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Rockies are in the back of a crowded NL playoff race

A lot has changed over the last month...except for the Rockies’ position

As the “second half” of the season gets underway (most teams have played in excess of 90 games), there are a few things about the National League playoff picture that are perfectly clear: it’s crowded, and the Rockies will need to do better to keep themselves in the crowd.

NL Playoff Odds - July 11

Team Record GB Run Diff BP Playoff Odds FanGraphs Odds Five Thirty-Eight Odds Baseball-Ref Odds ROS Opponent W%
Team Record GB Run Diff BP Playoff Odds FanGraphs Odds Five Thirty-Eight Odds Baseball-Ref Odds ROS Opponent W%
Dodgers 60-32 -- 129 100.0% 100.0% >99% 99.9% .493
Braves 54-37 5.5 59 94.5% 96.3% 92% 96.6% .497
Nationals 47-42 11.5 29 55.5% 78.3% 58% 44.2% .499
Cubs 47-43 12 55 56.2% 72.0% 55% 70.1% .498
Phillies 47-43 12 2 38.2% 25.8% 38% 25.1% .505
Brewers 47-44 12.5 -17 37.2% 38.1% 39% 37.5% .506
D-Backs 46-45 13.5 53 32.9% 16.7% 34% 52.4% .497
Cardinals 44-44 14 2 33.8% 21.4% 22% 13.7% .509
Padres 45-45 14 -35 13.0% 14.2% 8% 7.2% .510
Pirates 44-45 14.5 -36 11.7% 10.3% 19% 14.2% .506
Rockies 44-45 14.5 2 9.8% 11.4% 17% 28.0% .512
Reds 41-46 16.5 27 10.5% 9.6% 12% 10.2% .502
Giants 41-48 17.5 -70 0.6% 0.7% 1% 0.3% .513
Mets 40-50 19 -46 6.1% 5.2% 5% 0.5% .491
Marlins 33-55 25 -87 0.0% 0.0% <1% 0.1% .510
ROS Opponent Win% via FanGraphs

Unlike our past few updates, there has been a lot of movement over the last month. For example, take the Nationals. Between the end of April and mid-June, their playoff odds had dropped 20% (Baseball Prospectus), 28% (FanGraphs), or 38% (Five Thirty-Eight). While their odds were still fairly robust (better than the Rockies by some systems), the then 33-38 Nats looked to be in trouble. All they did was go 14-4 and are now sitting as the odds on favorite to take the Wild Card (they are still pretty far behind the Braves for the NL East crown). In 18 games their odds jumped 37%, 43%, and 36%, respectively. Of course, it helped that they got to face the Marlins, Tigers, and Royals for 12 of those 18 games, but I digress.

Why talk about the Nationals? Because the Rockies are likely going to need to pull off a similar run of success soon, lest they get left in the dust. Over the same 18-game stretch, the Rockies went 7-11, dropping them below .500 and into fourth place in the NL West. Their playoff odds didn’t drop all that much, but that’s because the projection systems have consistently pegged the Rockies as an 81-84 win team since the beginning of the season. And a crowded National League playoff picture means that probably won’t be enough to get them to October.

If you want some hope mixed in I’ll go back to the same well I went to last update: these are projections, not fortunes. At the All-Star Break last year, they had some permutation of the Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Brewers, and Braves in the playoffs, but none of them had more than two in the correct position. The Rockies were hovering in the 20% range, between eighth and tenth in the league. We know now these were incorrect. The odds on the odds is that they won’t get everything right.

But as the Rockies head into the second half the status quo will not be good enough. They need to find a way, juiced ball or not, to produce runs on the road, to prevent runs at home, and to win significantly more baseball games than they lose. Of course, it’s possible for them to snap off a winning streak like the Nationals did (however unlikely, considering the remaining schedule for Colorado). The team started the first half 3-12, finished it 4-11, and went 37-22 in between. There’s something there. But those ugly stretches at the beginning and end of the first half tell the story of a team that will need more than what’s there to make it to October for the third year in a row.