"As Tulo goes, so go the Rockies".
That's the phrase used by many on this site and elsewhere to describe the role that shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has in determining Colorado's playoff chances in a given year. In previous years, that statement has implied that the Rockies were a walking infirmary. This season, it implies that the Rockies are playing out of their collective minds.
It's true. Colorado is scoring 5.5 runs per game this April while hitting an insane .295/.346/.480 (BA/OBP/SLG) - the batting average and slugging percentage lead MLB by a healthy margin while the on-base percentage is 3rd. Lest you think that the Rockies thus far on offense are a Coors creation, the team's weighted runs created plus (wRC+) leads the league.
For the uninitiated, wRC+ is a park and league adjusted statistic that measures the amount of runs created through homers/triples/doubles/etc. and indexes that production against league average, so a total of 100 is league average. Colorado's 116 wRC+ indicates that the Rockies have been 16% better than the average team at creating runs this year. If that continues, the Rockies would have the best offense in their history by a long ways, as the Rockies have never produced a wRC+ above 97 in a full year.
The role of Charlie Blackmon in particular in this offensive explosion has been well documented, which has had the effect of slightly overshadowing Troy Tulowitzki's even bigger contributions. I'm fine with that because Charlie Blackmon is awesome and I hope it continues, but it's Tulo who has been the MVP of Major League Baseball in April. For Blackmon, this is easily the best baseball month he's ever had (and perhaps ever will have). Is that the case for Tulo, who has had a lot of great months in his eight year MLB career?
Let's investigate, looking at the top 5 Tulo months on offense ranked by OPS+:
5. July 2011, 180 OPS+
In a month abbreviated by the All-Star break (a game he played in for the first time that year), Tulo hit .352/.404/.615 with 5 HRs and 20 RBIs in 99 PAs. Even more impressive was that Tulo managed to follow this up with month #3 on this list.
4. September 2009, 180 OPS+
In leading the Rockies to the playoffs for the second time in three years, Tulo had a terrific .350/.427/.621 triple slash line with 8 HRs and 19 RBI in 117 plate appearances.
3. August 2011, 197 OPS+
Coming off of his nuclear July 2011, Tulo went thermonuclear in August, compiling a .356/.438/.673 line with 8 HRs and 21 RBI in 122 PAs.
2. September 2010, 208 OPS+
This was the month that I thought would be pretty close to this April. After all, Tulo launched 15 homers and had 40 RBI in 134 PAs with a .303/.366/.754 line. Unfortunately, Tulo was held down by a .253 BABIP in that month which kept him from doing even more damage.
1. April 2014, 223 OPS+
What has Tulo done this month? Well, his triple slash line through 107 plate appearances this month is .376/.486/.753 with 7 homers and 22 RBIs. In other words, he's nearly matched that insane slugging percentage from September 2010 while obliterating his previous OBP and BA month highs. He's increased his walk % to 18.7% while decreasing his strikeout % to 12.1%. This is a disciplined, locked-in hitter mashing the ball to all fields. So yes, this is the best month Tulo has ever had on offense, and it isn't even remotely close.
Tulo hasn't just been elite on offense this year either - his1.3 wins added on defense this month is 2nd in MLB according to Baseball Reference. In fact, on the list of league leaders provided by B-Ref, Tulo is first or second in MLB in each of the top eight categories (including a league leading 3.0 rWAR) - and in some of that it isn't even close. His .753 slugging percentage leads MLB by 107 points and his OPS is tops by 155 points!
When you consider his overall line for April, it's even more crazy to think about just how effective Tulo has been in Coors Field this year. In 42 plate appearances at Coors this month, Tulo has a preposterous .563/.643/1.094 line. That's equivalent to a 373 OPS+! If you only looked at Tulo's road line of .264/.385/.547 combined with his shortstop defense, that would put him as the All-Star game starter.
When you add in the home production, Troy Tulowitzki has been twice as valuable as any other non-Rockies player (thanks Charlie!) in the NL this year. He's the clear NL MVP of April, and if he can continue down this path, we could be looking at an all-time historic season from Tulowitzki. Here's hoping.