The Colorado Rockies time of contention may finally be upon us. The 2017 season will bring an unprecedented amount of optimism to Coors Field. It has long been thought that 2017 would be the start of the youth movement for the Rockies. With the success in 2016 and the aggressive approach so far this offseason, it seems like the team may be ahead of schedule and set on contending.
With the National League West looking like a highly competitive division, the Rockies may have to settle for the wild card. Either way, it will take a hearty increase in number of wins.
The easiest way to predict how many wins the Rockies will need to make the playoffs is to look back at how many wins were worthy of playoff spots in the past. The good news for the Rockies now is the second wild card spot being introduced, giving one more team a playoff spot.
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The first and most generic prediction is based on all division winners since the new wild card format was adopted. When this was instituted for the 2012 season, it allowed five teams to make the playoffs rather than four.
Since that time there have been only two division winners with a win total of less than 90. The Detroit Tigers won 88 games on the way to the American League Central crown in 2012, with the other team was the Texas Rangers in 2015 at 88 wins. The highest win total in the past five years was the Chicago Cubs last season at 103. Average win totals for division winners among all six divisions rounded to 94. The AL average win total was slightly less than 94 and the National League slightly better at 95 wins.
The NL West division winner has generally been slightly below league average over the past five years. The division crown has gone to a team with 91, 92, 94, 93, and 94 wins, giving an average of 92.6 wins.
With the offseason moves by the Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks and Rockies, it seems likely the division winner will be in the upper 90s next year so hypothetically over 95 wins will be needed. That would be a 20-win improvement for the purple pinstripes from the 75-win campaign in 2016.
The other route the Rockies could take is to win a wild card slot. Looking at the past five years can provide insight into how many wins would be needed as well. The average win total of all 20 wild card teams over the past five years has been 90.5. The second wild card team’s average win total has been lower at 89.8 wins. The highest win total for the second team was 97 wins belonging to the 2015 Cubs, which was a major outlier. In the National League, the average win total has been 91, and the second wild card team has needed 90 wins.
Based on a relatively small sample size of the past five years, the Rockies will need at least 90 wins to make the wild card. The addition of the second wild card has changed the strategy of many teams so the small sample size is the best guess for what any team will have to do to make the playoffs in 2017. The Rockies likely need to win at least 15 more games in 2017, although 20 more would be even better and put them in a good position to contend for the NL West division.