Baseball is back. A season length has been sent and players will report to camp on July 1 with the season starting either July 23 or 24. The 2020 season will be 60 games, significantly shorter than we’re used to. With a shorter season comes a completely different match up alignment, which brings a whole new set of challenges for the Rockies. It is known that the season will have 40 games within each team’s respective division and another 20 against their division’s counterpart in the opposing league (so 40 games against the NL West and 20 games against the AL West for the Rockies). Since the schedule has not been set or published yet, let’s examine a few schedule possibilities and look at the teams the Rockies will face.
The NL West
With 40 games against the Rockies’ division foes, each team will go head-to-head ten times. It only seems logical to say that would mean five games in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Phoenix, and five against each team at Coors Field.
What is unknown is the exact length of each series. In a normal season we see two, three, or four-game sets, but with COVID-19 being an ongoing issue it’s plausible that we might see a series length of five games to minimize travel as much as possible. The MLB Operations Manual that was published for this season has very detailed rules, but it doesn’t give details about the quantity of travel that will be permitted to happen, only how to travel to ensure safety and health for all the players and staffers. Though the manual doesn’t reference it, there are reports that each team will make only one trip to each city in which it will play.
If there are five-game sets to evenly split the ten games, that could make for a very rough few days when the Rockies see the Dodgers, or even the Giants. Last season the Rockies saw the Dodgers 19 times and went 4-15, which is not a pretty record. Their record against the Giants was also ugly, ending the season at 7-12.
Last year’s record against the red hot Dodgers was not pretty. On June 27th, 2019, the Rockies had lost their 12th game in a row to the Dodgers. The next day, they snapped the losing streak, but the damage was done early in the season and became insurmountable. If the Rockies see the Dodgers for a five game series, getting swept would really be detrimental in a shortened season.
The Rockies struggled in 2019 against the Dodgers but have found some success against them in prior years — though not as recent as one would hope. The last year the Rockies will did any notable damage to the Dodgers was in 2007. Their series record was 12-6. The Rockies won the season series against the Dodgers in 2017, though it was much closer at 10-9.
Rockies records against the Dodgers
The Rockies will likely find another year of challenging games against the Dodgers, especially with Los Angeles adding Mookie Betts to their roster.
The Padres landed in the basement of the NL West last season, leaving the Rockies just shy of last place, but not by much. The Padres ended the season 70-92, whereas the Rockies ended at 71-91. There were expectations of greater success from the Friars, especially with the 2019 addition of Manny Machado. Instead they ended up in last for the second consecutive season. Unlike their record with the Dodgers, the Rockies have found more success against the Padres in prior seasons.
Rockies records against the Padres
The Giants were a difficult opponent for the Rockies last year, but in prior years the Rockies had winning records against them — even in 2015 when the Rockies ended the season at 68-94. Perhaps the loss of Madison Bumgarner will help the Rockies in 2020 when they face San Francisco.
Rockies records against the Giants
What the Giants have lost, the Diamondbacks have gained. As long as he stays healthy and doesn’t find himself in another dirt bike incident, Madison Bumgarner will still be a tough opponent but for a new team. MadBum might be a key to more success for the Diamondbacks, which means more difficulty for the Rockies. Last year, despite the season as a whole being a disappointment, the Rockies won more than they lost when facing the Diamondbacks. 2020 might tell a different story.
Rockies records against the Diamondbacks
The AL West
Without a schedule (yet), it will be interesting to see how the 20 games against the AL West get scheduled. With there being five opponents, would that mean seeing each team for a total of four games? If you evenly split those games between being at home and on the road, it would only make for quick two-game sets. That wouldn’t be completely different than how interleague series are scheduled in a normal season.
The Rockies’ five opponents in the AL West are the Rangers, Astros, Athletics, Angels and Mariners. In the original 2020 schedule, the Rockies were only slated to face one AL West team — the Rangers. If the Rockies end up facing all five of the AL West teams, the Astros and the Athletics likely pose the most challenges, though the Angels also got better this offseason. The Rockies have also struggled against the Rangers in recent years.
The Astros have had three consecutive years of 100+ wins, though one of those years is muddled by the cheating scandal that was big news this past offseason. However, the Rockies still have not fared well against them in the past.
The Athletics made back-to-back Wild Card appearances and have an All-Star third baseman in Matt Chapman, but the same sentiments would have been made about the Rockies prior to the 2019 season (change Chapman to Nolan Arenado) and we all know how the 2019 season turned out for the Rox.
Below is a table showing the Rockies record against each of the AL West teams in the previous three season in which they faced them. I have sorted it by team, and then by year (with the most recent season being first).
Rockies against AL West teams (3 seasons)
What else does a shortened season mean?
Based on how the schedule will be made, the Rockies will not be facing other teams in the National League besides those that reside in their division. That means the Rockies won’t be headed east at all this season. This will be interesting if and when it comes to the postseason. Usually when the Rockies head into the postseason, they’ve faced the teams in the National League at least once and have a gauge for how batters performed against certain pitchers in a given season, but that won’t be the case this year. Some of the notable teams the Rockies won’t be seeing this season include the World Series champion Washington Nationals and a team that always draws a large crowd at Coors Field — the Chicago Cubs.
The Rockies, and the entire National League, will also have to adapt to having a designated hitter. The DH is not a new concept by any means, but having a DH in every game will make for an interesting addition to the season. The Rockies could benefit from having a DH, especially in the later innings when relief pitchers are in the game.
Another factor to consider is exactly how MLB schedules road trips. For example, if the Rockies end up facing the Angels as one of their AL West opponents, is it possible that they do that series directly following the set against the Dodgers since the Rockies are already in the Los Angeles area? However, if road trips and home stands alternate one-to-one, the Rockies will be battling the Coors hangover effect more frequently than if they end up with longer road trips and home stands.
When the schedule gets released, hopefully soon, we’ll know just how challenging the Rockies 2020 season will be.