Betting the Longshot: The Colorado Rockies

Now is the time to look for a longshot in the National League race. The Cardinals, Pirates and Mets are all struggling to get traction. The Dodgers just put Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list. The door is open for a surprise team to get into the playoffs and give futures bettors a team at a nice price to ride in October. Why not the Colorado Rockies?

The prices are juicy - 40-1 to recapture the magic of their 2007 surge and win the National League pennant. 80-1 to have a magical ride to win the World Series. If you're skeptical, we get it - the Rockies have a record of 37-41. But it's worth noting that's only a few games off the pace of the 2014 Kansas City Royals, who won an pennant, and the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, who won the whole thing. And with those prices, it only requires a tiny investment to have a shot at a big payoff.

So with that in mind, here are the keys to the Colorado Rockies making the postseason, a race they are only four games out of in the loss column...

They need to get Tyler Chatwood healthy and keep getting strong road performances out of him. Chatwood is expected to return from a minor injury before the All-Star break and his importance can't be understated. When he gets away from Coors Field, the starting pitcher is lights out - seven starts with a  1.25 ERA. If he didn't pitch his home games in Colorado, he'd be in the Cy Young conversation.

This underscores an important point for handicappers to examine closely. The home/road splits for Colorado are extremely dramatic, due to the inflated hitting numbers provided by the altitude at Coors. Anyone who follows baseball even a little bit is aware of this, but if you're betting, this is the team where you have to dig deeper and know specific home/road splits.

For example, Colorado overall ranks first in the National League in runs scored and is second-to-last in ERA. It's easy to conclude they're an offense-heavy team and that the Coors effect overstates that only a little. But go one step deeper - on the road, the Rockies are the 8th-best offense and have the 6th-best ERA. They actually become balanced with a slight emphasis on pitching.

That makes Chatwood a good arm to keep an eye on. The same goes for Tyler Anderson, a young pitcher whose come up and recently made three starts at home - he finished with a 2.50 ERA in those starts. How good might he be on the road?

On the flip side, the good news for Colorado is that Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez, their three best hitters, are also legitimate contributors on the road. Story has hit 11 home runs in 38 road games. Arenado slugs .507 away from Coors. Gonzalez isn't a star on the road, but he's solid, with a .346 on-base percentage and .447 slugging percentage.

What Colorado needs is for second baseman D.J. Lemahieu to become a legitimate hitter. The second baseman crushes it at home--.466 OBP/.629 slugging - where he looks like the second coming of Rogers Hornsby. On the road, he looks like the second coming of Jemile Weeks, with meager numbers of .319/.373. Lemahieu has to contribute on the road or his team is going to be too top-heavy on offense.

The Rockies also likely need some starting pitching depth. Keep an eye on trade rumors as they heat up this month. This was supposed to be a make-or-break year for Colorado manager Walt Weiss and that likely indicates an organization that will take some chances to win now when it comes to dealing prospects for veteran help.

The opportunity is there for the Rockies - the established favorites in the NL wild-card race have vulnerabilities. Colorado's own pitching is better than advertised. They just need a little more depth and for Lemahieu to hit on the road. Is betting on that worth 40-1 or 80-1? That's the decision handicappers have to make.

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