Past & Present: Is this Troy Tulowitzki's 1997?

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Tulowitzki's hot start to the 2014 season brings to mind another Rockies slugger that dealt with injury issues throughout his career.

It's a familiar refrain, "Man, that Rockies star is so talented, imagine the numbers he'd put up if he could stay healthy for a full season." No, Troy Tulowitzki is not the first Rockies player we've heard that about, the first was one of the original Blake Street Bombers, Larry Walker.

In the first seven seasons of Walker's career with the Expos and Rockies, he made just one All-Star appearance despite accounting for at least 4.4 fWAR in four of those seasons. However, his career high in games played to that point was 143 in 1992, a season that saw Walker make his first All-Star Game and finish fifth in MVP voting after hitting .301 with 58 extra-base hits, 23 of them home runs.

Walker also put up an OPS over .980 in both 1994 and 1995, playing in 234 games total over  the two seasons. (It's important to remember that the Expos and Rockies combined to play just 258 games in those two seasons thanks to the strike.)

Compare Walker's first seven full seasons Tulowitzki's and there are some similarities. Tulo has played more than 150 games twice in his career, in 2007 and 2009, putting up 5.2 and 5.5 fWAR in those two seasons, but did not make his first All-Star Game until 2010, a season that saw him play just 122 games. He also played just 47 games in 2012, whereas Walker's career low in games played through seven seasons was 83 in 1996. Through their first seven full seasons, Tulowitzki played in just over 74 percent of his team's games compared to 81 percent for Walker.

Walker finally played a full, healthy season in eighth season in the majors at age 30 in 1997, playing 153 games and hitting .366 with a 1.172 OPS and a NL-leading 49 home runs, accumulating 9.1 fWAR. He also became the first, and to date only, Rockies player to win the NL MVP. He also stole 33 bases and set the Rockies record with 409 total bases thanks to 46 doubles and four triples.

It looks to be a similar case for Tulowitzki so far in his age 29 season in 2014. He has played in 42 of the Rockies 45 games, putting him on place to play in 151 games this year, and leads the NL in hitting with a .393 average and in home runs with 13. He has also posted a 1.259 OPS and 4.0 fWAR through just over a quarter of the season.

In fact, Walker in 1997 is one of just five times in the expansion era (since 1961) that a player has matched Tulowitzki's .393 average, 13 home runs and 35 RBIs through his team's first 45 games. Through the Rockies first 45 games in '97, Walker hit .407 with 14 homers and 44 runs driven in, though his 1.232 OPS was just shy of Tulo's 1.259 mark this season.

Let's also not forget that both Walker and Tulowitzki shared the distinction of being excellent defensive players and their respective positions.

If Tulo can continue on this Walker-esque trajectory in 2014, there's a very good chance we'll get to see the Rockies win their second MVP award and perhaps even another Rocktober this season.

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