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The Rockies are looking up at a crowded National League playoff race

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One month in and it’s not looking great for the Rockies

For the past seven years I’ve been in a Year Round Pick-’Em League. We pick the playoff bracket of every major sport, plus a weekly NFL and college football pick-’em, with our finish contributing to year-round standings (plus some minor events like the Masters or Wimbledon). So if your March Madness bracket busts (as mine did two years ago), you can still finish well enough in the other events to win the overall title (as I did two years ago).

We do things a little differently for baseball, though. We’ll pick a bracket come October but the first half is predicting the playoff teams. We submit our picks at the end of April, and if we change them at any point, we get fewer points for a correct pick with no changes allowed after the trade deadline. I usually rely on the various playoff projection systems to guide picking and it’s worked out so far.

But this year I have a problem: the systems have almost no idea who’s going to the postseason. Worse: very few think the Rockies have a chance.

Of course, nobody knows and the computers can’t predict the future any more than that palm reader you saw in college when you weren’t sure if that person you just started seeing was really the one. But they’re usually pretty close and often agree with one another, even in a National League that’s been pretty competitive. On the last Friday in April last year, FanGraphs had the Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, and Mets in the NL. Baseball Prospectus swapped the Phillies and D-backs for the Nats and Mets but were otherwise the same, but all four teams were right there. Yes, the NL was pretty wide open, but there was at least some consensus.

2018 NL Playoff Odds, Friday, April 27

Team Record GB Run Differential BP Playoff Odds FanGraphs Odds ROS Opponent W%
Team Record GB Run Differential BP Playoff Odds FanGraphs Odds ROS Opponent W%
Diamondbacks 18-7 -- 40 87.1% 52.9% .499
Cubs 13-10 4.0 30 67.0% 90.8% .484
Dodgers 11-13 6.5 10 59.3% 83.3% .490
Cardinals 15-10 3.0 34 51.0% 67.1% .488
Phillies 16-9 2.0 29 49.6% 13.3% .502
Brewers 16-11 3.0 10 45.1% 20.3% .495
Mets 16-8 1.5 12 40.2% 53.6% .492
Nationals 11-15 7.5 2 39.9% 70.2% .448
Giants 12-13 6.0 -17 18.8% 10.5% .496
Rockies 15-12 4.0 -18 14.5% 17.5% .503
Braves 14-11 4.0 26 13.5% 9.5% .496
Pirates 15-11 3.5 12 13.3% 10.6% .500
Bold = actual playoff teams Rest of Season Opponent W% via FanGraphs

But take note, careful reader. None of the four best records in the NL on April 27 made the playoffs. Both systems only got the Cubs and Dodgers correct, and both went to a Game 163 (for seeding only, yes, but they still went there). FanGraphs gave the Braves a 9.5% chance of making the playoffs and the Nationals a 70.2% chance. BP gave the Rockies 14.5% odds and the Diamondbacks 87.1%. To be fair, both picked four of the five AL teams correctly, but they gave the 95-win Athletics 13.4% and 10.9% odds, respectively. Again, projection systems are often right, but when it comes to a long baseball season, they may as well be palm-readers.

Which brings us to this season.

2019 NL Playoff Odds, Friday April 26

Team Record GB Run Diff BP Playoff Odds FanGraphs Odds Five Thirty-Eight Odds ROS Opponent W%
Team Record GB Run Diff BP Playoff Odds FanGraphs Odds Five Thirty-Eight Odds ROS Opponent W%
Cardinals 15-9 -- 33 62.1% 58.0% 64% .503
Dodgers 16-11 0.5 24 82.2% 95.0% 86% .496
Diamondbacks 15-11 1.0 24 25.2% 17.1% 37% .504
Padres 14-11 1.5 -13 24.0% 18.4% 11% .509
Mets 13-11 2.0 -12 57.0% 46.4% 47% .501
Phillies 13-12 2.5 3 51.3% 37.9% 37% .502
Pirates 12-11 2.5 -14 24.4% 13.5% 16% .509
Cubs 12-11 2.5 22 22.9% 58.1% 40% .504
Braves 12-12 3.0 10 40.5% 38.2% 39% .499
Brewers 13-13 3.0 -14 35.6% 23.9% 40% .504
Nationals 11-12 3.5 7 38.7% 72.4% 50% .494
Rockies 11-14 4.5 -15 22.9% 10.2% 19% .509
Giants 11-14 4.5 -8 2.5% 2.2% 3% .509
Reds 10-14 5.0 5 10.6% 8.7% 9% .512
Marlins 8-17 7.5 -47 0.1% 0.0% <1% .514
ROS Opponent W% via FanGraphs

Say a prayer for the Marlins tonight before you go to sleep. Otherwise, things are even tighter this year than last and the projection systems have little consensus on who the top teams are outside the Dodgers and Cardinals. For Rockies fans, though, there is no system that thinks they’re even one of the seven most likely teams to make the playoffs.

The NL is very crowded, which will make for a summer of compelling baseball in pretty much every city. But it also means that the Rockies are going to have to keep winning games at a prodigious rate if they want to make their third straight trip to the playoffs.