Expanding the postseason to seven teams per league opens the wild card door wide open. Colorado has squeaked through that door on occasion—but a new proposal hints at opening that door much further.
While the new postseason proposal has been met with lots of dismal regard, viewing the proposal through the lenses of Rockies success creates a slightly different dynamic. In a division like the NL West where the Dodgers have a hefty division title streak and the Giants won three World Series titles in five years, a wild card berth has been the only means for another divisional team to crack the postseason for a better part of the past decade.
The giant purple elephant in the room proclaims to all that Coors Field doesn’t display a single NL West championship banner, which no postseason format would alter.
Prior to 1994, there were four divisions, two in each league. Colorado played under that system only for their 1993 inaugural year. sharing the NL West with all of their current rivals minus a nonexistent Arizona, and along with Atlanta, Houston and Cincinnati. The Rockies had to contend with six divisional opponents rather than four, and in order to make the postseason, they needed to dethrone the Braves—equipped with Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz.
How many postseason appearances would Colorado have if 1993 was the norm, and it took a divisional title to get in? Zero.
(How was Atlanta a geographical west, anyways?)
Wild Card expansion after the 1994 strike did Colorado well in this regard. If you can't beat four Hall of Famers, at least there’s another opportunity out there. The 1995 season was the start of the AL and NL Central divisions, separating each division into four or five teams at the time. Colorado was then pitted in a four-team division against their current rivals minus Arizona until 1998, easing the hurdle of the previous seven-team division.
Under the new Atlanta-less West, nobody won consecutive division titles until Arizona, in 2001 and 2002. San Diego did in 2005 and 2006, and Los Angeles did in 2008 and 2009. Then we enter the golden age of the San Francisco Giants, winning the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, which furthered the difficulty for most of the NL West to make something happen.
In the four-or-five-team NL West as we know it today, there had never been a divisional three-peat until 2013.
The Dodgers have now seven-peated. Mookie Betts suggests they’re staring down eight.
How many postseason appearances would Colorado have if modern NL West, one wild card were the norm? Three.
This isn’t intended to further Rockies pain and suffering, but rather to highlight that, in the event this pick-your-opponent postseason expansion happens, it can actually be a good thing for Rockies postseason opportunities. History shows it’s been Wild Card or nothing in Colorado, and two additional teams added to the mix would prompt a better chance at getting in.
How many postseason appearances would Colorado have if this new proposal were the norm all along? Eight.
It’s hardly a surprise there would be an uptick to that postseason appearance figure under this proposed system, but if seven teams per league get in, it would mean nearly half of the MLB franchises would make it. It would take on similar figures to the NBA, where 16 of 30 teams make it. Plenty of people may argue the regular season doesn’t have to be taken as seriously if there’s that much of a postseason opportunity.
The purpose of this column isn’t to side with one end or another on this playoff expansion topic, or to address lucrative television deals or series configurations—it’s merely to address if the Rockies would be in better competitive shape if this playoff expansion actually happened. Even if the Dodgers keep winning the division, the rest of the division doesn’t have to be ruled quite as helpless. Similarly, a hefty payroll in Boston or New York wouldn’t plague teams like Baltimore, Toronto or Tampa Bay nearly as much, suggesting a smaller-payroll team could still go on a tear.
A 106-win Dodger squad would face off against a team with momentum, having already won a playoff series. Depending on rest between games and previous work, their lesser opponent may have a reasonably rested pitching staff.
It can still be unsettling when someone proposes MLB takes on a reality TV premise for their most important games of the season. The selection show might resemble the Bachelor finale, except it’s the Yankees’ Brian Cashman saying “We’ll take the Twins.” Many have taken exception to the new proposal so far, and it seems nothing concrete has been established.
It seems to be the norm that, right before the pitcher and catcher report date, plenty of stories forecasting Spring Training begin to pop up. Denver 7 News gives us their rendition; it’s more of a thought-provoking take rather than an article full of hot takes, but a few projections in the article can make for worthy discussion.
“But Monfort used interpolation, as he was quick to point out. And we can’t simply ignore something with math behind it.”
“We project them to be one of the worst four teams in the National League, not one of the best four.”
Ben Clemens of FanGraphs does an exceptional job with this writeup, and it reads similar to a fun comments section on a Purple Row article. If you’re big into modern stats, Clemens gives lots of insights and takes them to another level, all in attempts to equate the Rockies win total to the projected 94 wins—no matter how farfetched—like Dick Monfort supposedly predicts.
There are lots of factors that need to go exceptionally well for the Rockies to come even close to 94 according to this writeup. It complements the Denver 7 News article with some good outlooks toward player performance going into Spring Training, and is sure to give people something to watch for.