Series Recap: The Slow March to 100

(Eric Risberg, AP)

Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants

Monday-Thursday, August 25-28, 2014 (Series Preview)

The Colorado Rockies have lost their 80th game. They would have to go 29-0 for the rest of the season in order to finish above .500—which probably won’t happen. At this point, the only things Rockies fans have to root about is the magic 100 loss milestone. The question is: should fans root FOR or AGAINST this milestone?

Isn’t 100 Losses Inevitable?

This is a great place to start. With the bad baseball being played by the men in purple recently, it seemed like it would take a relative miracle for the Rockies NOT to lose 100 games this season. But a string of great good average competent baseball has changed that. In order to avoid their first 100 loss season, the Rockies will have to go 10-19, good for a .345 winning percentage. The Rockies current winning percentage stands at .398, which would indicate that they wouldn’t even have to play that well in order to avoid 100.

But Adam, you say, since the high point of the their season on May 7th, when they were 22-14, the Rockies have gone 31-66 which is only a .320 winning percentage. And you would be right, Informed Hypothetical Reader. And this would be a problem for the Rockies if one were to operate on the assumption that they were a true talent .320 winning percentage team. That would mean they would win 52 games over a 162 game season. This will clearly not be the case for these Rockies since they have won 53 games already.

Of course that includes the 22 wins from earlier in the season and that might be generous if you look at the number of guys who started the season in the minor leagues on the active 25-man roster. If you consider only the 126 games after that high point, a .320 team would garner 40 more wins, or just 9 more than the Rockies have won thus far. In other words, even if you truly believe this Rockies team is a true talent .320 team, then they would be expected to win 9 more games the rest of the season, which would put them at exactly 100 losses. They would simply have to have one more “lucky game” than expected to avoid 100 losses.

Before May 7 After May 7
Record 22-14 31-66
Win % .611 .320
162-game pace 99-63 52-110
126-game pace 40-86

This is, of course, not the most scientific way to go about predicting such things. Check out Fangraphs Playoff Odds or Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds to see what the projections say about expected final standings. Spoiler alert: they don’t expect the Rockies to lose 100; in fact, neither system even projects the Rockies for the worst record in baseball, as of August 28.

In short, 100 losses is realistically out of reach for the Rockies and, even by the most basics of maths, unlikely. This may cause some conflict within members of the Rockies fanbase.

Should Rockies Fans Root for 100?

There is a large number of Rockies fans who seem to be resigned to 100 losses or more this season. This would be significant, as the Colorado Rockies are the only National League franchise to have avoided 100 losses. Now I understand that this is a mostly cosmetic distinction–especially considering the parity of baseball that makes 100 loss teams* rare and 100 win teams even rarer. But can a fanbase really do that which is most contrary to their nature: root for failure?

*Non-Astros category

There are shock jocks and pundits in the Denver media who would lead you to believe that the best thing that Rockies fans can root for at this point is for the Rockies to lose 100 games.The reasoning goes if the Rockies were to actually lose 100 games then that would wake up management to make some changes. Don’t trick yourselves into thinking the difference between 99 and 100 losses is what will motivate owners Dick & Charlie Monfort’s offseason plans. The reality there is no evidence to suggest that anything will be changing this offseason, at least not in major ways. If that’s your reason to root for 100 losses, I would personally advise against getting your hopes up.

 

100 losses is not a magic number that will make Monfort choose a different shovel to get out of this mess

100 losses is not a magic number that will make Monfort choose a different shovel to dig this team out of mediocrity

The other major argument you hear trotted out is the benefits of getting a high draft pick. The Rockies have never drafted number 1 overall in their history. And, in baseball, number 1 picks seem to flame out at an equal pace to number 2-5 picks, due in part to the non-linear development of professional baseball players (at least in comparison to other sports, like basketball and football, where number 1 picks start right away). Rooting for the Rockies to tank for a better draft pick seems foolish in a draft that, right now, has no clear Stephen-Strasburg-esque number 1 player. And, from a darker standpoint, do you really trust this brain trust to pick the right pick at number 1 overall?

The possibility of the Rockies losing 100 games is not as inevitable as it was even one week ago. The arguments for losing 100 games, or at least rooting for it, not only go against what it means to be a fan, but don’t seem to hold water. And here’s another fun fact: the Rockies own a much better run differential than the Diamondbacks (run differential tends to be a better indicator of a team’s quality than their won-loss record) and are only 2 games back in the standings. Not only might the Rockies avoid 100 losses, but, despite their lackluster play this week in San Francisco, they might even be able to avoid the NL West Cellar for the first time since 2011.

Now THAT’S something to root for.

Game Recaps

These games seemed more like the Rockies-Giants of old (3-2, 3-0, 4-2, 4-1), unlike that glorious, glorious sweep back in June. Remarkably, since that series began on June 13, the Rockies have somehow managed more wins at AT&T Park in San Francisco than all other non-Coors Field venues combined. Road woes, indeed.

Monday night’s game was a sloppy mess of baseball. First for the good. Tyler Matzek had another good game, at least from a results point of view. He did have 2 walks and 8 hits in 7 innings of work, but he also struck out 7 and gave up 2 runs. It was the 7th time in the last 10 outings he went at least 6 innings. His ERA is still a bit high (5.14), but his 8 runs allowed in 4 innings in Detroit seems to keep him down. In any case, Tyler was often able to make the right pitch at the right time.

It was really ugly for the Giants, who had four errors on the night which led to 2 different unearned runs for the Rockies. There was also Jake Peavy‘s balking in a run, which would prove to be the difference (though a run probably should have scored in the 7th, but the call was overturned by replay).The Rockies went on to win this weird one, extending their win streak in San Fran by the score of 3-2.

Tuesday night was the Madison Bumgarner show. The Giants lefty absolutely baffled Rockies hitters all night, and was perfect going into the 8th inning before Justin Morneau hit a lead-off double. Unfortunately that was all the Rockies could muster on the night. Really, it is becoming a bit of a theme for the Rockies: dominant left handed star pitcher throws no-hitter against the Rockies. Watching it you could see Bumgarner mixing up his pitches enough to keep Rockies hitters off balance and inducing weak contact. Even though he had 13 strikeouts he threw only 103 pitches. That is dominance.

On the other side Jorge De La Rosa was matching him pitch-for-pitch until another freak swing by a Rockies starting pitcher in AT&T Park lead to some numbness in his thumb. That meant, in the bottom of the 6th inning, he had some trouble making his pitches and Buster Posey made him pay with a deep home run to left-center. That was all she wrote as the Giants cruised to a 3-0 victory.

Wednesday night had the feel of yet another torturous Rockies-Giants game. Tim Hudson kept the beat going that Madison Bumgarner started the night before, not allowing a Rockies hit until the fifth inning, but BOY what a hit it was!

I think I’ve mentioned how much Corey Dickerson fascinates me, and how he can get better. Imagine: he can get better than this! This was the only real blemish on Hudson’s night, though, as he went 8 strong innings with 4 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 8 strikeouts. Franklin Morales took the hill for the Rockies and, despite allowing 7 hits in the first four innings, only allowed the 1 run to go along with 6 strikeouts. The pitch count got to him, though and he turned it over to the Rockies bullpen in the 7th inning. Nick Masset came in and, after a strike-out and two walks, gave way to Brooks Brown (real person) who could not do much for the Rockies, allowing Buster Posey to drive in the go-ahead run.

In the ninth Santiago Casilla came in to close out the game for the Giants and promptly beaned speedster Drew Stubbs. Up next, Justin Morneau doubled to deep left-center field, allowing Drew Stubbs to tie up the ballgame. Could another late-inning shocking win at AT&T be in the cards for the Rockies? Buster Posey says “Nah” by swatting a walk-off, two-run home run of homer-happy Juan Nicasio (it was his 18th given up on the year, amazing considering how much time he’s spent in Triple-A), giving the Giants the 4-2 victory.

The getaway game on Thursday was filled with drama as Giants pitcher Yusmeiro Petit came into the game looking to set a Major League record for consecutive batters retired. The Rockies willingly obliged as the first 8 batters went down in order, good enough for his to break Mark Buehrle’s record of 45 consecutive batters retired by 1. The record would stay there as Jordan Lyles–yes, the pitcher–broke up the streak with a 2-out double and would come around to score on Charlie Blackmon‘s RBI single. This would represent the sum total of the Rockies offense, as they managed a mere 2 hits after that point.

Jordan Lyles did pitch well. The only real problem was a hung breaking pitch that Gregor Blanco (wouldn’t you know it) sent into the seats to give the Giants a 2-0 lead. He cruised until the 6th inning when he gave up a single and two walks, allowing the Giants to tack on a run. He was able to escape further damage, but the damage was done. Then Juan Nicasio decided he hadn’t fully imploded on himself yet and allowed the Giants another run in the 8th to push it to 4-1, which was the final.

 

Looking Ahead

Colorado Rockies Record: 53-80

Games Behind, NL West: 22.5  (First Place: Los Angeles Dodgers)

Games Behind, NL Wild Card: 18 (Leaders: St Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants)

Run Differential: -80

ESPN Playoff Odds: 0.1% (<— no, it’s really not happening people)

Games Remaining: 29

Next Series: 3 games at Arizona Diamondbacks (55-78, 4th in NL West, 20.5 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers)

Believe it or not the Rockies have a better run differential than the Diamondbacks (-103), who are only 2 games ahead of the Rockies in the standings. With 7 games left, including 4 in Denver, the Rockies MIGHT have a chance to not finish last–again, moral victories.

About Adam Peterson

Born and raised in Denver, I stopped playing baseball in high school due to a lack of what some would call “talent,” but then my passion for the game, and the Rockies, only grew. I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder to study Civil Engineering, where I picked up a minor in Applied Statistics. After college I took a job in suburban Memphis, over 1,100 miles away from Coors Field. While my Rockies-loving wife and I enjoy spending time out and about in Memphis, any free time spent not doing something baseball-related is a rare moment indeed.
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