More so than perhaps any other MLB team in 2010, the offensive fortunes of the Colorado Rockies were tied to only two men: Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.
Indeed, looking at the Fangraphs batting value leaderboard for the 2010 Rockies, you can see that Gonzalez (42.1 weighted runs above average) and Tulowitzki (31.9 wRAA) were the clear frontrunners, with Ryan Spilborghs coming in third with only 5 wRAA. To refresh your memory, wRAA is the batting component of WAR. I explain how it is calculated here.
Let's look at CarGo's amazing 2010 season a little more closely. First of all, he won the NL batting title with a .336 average. By itself, that's an excellent accomplishment, but Gonzalez did so much more in 2010 that deserves our attention. In terms of counting stats, CarGo hit 34 homeruns, drove in 117 men (amazing considering he was in the leadoff position for the beginning of the season), and swiped 26 bases. If he could have drawn more walks (6.3 BB%) to pad his OBP, his offensive arsenal would be unstoppable.
Gonzalez posted a .336/.378/.598 line, which equates to a .416 wOBA and 155 wRC+. He also posted a 164 sOPS+, which adjusts for park factors and for splits (comparing him to other lefty outfielders, for instance). The metric is explained fully here. Those stats are great for anyone, but for a 24 year old pre-arbitration player to do it is phenomenal.
Gonzalez never had a month in which he posted a sOPS+ below 100, but going into the All-Star Break his stats were definitely above average but not necessarily MVP-worthy. After the All-Star Break, I'd venture that there was nobody in baseball who was better at hitting. Here's CarGo's sOPS+ broken down by month:
In the first half, CarGo's sOPS+ was an excellent 136, but in the second half it climbed to an absurd 198. As crazy good as Tulo's Sept/Oct was, by sOPS+ (more on that in a bit) CarGo's August was even better. Gonzalez hit .344/.400/.774 in the month (a .484 wOBA!) with 8 HRs (72 total bases) and 23 RBI in 105 PAs.
The fact that it followed up a sterling July, which was nearly as good, and that it preceded a Sept/Oct that flirted with a sOPS+ of 200 is flat out amazing. Maybe it began when he was moved down in the batting order from 1st to 3rd, as his sOPS+ in the leadoff spot was a mere 119, while in the three hole it was 157.
Courtesy of Baseball-Reference, here is the breakdown of CarGo's performance by half:
That is an amazing stretch of baseball right there. Gonzalez hit righties (164 sOPS+) and lefties (167 sOPS+) hard seemingly every game.
One of the primary detractions held against CarGo in the MVP race was his drastic home/road splits. After all, Gonzalez posted a godly 204 sOPS+ at Coors Field with a .380/.425/.737 line, 26 homers, and 76 RBIs. That's with only 72 starts and 332 PAs, mind you. When compared to his 118 road sOPS+, his .289/.322/.453 line, and his lower counting stats (8 homers, 41 RBIs in 304 PAs), it's no wonder that questions have arisen about CarGo's true offensive abilities.
As I described last week though, Rockies hitters have historically been able to maximize their home-field advantage but have been victimized at a much greater rate on the road than Colorado pitchers have at home. Gonzalez's splits are more extreme than I've ever seen, but if he continues to hit at Coors as well as he did this year, I'm more than fine with slightly above average road production.
Second Place -- Troy Tulowitzki
#2 / Short Stop / Colorado Rockies
Oct 10, 1984
|2010 - Troy Tulowitzki||122||470||89||148||32||3||27||95||48||78||11||2||.315||.381||.568|
Tulowitzki's 2010 season will be remembered for both his ridiculous September and for what could have been had he not spent 39 days on the DL in June/July. Considering his counting stats (27 HRs, 95 RBI, 11 SB), we are left to wonder if Tulo could have matched CarGo in offensive prowess. Injury or no, Tulowitzki's rate stats (.315/.381/.568, .408 wOBA, 150 wRC+) are incredibly impressive for a shortstop. Tulo's 171 sOPS+ when compared to shortstops (158 sOPS+ overall) reflects this. He mashed at home (172 sOPS+) and on the road (142), against righties (159) and lefties (165), in the first half (138) and the second (179).
Entering September, Tulowitzki wasn't really on anybody's MVP radar despite stellar play and his first All-Star selection. However, from September 1st on, Tulo hit .303/.366/.754 (that's a .468 wOBA) with 15 HRs -- only 14 singles (92 TBs) -- and 40 RBIs (second all-time only to Babe Ruth's 43) and a 208 sOPS+ in 122 PAs. 31.3% of Tulo's flyballs in the month left the yard. This completely overshadowed CarGo's .378/.439/.604, .453 wOBA, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 192 sOPS+ month.
Third Place -- Melvin Mora
#6 / Third Base / Colorado Rockies
Feb 07, 1972
|2010 - Melvin Mora||113||316||39||90||12||5||7||45||31||53||2||1||.285||.358||.421|
If only Gonzalez and Tulowitzki had had some help. As in, if only the third best offensive player on the team in 2010 weren't either a 38 year-old reserve corner infielder or a fourth/fifth outfielder (Spilborghs). Usually, that's not a formula for a playoff team, no matter how good your top two hitters are.
That isn't to say that Mora didn't acquit himself with the bat very well for the Rockies. He most certainly did (.285/.358/.421, .344 wOBA, 107 wRC+, 115 sOPS+ in 354 PAs). One important thing to note is that Mora's performance in the second half was very good (.307/.374/.472, 6 HRs, 31 RBI, 134 sOPS+ in 196 PAs) and that he did well at home (125 sOPS+) and on the road (105). With that performance, Mora might have earned himself a starting gig with another team next year, but if not, Colorado will welcome him back as a reserve.
Full Voting Results
Both Gonzalez and Tulowitzki had fantastic years at the plate, and as such, they were the only two names listed in the top two spots on each PR staff member's ballot. Four voted for Mora in third, two for Spilly, and I voted for Ian Stewart because honestly he was better this year than people give him credit for.