The Colorado Rockies are 15 games over .500 for the first time since the first full year of the Jim Tracy era. Colorado, which improved to 38-23 after an 8-1 thrashing of the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, hasn’t been this many games over the even-water mark since September 20, 2010.
The Rockies have never been this good this early in a season. And yet they’re clinging by their finger tips to a two-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks (36-25) and Los Angeles Dodgers (36-25) in the National League West.
The NL West has been far and away the toughest division in baseball a little more than one-third of the way through the season, a fact that could complicate Colorado’s quest to win its first division title in franchise history or advance to the postseason at all for the first time since 2009.
“We don’t care what’s going on with the other teams in our league,” Rockies manager Bud Black said Wednesday. “We’ve just got to take care of what we do and not think about what-ifs. We’re fine where we are. Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing.”
Black is probably right to take the “control what you can control” attitude, especially this early in the season. But if he did take a hard look at the standings, he’d see that three of the top five records in baseball belong to NL West teams as of Thursday morning. The Astros (42-18) are outpacing everybody. The Nationals (37-21) are next. Then it’s the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Dodgers.
“We all know the Dodgers are going to be there in the end,” Nolan Arenado said in mid-May. “We want to be there, too.”
FanGraphs agrees with Arenado. The baseball analytics website is giving the the Dodgers an 84.8 chance to win the NL West for the fifth-straight time. FanGraphs also thinks the Dodgers a 99.2 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Rockies, conversely, have a 74.7 percent chance to make the playoffs and 9.2 percent chance to win the division, FanGraphs says.
The Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies have gotten off to strong starts largely behind the strength of their pitching. They rank a respective first, second and third in FanGraphs’ park-adjusted ERA metric. If the pitching keeps up, all three teams could be in it until the end.
In 2015, Mark Reynolds was on the St. Louis Cardinals team that went 100-62 and only won the NL Central by two games. That year, the Pittsburgh Pirates won 98 games and the Chicago Cubs won 97. All three teams wound up qualifying for the postseason. The Cubs beat the Pirates in the Wild Card game, then beat the Cardinals in the NLDS before falling to the Mets in the NLCS.
Reynolds, who now plays first base for the Rockies, said it’s possible a similar scenario plays out in the NL West in 2017.
“Over the course of 162 games, the best team will rise to the top.” Reynolds said.
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