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How bad is it? The Rockies poor start in context

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It’s not too early to realize the Rockies have a slim margin for error from here on out

High expectations were the norm heading into the 2019 season. For many, those expectations have been calibrated into near non-existence. I know, I know, it’s still early. But that’s less true by the day, and I don’t know how much stock to put into it to make me feel better about the Rockies because I don’t know when the turn to “it’s no longer early” is. Is it when the Rockies start to win or do we need to pass a certain number of games? I feel confident that it’s not too early to ask, how bad is it right now, and where do the Rockies chances stand given the 4-12 start?

What’s left

Despite the sheer volume of games played during a baseball season, the wins and losses matter. All of them. The significance of these games becomes clear when you look at the remaining games left.

If we assume 90 wins as the minimum threshold for making the postseason, the Rockies now have to go 86-60 to get there, and that’s because every single game counts in the win/loss column, not every 10 games (as the more and more common football season analogy suggests)

It’s not far fetched to see a team post a .590-ish win percentage over a long stretch of a season, which is what the Rockies would need to do for the rest of the season to have a chance at October baseball. But over 162 games, that’s about a 96 win team. That sort of stretch of baseball isn’t that common, either. The Rockies have only won 86 or 87 games over the course of 146 in one previous season, 2009. It’s possible because they’ve done it before, but it’s improbable because they’ve only done it once before.

Playoffs? Playoffs!?

There’s a lie in this fun fact, which will get to, but here’s a bit of truth. No team in the Wild Card era has ever started 4-12 and made the postseason. Here, for each season since 1995, is the playoff team with the worst record after 16 games:

Worst 16 game starts for playoff teams (WC era)

Season Team Record
Season Team Record
1995 Cincinnati 7-9
1996 Atlanta 8-8
1997 New York Yankees 6-10
1998 Houston 8-8
1999 Texas 8-8
2000 San Francisco 5-11
2001 Oakland 5-11
2002 Anaheim 6-10
2003 Florida 7-9
2004 Anaheim 8-8
2005 New York Yankees 7-9
2006 San Diego 7-9
2007 Philadelphia 5-11
2008 Tampa Bay 7-9
2009 Colorado 5-11
2010 Texas 7-9
2011 Tampa Bay 7-9
2012 Cincinnati 7-9
2013 Cleveland/Tampa Bay 6-10
2014 Pittsburgh 8-8
2015 Texas 6-10
2016 San Francisco 7-9
2017 Minnesota 8-8
2018 Oakland 6-10

There are a couple lies here. The first is that the “Wild Card era” encompasses the one and two Wild Card team structures. It’s been easier to earn a Wild Card since 2012 than it was from 1995 to 2011. The second lie is that the first 16 games of the season stick out more because it’s the team’s entire record. The 2004 Angels started 8-8, but in the 16 games from June 3 to June 20, they went 5-11, and they went on to win the World Series.

The lie of that lie, though, is that the 2004 Angels, before their worst stretch of 16 games, were already 13 games above .500 when it started. Because the Rockies are starting out the season with what will probably be their worst stretch of baseball in 2019, they have very little margin for error.

That’s why it is neither an exaggeration nor an overreaction to think that the first 16 games of the Rockies season might have torpedoed the club’s postseason chances. Despite there being a lot of games in a baseball season, these 12 losses in 16 games really hurt, and the Rockies have dug themselves into a hole that they may not be able to come out of.

Where does this leave us as fans? I’ve watched a lot of noncompetitive Rockies baseball in my life, so I guess I can be up for another season of it. But I don’t think the 4-12 start is necessarily consigning the Rockies to a bad season overall. Even now, I’ll be very surprised if the Rockies don’t finish with a win total in the 80s. Besides that, we can hope that this is the worst stretch of baseball we see from the Rockies this season, and that Sunday’s victory against the Giants was a sign of things to come. And there is still a chance the Rockies right the ship in a dramatic way and fulfill the postseason expectations many of us had. But if that’s going to happen, it has to happen really, really soon.

Like, now.