also won in 2008. In 2007, the Diamondbacks won. The Padres won in 1996 and the Giants won in 2010 on their way to the first of three straight even year World Series wins. With all these different division winners, you’d think think the Rockies would’ve been able join the winner’s circle at least once. Alas, we’re still waiting on that one. Over the last few years in particular, the Dodgers and Giants have ruled the west but that doesn’t mean that things won’t be changing.

At the beginning of 2016 the Arizona Diamondbacks were expected to be a playoff, if not a World Series, contender after signing Zack Greinke. Instead, they underperformed and finished with a 69-93 record and finished fourth in the NL West. Because of that, they were not looked at as being serious contenders in 2017. At the end of 2017, with the rebound of Greinke as well as the emergence of players like Jake Lamb, Robbie Ray, and Archie Bradley, they finished 93-69 and earned a spot in the NL Divisional Series. Looking into 2018, they look a little scarier.

On the flip side, the San Francisco Giants finished 2016 with an 87-75 record and a loss to the Cubs in the NLCS. In 2017, they finished with a last place record of 64-98 and were seen by many teams as an easy series. They’ve tended to be a fairly consistent contender over the last few years, so it will be interesting to see where they play in 2018.

In their 1995, 2007, and 2017 seasons, the Rockies finished with an above .500 record against their divisional opponents and made the playoffs. In 1996 and 2008, they finished under .500 against their division and did not make the postseason. The roles were switched in 2009 and 2010—they finished .458 against the NL West in 2009 and .514 against them in 2010. Long story short, if the Rockies can finish above .500 within their division again in 2018, they have a good chance of making the postseason.

Personnel

Coaches

In each successful season and subsequent year, the manager has been the same. In 1995-1996, it was Don Baylor; in 2007-2008, it was Clint Hurdle; in 2009-2010, it was Jim Tracy (who had taken over for Hurdle halfway through 2009); and we will currently be entering the second year of the Bud Black regime.

In each of these four season figures, the only pair that saw a dramatic change in coaching staff was from 1995 to 1996, when Frank Funk replaced Larry Bearnarth as pitching coach pitching coach, Ken Griffey replaced Art Howe as first base/hitting coach first base/hitting coach, Paul Zuvella replaced Rick Mathews as bullpen coach, and Jackie Moore replaced Don Zimmer as bench coach Don Zimmer. The core of Black’s coaching staff will return to the club in 2018.

Players

Coaching can only go so far if players do not perform well. After 1995, the Rockies traded starting catcher Joe Girardi but signed a new free agent starting catcher in Jeff Reed. They also placed starting pitcher Marvin Freeman on waivers in August of 1996 and eventually lost him to the Chicago White Sox. After 2007, the Rockies signed a bunch of free agents, including Kip Wells (Editor’s note: That’s OPENING DAY STARTER Kip Wells), Luis Vizcaíno, Scott Podsednik, and Glendon Rusch. They also made a trade for eventual ace pitcher Jorge de la Rosa and lost starter Josh Fogg to free agency. After 2009, they signed free agents Miguel Olivo and Melvin Mora, re-signed pitcher Taylor Buchholz, and released World Series outfielder Brad Hawpe.

Similarly, the 2018 Rockies will look a lot like the 2017 Rockies. Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis have been added to the bullpen, and Chris Iannetta will be the veteran catcher, but it doesn’t seem like the lineup will look much different.

Injuries

As much as we like to try to predict future seasons based on more controlled factors such as schedule and personnel, even the most experienced teams have unexpected turbulence. In 1996, the Rockies lost starting pitcher Marvin Freeman to elbow surgery, and in June they lost Larry Walker to a broken collarbone. In 2008, throughout the season they had to deal with injuries to outfielder Brad Hawpe, All-Star first baseman Todd Helton, and budding star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, as well as some other players. In 2010, the club had to play through injuries to starting pitchers Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis, closer Huston Street, second baseman Eric Young Jr., and, once again, Tulowitzki.

Every team has injuries, but losing star players like Walker, Hawpe, Helton, and Tulowitzki definitely had an effect on the teams. In 1996 and 2010 they were able to compensate through the injuries and ultimately were just outplayed by other teams. In 2008, the losses affected the team to a greater degree—it was the only “season after” that the Rockies finished with a losing record.

What might 2018 look like?

Each of these three seasons paint a different picture of how the Rockies have responded to successful seasons. In 1996, they made major changes to their coaching staff and finished 83-79—missing the playoffs despite having a decent season. In 2008, they were decimated with injuries and finished with a losing record—missing the playoffs in a rough way. In 2010, they played above average ball all year until the final two weeks of September—missing the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion.

These are all pretty good signs for the 2018 Rockies. While the team has only had four postseason appearances, they were competitive in three out of four of those seasons after. 2008 looks like an injury-laden outlier, given how competitive the 2009 and 2010 seasons were. Still, the Rockies have never had back-to-back playoff seasons. If the club can stay healthy and keep a good pace within a tough division, they should have another good year. Let’s hope it ends with champagne for the second time in a row, for the first time.