2014 Rockies Players Season Review – Troy Tulowitzki

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And so our tour through the infield goes to the player who is the heart and soul of the Rockies and whom might be the heart and soul of another team soon. I don’t want to rehash a lot of the data I provided in the post about trading Tulo:



Troy, even with the only playing around 110 games a year on average over his career (105 since he turned 25) has still managed to account for a 5 WAR rating year-after-year. He is simply a great player and  do believe that if, a big if, if he can stay healthy for a good stretch and keep producing (and if he can play SS until his age 33 season, then he may well be heading for the Hall of Fame. More and more he reminds me of the great Larry Walker who I still hope is elected to the HOF eventually. But that is the future, back to 2014

A lot is made of the fact that Troy had such huge numbers at Coors and poor numbers on the road. So it makes sense to start there. In just about the same number of games and Plate Appearances, his split was:

H:            .417/.497/.748/1.246 for his BA/OBP/Slugging/OPS  with 12 2B, 0 3B, 14HR, 35 RBIs and 122 total bases. Those are amazing numbers, even if you are playing on the moon.

R:            .257/.364/.447/.811 for the same stats., with 6 2B, 13B, 7 HR, 17 RBI and 68 total bases. An .811 OPS isn’t bad by the way, but it is .400+ points below his home numbers.

It is weird how almost all his numbers are half what they were at home.  One other important statistic is the BA on Balls in Play (BABIP), at home .432 and on the road .274. That number at home represents a good deal of luck, the size of Coors Field’s outfield and the fact that no one, not even the great Giancarlo Stanton, hits the ball as hard as Tulo (Stanton btw, had a BABIP of .351 at home and .356 on the road).  The harder you swing, the more likely line drives are to find the places were there are holes in the defense. Certainly the .432 is too high and will come down in future years (for a comparison his BABIP in 2010 at home was .348 and his road was .306), his road BABIP was far lower than it should have been. So the overall BABIP of .355 was about right (and again, comparable to that of Stanton).

His numbers on the left/right split are also very interesting.

R:    276 PA, 11 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 33BB, 48K, for a .321 BA, .402 OBP, .527 Slug, .930 OPS

L:       99 PA, 7 2B, 03B, 9 HR, 17 BB, 9K, for a .397 BA, .515 OBP, .833 Slug, 1.348 OPS

The Rockies have an interesting mix of players last year (had they stayed healthy), with leftes like Morneau, Dickerson, Blackmon and CarGo batting left and hammering right-handed pitching and Tulo, Arenado and Stubbs hammering left-handed pitching.  And remember that the NL West has a number of very good lefties, not least of which guys named Bumgarner and Kershaw.

If we look at the monthly numbers Tulo was amazingly consistent :

March/April        .364BA, .477 OBP, .727 Slug, 1.205 OPS with 7 HR

May                       .341BA, .429 OBP, .614 Slug, 1.043 OPS with 7 HR

June                      .354 BA, .430 OBP, .525 Slug, .955 OPS with 5 HR

July                        .250 BA, .333 OBP, .500 Slug, .833 OPS with 2 HR

July was for only 45 PA so I don’t make too big a deal about these numbers.

That is the kind of consistency that you want from your big hitters, and traditionally Tulo is a far stronger 2nd half hitter than 1st half, hitting 30 points higher in BA, and 67 points higher in OPS, so one wonders if Tulo had been able to stay healthy what he might have done in the 2nd half of 2014, but it was not to be…like so many players in that doomed season.

Diggind deeper into the kind of hitter Tulo was in 2014 you see that he is a great first pitch hitter.

In 41 PAs 36 ABs  he hit .444 BA, .488 OBP, .806 Slug, 1.293 OPS. Those numbers are about .50 point higher on BA and OBP and 2oo points higher on Slug and OPS than career numbers but he has always feasted on 1st pitches. Can you say don’t throw him a strike!

Oh wait, throw him a ball on that 1st pitch and its not much better, in 1-0 counts in 2014 he hit:

22 PA, 22 ABs, .545 BA, .545 OBP, .955 Slug, and 1.500 OPS!!!  So, don’t get behind 1-0 right? Wait, when he fell behind 0-1 in 2014….he was even better!

32 PA, 31 ABs, .452 BA, .438 OBP, 1.065 Slug and 1.502 OPS! How do you get this guy out?

His best count was 3-1, at which point given these numbers pitchers should have just given him a free ball 4 because he hit:

26 PA, 12 ABs, .583 BA, .808 OBP, 1.167 Slug, and an OPS of…1.974! Yes, 1.974. I mean wow! And yes, that is better than his career numbers for 3-1, but his career numbers are .416/.758/.948/1.706.

The more I search through these numbers the more I see a truly great hitter and if he had stayed healthy in 2014 I think it is possible he would have been only the 3rd player on a last place team to win an MVP in the divisional era.  Like all players he struggles in 0-2 and 1-2 counts, but there he was at least still competitive

0-2  33 PA, 33 BA, .242,.242, .364, .606,

1-2  57 PA, 57 BA, .211, .211, .333, .544

The only count where he was handled by pitchers? Full counts interestingly enough. As one who watched a lot of those ABs he seemed to try and do too much with full counts, and thus he hit:

45 PA 21 ABs .143 BA/ .578 OBP/.143 Slug/.721 OPS those are about half of his career numbers in full count situations indecently).

All those amazing numbers though did hide one interesting issue. Tulo appeared to try and do far too much, feeling the pressure, especially on the road to create runs on his own. We can see this in both 2 out situations and when batting with RISP.

2 Out     .243 BA / .381 OBP / .379 Slug / .760 OPS with 3 HR

RISP       .307 BA/ .467 OBP / .547 Slug/ 1.014 OPS  with 4 HR

Yes, Tulo was so great in 2014 that his RISP numbers look bad…when they are in fact pretty darn good for anyone not in a 3 month zone like he was last year. I am actually having a little fun there…but when you look at his RISP and 2 out numbers, the key RBI situations he was actually better than his base RISP numbers:

2  Out RISP:  40 PA 28 BA .321 BA/ .525 OBP/ .536 Slug/ 1.061 OPS with 1 HR, 11 RBI and 3 IBB

What is really sad, and which tells us a lot about this team especially on the road – just 40 PA and only 11 RBIs. You would expect in 3 months of baseball Tulo would have had more than 40 2out, RISP sitautions for their #3/#4 hitter (though the first half numbers by Blackmon, especially homers, may explain that a bit).

Okay, the last set of numbers to look at: High Leverage (Pressure settings) vs Low Leverage situations and his BA in innings 7-9 (primarily against good relievers)

High   69 PA 53 AB     .245 BA/ .377 OBP/ .396 Slug/ .773 OPS 1 HR

Low   155 PA 130 AB   .362 BA/ .452 OBP/ .662 Slug/ 1.113 OPS 10 HR

7-9 inning   102 PA  79 AB .253 BA/ .412 OBP/ .405 Slug/ .817 OPS 3 HR

The Rockies were 26-26 in blowouts, so we know that when the pressure is off the Rockies were decent, and if they had played .500 in 2014 I think we would all have a different feel for the upcoming with on. The problem was in close games and there we find the big issue Tulo’s numbers: he didn’t performs in high leverage and late inning situations and that is when you need your #1 stud to do what  you pay him $20 million to do.  Compare him to Nolan Arenado

High   97 PA 83 ABs     .349 BA/ .396 OBP/ .578 Slug/ .974 OPS 3 HR

7-9     138 PA 126 ABs  .246 BA/ .304 OBP/ . 500 Slug/ .804 OPS 6 HR

Arenado was better when the team needed him the most than Tulo, and while this is somewhat a positive about Arenado, it is even more so a huge negative about Tulo.  I hate to say it, but there is some truth to the fact that Tulo had his best numbers when the game wasn’t on the line. This has been a critique of Tulo throughout his career, that he doesn’t come up big in big situations in the game. To be fair it has been said that his numbers decline because he tries to do too much, he feels like he needs to carry the team. But the fact remains that this is the one area of his hitting that has yet to really shine. His career numbers in the same 3 categories:

High    .270 BA/ .356 OBP/ .464 Slug/ .820 OPS

Low     .308 BA/ .372 OBP/ .514 Slug/ .886 OPS

7-9       .254 BA/ .343 OBP/ .400 Slug/ .743 OPS

(Incidently, Tulo’s best numbers are in what Baseball Reference calls Medium Leverage situations).

So Tulo is a chocker?  Sorry, I can’t say that because part of the reason the Rox were .500 in blowouts was that Tulo got big hits in the 1st, 3rd, 5th innings to give the Rockies the big lead that, sadly, they needed with their pitching last year.  If you win a game 8-7, doesn’t t really matter in the end if you got all 8 in the first 3 innings and Tulo had 3 RBIs in the early inning and then didn’t do well in the later innings as the score got closer (for all of us who have seen the Rox stop scoring and then have to bite our nails, our wife’s nails, and the 10 penny nails, the answer is YES!)? Yes, you want him to excel in every situation but you cannot deny his numbers in 2014, but I had to find something other than his injuries to detract from what was for Tulo a great season.

As for defense in 2014? As I said in the trade article, Tulo’s defensive numbers in April and May were great, but then when Arenado went down so did his numbers.  I don’t trust the defensive metric s yet but we cannot ignore them. But I do watch him play and while Simmons deserved the last 2 years of Gold Glove awards, he was good enough this year before the injury to make it a close vote this year.   As ESPN pointed out on May 4, Tulo had already saved 10 runs in April alone (http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/46770/first-month-defensive-star-troy-tulowitzki ) The GG became mute when he missed the last 2.5 months of the season. Still, having Tulo and Arenado is one of the best defensive left-sides anywhere in baseball – in April only 21% of the balls hit to the left-side resulted in the hitter reaching first. That is an amazing number and one still wonders how the pitching may have done had their great defense remained in place for the whole year.

2014 GRADE: Incomplete/A

Clearly Tulo has to receive an Incomplete because he wasn’t able to get enough PA to qualify for the batting title, he wasn’t able to get enough defensive chances to qualify for the Gold Glove, and  he didn’t play enough inning to qualify for the WAR leader at his position.

All that is true but he also earned a WAR in 2014 of 5.1, second only to Johnny Peralta, whose 5.8 WAR was accomplished in 157 games.  We are talking about a player who still managed to hit 21 homers  in his 91 games, and had 107 hits and 190 total bases in that short period.  Those raw numbers are a good season for most short-stops. So I think we can give him a grade other than incomplete and I would give him an A. Why an A rather than an A+? Simply put it’s the road numbers and the late inning numbers. This team had a horrible bullpen, which managed to lose games that were tied or they were winning when it was handed to the bullpen. Those players who pitched only from the pen lost 29 games last year, which tells you this team had a chance to win close games at the end and didn’t, and while pitching is one part of the equasition, the lack of timely hitting late in the game is as well, and this has always been an area of struggle, or at least underperfomance for Troy, but is also an area where he can still improve, and I think as he gets older and mellows a bit more, he will. As for the road numbers, yes, Troy was about half as good on the road as at home (which meant he was still decent on the road). In a career year he underperformed his career numbers on the road, and I do think this is due to the 20 points lower BABIP on the road. Still, along with the poor late inning performance these two things are enough to mark him down from an A+ to an A, even as we all sadly admit the Incomplete is the only true grade that is appropriate.

2015 Predictions:

I am going to predict that Troy is still here in 2015, and that if the team gets off to a good start, he has a very good season (the losing has to hurt a guy like Tulo and yet he has always been better in the 2nd half despite the season is usually lost by the All Star Break.

Can he match 2014? Yes, but not at home. If he hits .360 BABIP at home with the violence of his swing and as hard as he hits the ball, he will have great home numbers again. I expect that the decline in his home numbers will be made up by his road numbers rebounding.

The biggest issue aside from whether or not Tulo is here in 2015 is how good or bad that hip ends up being. Tulo works out so hard and wants to be so good, I don’t think it is going to hold him back much if any. Todd Helton came back pretty solid, but has surgery was about a decade later in his life and Todd was never the workout warrior that Tulo is. Still I do expect a slight regression in his fielding, but still able to make voters think that Simmons may not have that Gold Glove thing sewn up.

I expect him to play 143 games in 2015, to hit .330 with 34 Homers and an OPS over 1.000.

The potential downside projections – 120 games played, .300 average, 18 homers, OPS of .875, and defense less than stellar. If that is what Tulo provides and he is still in a Rockies uniform, they are in deep trouble. But I just don’t see it happening. Wherever Tulo plays in 2015, he is going to be an All Star and hit well. If he is playing elsewhere,  I see a .310, 25 HR season, and still an All-Star.

Next Player to Review – Catcher, Wilin Rosario




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