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Best Team in the NL (And It Really Isn't Close)

I'm starting to think about my World Series picks, because in about another week I'm going to have to take a public stand on this. But all of a sudden, at least in the NL, everyone at the top seems to be going backwards -- kind of like the Redskins' offense, I suppose. The problems facing baseball's division leaders, in fact, was the subject of my dead-tree-edition piece this morning.

There is, however, one true juggernaut out there in Contender Land, but you probably can't name their starting rotation or their leadoff hitter. They are the Colorado Rockies, and they are the best team in the NL -- dare I add, by far.

I'm not just making this up, folks. Since May 29, the day the Rockies fired Clint Hurdle as their manager and gave the gig to Jim Tracy, they have a record of 70-40 -- a .636 winning percentage. This isn't some fluky hot stretch -- we're talking about four solid months of playing like a 103-win team (which is what a .636 extrapolates to, over 162 games).

There's nobody close to them in the NL over that stretch. The Phillies (65-45) are a distant second, five games behind the Rockies' pace. The Braves (62-46), the only team with a legitimate shot at catching them for the wild card, are seven back. The Cardinals (62-47) are 7 1/2 games back, and the Dodgers (59-48) 9 1/2 games back. (In the AL, only the Yankees, at 73-36, are better.)

Assuming they get in, the Rockies, who likely would start Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De La Rosa in Games 1 and 2 of the Division Series, don't necessarily match up well with either of their potential first-round opponents -- Philadelphia (Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, not necessarily in that order) or St. Louis (Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright). But I keep going back to the fact that the Rockies have outplayed both of those teams, by a wide margin, for a very large chunk of season. And of course, they just took two of three from the Cardinals over the weekend.

If I had any guts at all, I'd pick the Rockies right now to advance to the World Series. But I don't, and I don't have to -- yet.

By Dave Sheinin  |  September 28, 2009; 11:07 AM ET
Categories:  Angels , Astros  | Tags: Cardinals, Dave Sheinin, Dodgers, Phillies, Rockies, playoffs  
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Next: Time for the AL Central Showdown

Comments

What year is this? Is it 2007? Here we go again with the Rockies talk.

That sounds great in theory, but yeah, their pitching staff is nowhere near strong enough to carry them through the playoffs. And put a powerful line-up like the Phils (or Cards) in Coors field and watch out.

Another thing is experience, and playoff experience at that. The Dodgers have a lineup stacked with vets (and a manager) that know how to win. The Cards and Phils both have recent WS championships too.

I don't know how the Rocks have pulled off their record since May 29th, but I am inclined to say a week schedule, but I am not ready to drink the purple kool aid just yet.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | September 28, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Hey PhilliesPhan (and I expected to hear from you),

There's some validity to your strength-of-schedule theory. By my calculations, the Rockies have played 49 games since May 29 against teams who now have winning records (and have gone 27-22), and 61 games against teams who now have losing records (43-18).

But that's probably not atypical -- your Phillies, for example, have played 23 games in that span against the Mets and Nationals alone, going 19-4. Part of being a great team is mopping up against teams you're supposed to beat.

As for the experience factor, I used to believe in that stuff, but then I covered the postseason runs of the 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, 2005 White Sox, 2007 Rockies and 2008 Rays. Now I believe firmly that experience don't mean squat.

Posted by: DaveSheinin | September 28, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Great analysis Dave and I especially love seeing a Phillies fan put in their place.

However, as I think you would agree, for some reason basebal - more than other sports - is a crap shoot in the play offs. Ask the Cubs and the Angles. I mean, raise your hand if you thought the Phillies were better than the Cubs starting the playoffs last year.

No argument that the Rockies are the best team now but unfortunately for them that has no bearing on who will win in the post-season. Hot pitching is the biggest issue and that changes week to week. But, I hope they get in, I'd love to see them back there.

Posted by: Avar | September 28, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Dave,

No denying the Rockies a hot team, but with the schedule they have had during the second half, I am just not ready to buy into them. Besides, they aren't even a lock to get into the playoffs with Atlanta playing good ball. That would kill the argument if they fail to make the post season, eh?

Something else to consider, the Rockies have had to play with urgency all season. They have not led the division at all this year and have been constantly chasing the Dodgers. The Phils, on the other hand, have had a comfortable division lead for most of the second half and they have taken vacations here and there. The four game sweep they suffered in Houston a few weeks ago comes to mind. With this in mind, saying the Rockies are "by far" the best team in the NL just doesn't work for me. And I am not being biased either b/c I would take the Cards and the Dodgers against them in a 5 game set right now.

As far as playoff experience, sure it doesn't guarantee anything, but it certainly doesn't hurt either. The Rockies may be able to attest to that when the Red Sox swept them in 2007. And weren't the Rockies the "hotter team" that year?

Either way, I am excited for some playoff baseball!

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | September 28, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Put in my place, I was not. He actually helped to prove my argument. Thanks for the concern, though.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | September 28, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

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