The daily grind of a 162-game major league season sets the pretenders apart from the contenders.
By that logic, with a shortened MLB season likely – 2020 will reportedly be shortened to about 82 games due to the coronavirus pandemic – take your money to Las Vegas and put it on the underdog Rockies. Per Bovada, Colorado is currently checking in with 180-to-1 chances to win the World Series, 100-to-1 chances to win the pennant, and 28-to-1 chances to win its first division title.
Long odds, yes, but worth the big payoff if Colorado can catch Rocktober-esque fire during a shortened season that, according to the owners ‘reported proposal to the players’ association Monday, would contain two additional wildcards in each league for a 14-team playoff dental braces.
The combination of a shorter season and an extended late season means less chance for the dominant teams to move away from the mediocre. It also means that a team is generally predicted to collide – pre-pandemic, I chose the Rockies to finish fourth in the division, and I wasn’t alone in my pessimism – don’t have to prove myself through a long, gut-testing summer.
Colorado has to play half of a typical season well to stay in competition, and given the successes the team has had in recent years, that can’t be ruled out. That’s especially true if the Rockies can play well at Coors Field (if local government allows it), as Colorado won a .574 clip in LoDo over its 2017 and 18 playoff seasons combined.
Consider the scorching pace at which the Rockies played in July 2018. Granted, Colorado would have to remain consistent for more than a month, even in a halved season, to make the 2020 playoffs like they did that year. But that month proved that this year’s squad – much the same as two years ago – has the potential to get hot.
Of course, the Rockies have also shown the ability to get freezing cold as well, as in July 2019. In that ugly month, hoping the little playoff Colorado had left behind, the team went 6-19 – a .240 winning percentage the lowest was for a full month in franchise history, as the pitching staff set up an ERA of 6.63.
But the same team that survived that funk and ended with 91 losses in a bitterly disappointing 2019, also showed flashes of solid baseball that gave hope to the team’s chances in a shortened 2020. Last year, the Rockies went to 28-15 from mid-April at the beginning of June the second best winning percentage in the Netherlands in that period. At one point, the team also rattled 10 consecutive wins at Coors Field.
No, the Rockies don’t have the overall depth to match the Dodgers, even in an 82-game season. And their pitching staff has to prove itself after the NL-worst 5.56 ERA of a year ago.
But as long as Colorado doesn’t stumble out of the gate like it did last year, 82 games could well be the perfectly shortened window for the Rockies to bring baseball magic back to LoDo as one of four Dutch wildcards.
And it would be a welcome Rocktober even if reached for an empty Coors field.