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What if Troy Tulowitzki hadn’t been injured in 2014?

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He was a star when he was on the field, which wasn’t very often.

Troy Tulowitzki was drafted seventh overall in the 2005 draft and was immediately assigned to the High-A Modesto Nuts — something that doesn’t happen very often to rookies. He was promoted to Double-A in 2006 and ended up making his major league debut later that year on August 30. “Tulo” really rose to fame during the Rockies magical 2007 Rocktober run. He quickly became a fan favorite and proved time and time again that he was an incredible talent (unassisted triple play, anyone?). On the field, he put up great numbers in each of his years as a Rockie.

Troy Tulowitzki Rockies Career Stats

Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG bWAR Awards
Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG bWAR Awards
2006 25 96 15 23 2 0 1 6 3 10 25 0.240 0.318 0.292 -0.4
2007 155 609 104 177 33 5 24 99 7 57 130 0.291 0.359 0.479 6.8 ROY (2nd)
2008 101 377 48 99 24 2 8 46 1 38 56 0.263 0.332 0.401 0.8
2009 151 543 101 161 25 9 32 92 20 73 112 0.297 0.377 0.552 6.5 MVP (5th)
2010 122 470 89 148 32 3 27 95 11 48 78 0.315 0.381 0.568 6.7 AS, MVP (5th), GG, SS
2011 143 537 81 162 36 2 30 105 9 59 79 0.302 0.372 0.544 6.2 AS, MVP (8th), GG, SS
2012 47 181 33 52 8 2 8 27 2 19 19 0.287 0.360 0.486 0.4
2013 126 446 72 139 27 0 25 82 1 57 85 0.312 0.391 0.540 5.0 AS
2014 91 315 71 107 18 1 21 52 1 50 57 0.340 0.432 0.603 5.8 AS
2015 (COL) 87 323 46 97 19 0 12 53 0 24 72 0.300 0.348 0.471 1.7 AS

However, for as much as everyone remembers Tulo’s web gems on the field, they also remember his time spent off the field on the Injured List.

His Rockies injury history includes events such as:

  • Torn quadriceps tendon (2008)
  • Cut palm that required 16 stitches (2008)
  • Fractured wrist (2010)
  • Strained groin muscle that required season-ending surgery (2012)
  • Fractured rib (2013)
  • Hip flexor strain that required season-ending surgery (2014).

The season-ending surgeries cut his 2012 and 2014 seasons to 47 and 91 games, respectively. I think Scott Miller from Bleacher Report put it best when he said, “Somewhere along the line, Tulowitzki became more like a med school lab project than a major league shortstop.” Throughout his career, Tulo took 11 total trips to the Injured List.

So the question becomes: what if Troy Tulowitzki hadn’t been injured, especially in 2014? In 2014, he put up 5.8 bWAR in just 91 games — his fourth highest bWAR as a Rockie. Imagine what he could’ve done in a full season...

The Rockies probably still would’ve finished fourth, but it would’ve been closer

The Rockies finished 66-96 in 2014 — their third season out of four in which they finish with 90+ losses (they were 74-88 in 2013). They finished fourth in the NL West, above only the 64-98 Arizona Diamondbacks. Factoring in approximately six more wins with Tulo in the lineup, they would’ve finished 72-90, which would still have been five games behind the 77-85 San Diego Padres. They also would’ve been just one game behind the Cubs and Phillies in the Wild Card race, solidifying them still second-to-last in that regard. But at the same time, they also could’ve grabbed some wins from those other teams in so they might’ve ended up higher in the standings.

His numbers would’ve been outstanding

Tulowitzki only played in 91 games in 2014 before being shelved on July 22. Check out his numbers in those 91 games:

Troy Tulowitzki 2014 Stats

Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG bWAR Awards
Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG bWAR Awards
2014 91 315 71 107 18 1 21 52 1 50 57 0.340 0.432 0.603 5.8 AS

And he still made the All-Star game that year. But figure he only played 56.2% of the 2014 season. If those numbers are adjusted for a full season, they would look more like this:

Troy Tulowitzki Hypothetical 2014 Stats

Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG
Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG
2014 162 561 126 190 32 2 37 93 2 89 101 0.339 0.431 0.727

Now he probably would’ve gotten a few days off here and there and maybe played closed to 155 games or so during a “full season,” but those numbers still are pretty good. He might’ve even had a legitimate shot at being a finalist for the NL MVP! Although he probably would’ve lost since the Rockies wouldn’t have made the postseason, but it’s still fun to fantasize about.

He might not have been traded in 2015

It’s hard to say how much of the “injury-prone-ness” factored into Jeff Bridich’s decision to ship the star shortstop north of the border, but it would’ve been much harder to justify if Tulowitzki had put up those kind of numbers in 2014. Even then, in 2015 his stats were pretty good in the limited amount of time he spent in Colorado. They dipped a bit from his 2014 campaign in a similar number of games (87 instead of 91), but that’s to be expected coming off of an injury.

Even if Bridich did decide to trade Tulo regardless, he probably could’ve gotten a better haul for him if he hadn’t been injured in 2014. But hindsight is 20/20, after all.

No Story time in 2016

If Tulo hadn’t gotten injured and had stayed in Colorado, Trevor Story probably wouldn’t have made his debut in 2016. He might not have made his debut at all to this point, or if he did he’d probably be playing more of a bench role (à la Ryan McMahon in 2017). Or he might’ve been traded to another team for a starting pitcher or a first baseman. Who knows.

At this point, Tulowitzki is 35 years old so it’s difficult to say how much of a role he would still be playing, if one at all (he did retire on July 25, 2019 in real life). Maybe he would’ve stayed at shortstop, which could’ve meant that Trevor Story would’ve been converted to second base. But then what about DJ LeMahieu? Shift him to first?

Maybe he would’ve been shifted to another infield spot, like third base (à la Alex Rodriguez). But then what do you do with Nolan Arenado? Move him to first?

Oh the possibilities...

At the end of the day

Tulowitzki getting injured in 2014 might not have had as big of an impact on the team as initially suspected, but he still would’ve been the star on the team and done so much for his own personal value. Maybe we’d still be chanting “TU-LO!” in 2020, or maybe he’d still be gone. Either way, Tulo is another story of an athlete marred by injuries who didn’t quite live up to his potential, but man was he fun to watch when he was on the field.