Troy Tulowitzki: The Change Part 2

Last week, we discussed one of the two things that Troy Tulowitzki is awesome at, despite what the fielding metrics we say.  Nuts to all of you, Tulo owns! This week, we are going to pick up where we left off last week and cover Tulowitzki at the plate. I'll clue you in ahead of time: Tulo was awesome just about however you slice it, and nobody can take that away from me. Nobody.

Anyhow, the highlights of Tulowitzki's season are as follows: .297 AVG, 32 HR, 101 R, 92 RBI, 20 SB. Coming out of a SS, that's going to make your fantasy roster smile. For those of us who are following beyond positional eligibility, we have the following to look at:

.297/.377/.552/.930/.393, 33.2 wRAA, 135 wRC+, all good for 5.4 WAR. Long story short, that owns. (If you try really hard, you can probably make a case that Tulo was closer to 7 WAR, but that really involves juggling fielding metrics and such. For the sake of comparison, we'll just stick with Fangraphs.)

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to tell you something that I'm sure nobody whatsoever realized: Troy Tulowitzki owns. Rocket science, right? Good thing you have a stats guy to break this all down for you.

 

Click past the jump so I can inundate your mind with numbers. Good numbers though, I promise.

Now, this is the part of the story where I tell you that Tulo is the best SS in the game and had the best season in 2009 and such, right? Well, I'd love to make that happen, but it's just not true. There are 2 SS who had better seasons than Troy Tulowitzki. The first is the best SS in the NL and has been for a few seasons, one guy who I am exactly one day older than, you guessed it, J.J. Hardy.

Naw I'm kidding it's Hanley Ramirez. Hanley was rated as being just a shade below average in the field, but offensively, he's posting numbers that have me thinking about how he's going to get screwed out of the HoF in 15-20 years for no reason beyond the fact that he plays for the Florida Marlins. Seriously, the guy has posted 2 straight 7+WAR seasons, and would probably have 3 if his 2007 fielding numbers didn't drag him down a win and a half. As I've said before, I would do terrible, terrible things to have Hanley Ramirez playing for my baseball team. Not in place of Tulo, but in place of Barmes...?

The other SS that beat out Tulo for leading the majors in WAR was his own hero, Alex Cora. What, that joke isn't funny anymore?

Derek Jeter suddenly rediscovered how to field this season. Word that I've read is that one of the Yankees coaches said "hey how about you play back a bit so you can get better reads on the ball" and suddenly Jeter wasn't having to make absurd dramatic jumpthrows every other groundball. Jeter's always had a very good bat, despite grounding into an average of 21 DPs his past 3 seasons, but basically, he was able to play both sides of the game well enough to accumulate 7.4 WAR this season. Factor in his contract and...well, let's just say it's a good thing that he plays for the Yankees.

Anyhow, back to Tulo. When you're stacked up against the best young batting shortstop in baseball and a probable 1st ballot Hall of Famer, saying you took 3rd in overall value sure ain't bad. I'll take that every day of the week and buy out the arbitration years, too. Great minds, you know?

But there's more to the story of Tulo's season than just stacking him up next to other SS. No, if you look at Tulowitzki's impact on the 2009 Rockies, his awesomeness is just difficult to deny.

For starters, Tulo tore his quad in 2008, showed a lot of signs that he needed to grow up, and had me worried as hell that we'd just locked up a spoiled brat through his first year of free agency and had all of our hopes and dreams locked up in...well, not Angel Berroa or Bobby Crosby, but quite possibly an incredibly overrated player.

First 2 months of 2009, I wasn't entirely sure that those particular concerns weren't just freaking out over the team's entire slow start. After coming out of the gates hitting a walloping .319 wOBA (86 wRC+) in April and .301 wOBA (74 wRC+) in May, things looked grim, and I was trying to find a good marinade for all the crow I was afraid I'd have to be eating.

Well, then magical things started happening. Jim Tracy took the helm. People started suddenly getting good again. Namely, Troy Tulowitzki.

In the month of June, Brad Hawpe finalized his All-Star credentials, Clint Barmes sat dead-red and made pitchers pay for it, hell, even Garrett Atkins posted a .394 wOBA. And Tulo quietly batted .305/.398/.610/1.008/.417(151), leading the team in SLG, ISO, OPS, wOBA, and dropped jaws. Ok, maybe he didn't do it so quietly.

July got even more exciting. Carlos Gonzalez finally found the "on" switch for his LAZOR, Dexter Fowler and Ian Stewart became On-Base machines, Helton reminded us why he belongs in the Hall, and Troy Tulowitzki led the team in SLG, ISO, OPS, wOBA, and awesometude.

August, things cooled down for Tulo. Downright pedestrian. .346/.398/.607/1.006/.418(152). If your reaction is "whaaaaaa?!" then you need to be educated about this:

.371/.432/.714/1.146/.460(181) and .361/.458/.623/1.081/.458(180).

Yeah that's Cargo and Dex.

Finally, in reach of the playoffs, September happened. Carlos came back to Earth, if the top of Pike's Peak is still considered Earth. Jason Giambi arrived and was clutch and awesome and such. And if we dismiss Iannetta's incredible 27PA , Troy Tulowitzki led the team in SLG, OPS, and wOBA. Giambi had him beat in ISO.

My point is that Tulowitzki was an absolute beast for 4 months of the season, just a disgustingly stark contrast to the first 2 months. He went from the lamb to the lion. A cold spring became a blazing summer. He got angry, but the difference is that we WOULD like him when he's angry. Jekyll to Hyde. Urkel to Urquelle. This analogy is falling apart.

Now, the next step is obviously to look forward at Tulo, to see what we might expect out of him. Well, according to Bill James, CHONE, and the conglomerated Fans, Tulo is projected to take a bit of an offensive step back, somewhere in the upper .870's in OPS and right around .378 wOBA (134 wRC+). ZIPS and Marcel the Monkey aren't quite as high on him, expecting him to be more of an .850/.365 (125) player - which is still pretty good. CHONE goes as far as to project his fielding as well (which, I should mention, isn't based on UZR, but rather TotalZone - you know, the metric that likes him still), and all things considered, Tulo could surpass the 6.0 WAR mark, which is pretty insane, as this would smoke his 2007 and 2009 seasons (both of which Fangraphs has listed at 5.4 WAR). The fans see him as right around 6.0 WAR as well.

What's evident is that something clicked on for Tulo. Whether it was Jim Tracy's sage advice or a toe tap, the sun clearly broke out from those spring clouds that surround not only Tulowitzki, but the entire team.

So do I think Tulo is at his peak? Probably not, there are things for him to learn still, elements to refine, and just general steps for him to still take, as is pretty much true of any young star. But what's almost more important than his role is starting to change from Young Phenom to Team Leader.

We need better seasons from many of the players on the team. We need to see growth from some, consistency from others, and just general steps forward from a lot of our young players. But most importantly, we need to see a strong start out of Tulo. I could just cite his career April/May splits, but I'm not entirely convinced that the guy wearing #2 in 2010 will be the same player we saw the past 3 years.

Success in 2010 is going to come from a lot of different factors, but I'm convinced that as Troy Tulowitzki goes, so go the Colorado Rockies.

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