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Past & Present: The Big Three

With Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler back in the lineup, a look at how they, along with Carlos Gonzalez have anchored the Rockies the past five seasons.

Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler have been the core of the Rockies offense since 2009.
Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler have been the core of the Rockies offense since 2009.
Harry How

A week ago, coming off of a 5-9 stretch during which they were both on the disabled list, Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler rejoined the Colorado Rockies lineup, winning two of the three games they both played against the Los Angeles Dodgers before the All-Star Break.

At the Break, the Rockies are 26-23 when Tulowitzki and Fowler join Carlos Gonzalez in the starting lineup and 20-27 when at least one of them is absent.

Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Fowler first united in the Rockies on June 7, 2009, a Sunday afternoon in St. Louis that saw the three of them go 4-for-13 in a 7-2 Rockies win. Fowler led off and played center field that day, while Gonzalez and Tulowitzki hit sixth and seventh, playing their traditional left field and shortstop. Since that day, the Rockies are 138-126 (.523) when all three of them are in the lineup and 196-228 (.462) when one or more of them sits.

If you're looking for a reason for the Rockies struggles over the last month, look no further than the 25-game stretch before the Dodgers series in which at least one of Tulowitzki, Gonzalez or Fowler missed every game and saw the team go 9-16, dropping from 35-32 (.523) to 44-48 (.478), somehow only losing two games in the division race in the process.

The problem, of course, is the frequency with which all three of them are in the lineup. In just over four full seasons since they became teammates (accounting for partial seasons in 2009 and 2013), all three have been in the lineup just 264 times, a little over 38 percent of the games since their first appearance together, never in the lineup together more than 83 times in any given season.

Since the start of the 2009 season, they have combined to hit .296/.371/.515 (.886 OPS), with 371 home runs and 271 stolen bases in a combined 1,723 games. They have added to that 1,111 runs scored and 952 runs batted in. All of this while to a man playing above-average to excellent defense. (Defensive metrics' opinions of Fowler be damned.)

Taking it to another level, one of the trio has led the Rockies in rWAR and fWAR in each of the past five seasons (Tulo in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Dex in 2012 and CarGo in 2013). They have combined for 51.6 rWAR and 49.1 fWAR in that stretch, that number expanding to 58.5 rWAR and 54.1 fWAR when you include the early parts of Tulowitzki and Fowler's careers.

Their success comes in part from how well they complement each other. Fowler, the leadoff hitter that excels at getting on base (over .380 OBP in each of the last two seasons), Tulowitzki the big-time power hitter (three seasons over .550 SLG in his career) and Gonzalez, the five-tool player (OPS over .880 with 20 home runs and likely 20 steals in each of the last four seasons). Together, the three of them comprise the perfect engine to run the Rockies offense.

Talk about pitching, trades or performance from other players all you want, but keeping these three on the field is the biggest key to the Rockies' success in the second half of 2013.