Last month around this time I wrote about Troy Tulowitzki and the fact that he was nearing the end of the best month in his career, an April in which he hit an absurd .364/.477/.727 with a 211 wRC+ in 111 plate appearances. This month I'm obligated (and pleased, of course) to write that Troy Tulowitzki has a contender for a new best month of his career in May. I hope I'm writing a similar column at the end of June.
First, the offensive numbers. Colorado's shortstop has hit .385/.474/.692 so far this month in 95 plate appearances, good for a 205 wRC+, numbers that would place this month second best in all Troy Tulowitzki months. Remember that crazy September 2010 when Tulo hit 15 homers and drove in 40 runs? That month had a wRC+ of 180. Tulo's been significantly better than that offensively in both of this season's months so far. That's insane.
The craziest Tulo stat of this young year has been his home batting line, of course. Through 90 plate appearances at Coors Field this year, Tulowitzki has been crushing the ball. These numbers are his hitting line (not a misprint): .521 batting average, .600 on-base percentage, .959 slugging percentage, 294 wRC+ (park-adjusted)! Those numbers are difficult to put up in a slow pitch softball league, let alone the highest level of professional baseball.
It's not like Tulo has been a slouch on the road either. His high walk rate (17.2% on the road this year) has allowed him to put up a .258/.379/.516 line (145 wRC+) in 116 road plate appearances. For a player playing Gold Glove defense at shortstop (more on that in a minute), those are All-Star offensive numbers by themselves. Add in Tulo's offensive onslaught at home this year and you get a clear MVP of baseball through the season's first third.
Not only has Troy been the best offensive player in the game this year, per Carson Cistulli at FanGraphs he's also been the most improved offensive player in baseball this year. Even after some regression, ZiPS projects Tulo to hit .312/.393/.561 (148 wRC+) for the rest of the year. That puts him on pace for a .333/.423/.612 (170 wRC+) season and 8.7 fWAR - all of which are likely to lead the NL this year. And that's with serious regression from his current pace - if he maintains his current production all season (he won't, but still), we're looking at a 12 or 13 win season for Tulo, a number that hasn't been eclipsed since Barry Bonds was doing his thing.
Tony Blengino of FanGraphs posted an excellent offensive profile for Tulo yesterday, looking primarily at what he is doing in 2014 that he wasn't doing last year. Here's a simple equation from the former Brewers personnel man:
Elite contact frequency and patience merged with elite ball-striking skills equals elite offensive player.
If that were all Troy Tulowitzki were doing for the Rockies this year, that would be enough for a All-Star, maybe even MVP caliber season. It's the defense that the 29 year-old has played this year that elevates the season Tulo has had from elite to otherworldly. Tulo is tied for first in MLB in Baseball-Reference's dWAR this year with 1.6. In other words, if Tulo were a punch and judy replacement level hitter this year, he would still be projected to be worth 5-6 wins this year with his glove alone.
In fact, dWAR is the only statistic of the top eight categories in which he isn't the outright leader - and in each of those seven categories he's the leader by a wide margin. It's a veritable panoply of Tulo. Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs had an excellent breakdown of Tulo's defense this year and just why he's been so elite. Basically, Tulo has converted a few near-impossible plays and basically every other ball that was hit to him into outs. He had his first error of the year on Monday when he almost made another near-impossible play. It's hard to overstate just how elite he's been on that side of the ball.
Back to Blengino for a moment. Here was the concluding paragraph for his examination of Tulo's 2014:
In a vacuum, a player with Tulowitzki's offensive skills is a superstar, regardless of position. That player, playing the game's most important defensive position, and playing it at a very high level, with no position shift in sight, is a generational player, if he can remain healthy. This is probably the best we will ever see from Troy Tulowitzki as an all-around player. Take a good look, enjoy it, and realize that it could well be a very long time before we ever again see anything like it.
Couldn't have said it better myself.
There is no NL Player of the Month conversation - there is only Tulo. There is no NL MVP conversation - there is only Tulo. There's no debate about the All-Star game, the Gold Glove, or the Silver Slugger either. You get the picture. Tulo's been fantastic at all aspects of the game so far and I for one am looking forward to what the Colorado shortstop will do next.