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Respectability on the road and the quest for 86 wins: a guide to Colorado making the 2022 playoffs

Colorado Rockies news and links for Saturday, April 16, 2022

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Using the season-to-date playoff predictions on FanGraphs - which relies on recent performance and poses a more neutral prediction system instead of weighting ballpark and opponent factors - the Rockies entered the 2022 season with a predicted record of 76-86 and odds to make the playoffs at 26.7%. Entering Saturday, that outlook has improved to a 79-83 record and 32.3% odds. The FanGraphs prediction model - which relies on a blend of Steamer and ZiPS - has been, and remains, very skeptical, but that’s not surprising for anyone who knows the name Dan Szymborski.

All of this is to say the Rockies 5-2 start has been better than expected, even for the projection systems. That’s not news. If you watch the team play, you see the bullpen is providing strong innings so far and most contributors in the lineup and rotation are producing as expected. There are still warts - coming through with runners in scoring-position has not been great and key pieces Charlie Blackmon, Kyle Freeland and Brendan Rodgers have not enjoyed much success so far. But overall, the Rockies are in good shape to start the season and hope is certainly still alive for the playoffs. But what will it take for the Rockies to make that hope a reality?

Note: The final records for three shortened seasons (1994, 1995 and 2020) are adjusted to reflect expected win totals over 162 games based on W-L record in those seasons.

Adequacy on the road

The Rockies are off to a perfect start on the road, sweeping a brief two-game set in Texas before heading home for four games against the Cubs. They won’t stay undefeated on the road, but to compete for the playoffs in 2022 the Rockies will need to be at-least average on the road.

The team has five playoff appearances in its history and nine total winning seasons in the organization’s 29 previous campaigns. The team has finished above .500 on the road in just three seasons (2009, 2017 and 2018) with the high-water mark coming in 2018 with 44 road victories. If they set a new season-high win total on the road this season then they will obviously be in great shape, but it’s not something you can expect from the team. So what win total can we reasonably expect from the team to contend for a playoff spot?

Rockies Average Road Wins

Years Average Road Wins
Years Average Road Wins
Playoff Seasons 40.4
Winning Seasons 36.8
Losing Seasons 30.4

In winning seasons, the Rockies have been respectable on the road, averaging 37 wins in nine seasons. That gives us a minimum to shoot for, but the average in playoff seasons is a bit higher. In the team’s five playoff seasons, that tally has increased to a nearly-even record of 40 wins. This means that for the Rockies to give themselves a chance, the team needs to be as close to even on the road as they can muster, if not better.

86 wins

With the bar for playoff entry now being the sixth seed in the league, each team has improved odds for making the postseason. We’ve already covered how the Rockies need to fare on the road to put together a competitive season. But what is the magic win-total to get into the sixth spot?

A.L. / N.L. #6 Average Win Totals Since 2012

League Average #6 Win Total
League Average #6 Win Total
A.L. 88.0
N.L. 85.5

In the ten years since the introduction of the second Wild Card, the average sixth seed win-total has remained almost constant in each league. For the American League, 88 wins is the magic number. More concerning to the Rockies, that number is roughly 86 in the National League.

Each season is not the same, obviously. In 2021 the Cincinnati Reds finished sixth with 83 wins, the Milwaukee Brewers’ 82 in 2014 was good enough and in 2017 three teams in the American League tied with 80 wins, which would have caused a logjam of mediocrity for the final playoff spot. If the barrier for entry is lower than expected, it would obviously benefit the Rockies. But overall, getting 86 wins is the magic ticket for the National League’s sixth seed.

Rockies Average Home Wins

Years Average Home Wins
Years Average Home Wins
Playoff Seasons 49.0
Winning Seasons 49.7
Losing Seasons 41.1

In playoff years, the Rockies have averaged 49 wins at home. In all of their winning seasons, that mark jumps slightly and can be rounded up to 50 wins. When we circle back to the previously mentioned minimum road victories of 37, this puts the Rockies right on track to meet the 86 wins needed to get into the National League playoffs.

It isn’t perfect science, however it is a sensible path to the playoffs. But if the Rockies are just average at home this year, they’ll fall short. If they fall flat on their face on the road, they’ll likely fall well short. It’s a long season, so we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out. But for now, history suggests 49 wins or more at home and 37 or more on the road is what it will take to for the Rockies to make the postseason in 2022.

★ ★ ★

Charlie Blackmon, Rockies appreciate 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut: “It’s a celebration of the man who made this the greatest game in the world.” | Denver Post ($)

Kyle Newman speaks with Charlie Blackmon and other Rockies on what Jackie Robinson means to them. Robinson, who broke the color-barrier on April 15, 1947, is honored by every player on the field by wearing 42 for the day, and 2022 marks the 25th anniversary of the number being retired league-wide.

“This day has really come into national focus as of late, which is a great thing,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “And this day has become something special for all of us (coaches, players and fans).”

Kyle Freeland is headed for a hearing with the Rockies, but there’s a bigger issue looming on the horizon | The Athletic ($)

One ramification of the off-season lockout is salary arbitration hearings being pushed into the regular season. This is the case for 24 major league players, one of which being Kyle Freeland. Freeland requested a contract of $7.8 million while the Rockies have submitted an offer of $6.425 million for the 2022 season, with a hearing scheduled for May 24. But the questions about Freeland remaining with the Rockies past next season are growing louder. Per Groke, the Rockies have still not been offered a long-term extension.

★ ★ ★

On the Farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 5, Tacoma Rainiers 2

Zach Neal was exceptional in his second start for the Isotopes, allowing just one base-runner over five shutout innings to notch his first win of the season. Albuquerque led in all nine of the innings of the ballgame. Wynton Bernard had two hit in the game, including a 2 RBI double in the second that drove home the eventual winning run. Chad Smith picked up his second save of the season with a perfect ninth inning.

Double-A: New Hampshire Fisher Cats 5, Hartford Yard Goats 2 (Game 1)

In the first game of a double-header, Mitchell Kilkenny had another tough outing in his second start of 2022, allowing five earned runs in five innings. Kilkenny gave up two dingers in the first inning, was tagged for a 2 RBI double in the second and gave up another homer in the fourth. He struggled with his command, throwing strikes just 54% of the time in his 74 pitches. Jimmy Herron had two hits including a solo home run in the loss.

Double A: New Hampshire Fisher Cats 8, Hartford Yard Goats 0 (Game 2)

In a make-up from the postponed April 14th matchup, the Fisher Cats took home a second victory on the day from Hartford. Nick Bush did not fare any better than Kilkenny, allowing six runs and eight hits - three of which for homers - over five innings. Riley Pint made his third appearance of the season, throwing 11 of his 17 pitches for strikes but allowing his first two runs of the 2022 season to go along with two strikeouts. The Yard Goats managed just three hits in the contest.

High-A: Eugene Emeralds 1, Spokane Indians 0

The Indians were on the wrong side of a pitcher’s duel on Friday, losing on a walk-off solo home run for the lone run of the game. Tony Locey struck out seven Emeralds hitters with just one hit allowed over six inning. Tanner Propst added two dominant innings of relief, strikeout out four. Unfortunately the offense couldn’t support the strong pitching performance, stranding 11 runners on-base in the ballgame. Drew Romo had two hits in the loss.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 3, San Jose Giants 0

Fresno won their fifth game of the young season, shutting out the Giants on the road. Brayan Castillo was impressive again in his second start, spreading out three hits over 4 23 innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Yanquiel Fernandez’s first home run of the season in the second inning provided all the run support Fresno pitching would need. Meanwhile, Adael Amador and Benny Montgomery each had two knocks at the top of the lineup, with Montgomery driving in two on a double in the fifth. Sergio Sanchez picked up the win with 2 13 innings of relief while Juan Mejia earned the save.

★ ★ ★

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