Tulowitzki Blossoming into Dominating Force in Rockies Lineup

Tyler ThompsonCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2009

DENVER - JULY 12:  Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Colorado Rockies is welcomed back to the dugout after his fourth inning solo homerun against the Atlanta Braves during MLB action at Coors Field on July 12, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Troy Tulowitzki may be the most underrated player on the most underrated baseball team in the world.

The Colorado Rockies, despite having the best record in baseball since June 4, are still considered a long shot to compete for a World Series title.

Tulowitzki, having helped lead his team to what will likely be its second playoff berth in three years, remains outside nearly every NL MVP discussion to be had.

As of now, any MVP conversation is surely dominated by higher profile players like Albert Pujols and Chase Utley. Both have put together remarkable seasons worthy of recognition and both the Cardinals and Phillies would be in much different situations without their star infielders.

But what goes often unnoticed is that Tulowitzki’s presence has had a similar impact on the Rockies.

Still only 24, Tulowitzki is considered a veteran on a talented young team dominated by players more likely to skirt praise than to bring it upon themselves. 

The shortstop’s defense has remained steadfast up the middle, providing support for the Rockies’ ground ball inducing starting rotation.

And on the offensive side, Tulowitzki has quietly crept up in the lineup, now regularly hitting cleanup for the Rockies between left-handed bats Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe.

In many ways, the shortstop has helped ease the loss of departed left fielder Matt Holliday, who was traded in the off-season. There was some concern entering the season that Colorado lacked an explosive right-handed bat capable of middle of the order production.

Such concerns have all but disappeared given Tulowitzki’s emergence as the team’s most dangerous power threat.

Much like the team in general, Tulowitzki’s season started slowly. On June 6, he was hitting just .216 with 5 homeruns and 16 RBIs. The start was a disappointment for the 24 year-old, a player who was expected to become a prominent contributor in the middle of the order.

Since the start of June, however, Tulowitzki has turned his season around completely, now leading the team in home runs, RBIs, OPS and runs scored.

In fact, among all starting shortstops in the majors this year Tulowitzki leads the league in homeruns while currently sitting comfortably among the top five in nearly every other significant offensive category.

On the season, Tulowitzki’s OPS sits just a few ticks below perennial offensive forces such as Alex Rodriguez and Matt Holliday, and above sluggers like Ryan Howard and Lance Berkman.

And to put what Tulowitzki has done in the second half of the season in perspective, consider this fact: Since the All-Star break, Tulowitzki has posted an OPS of 1.024, good enough for sixth place among all qualifying major leaguers, behind only Derek Lee, Holliday, Pujols, Joe Mauer, and Adrian Gonzalez. (Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez ranks eighth on that list.)

As cleanup hitters go, Tulowitzki has begun to define himself as one of the most feared bats in the league, ranking fourth overall in OPS hitting out of the four hole behind Lee, Kevin Youkilis and Prince Fielder throughout the season.

His 4.7 WAR (an advanced statistic that measures a player’s approximate win contribution over the course of the season) are more than double that of any other Rockies hitter not named Todd Helton.

You can look at the numbers any way you choose. It becomes almost impossible to find something to complain about. Tulowitzki’s late season contributions have been so significant that choosing an offensive MVP for the Rockies is simple. No one comes close to the shortstop’s level of production. 

Just as he did in 2007, Tulowitzki is providing the spark that has propelled the Rockies deep into the season.

Taking into consideration all of his attributes, as a leader, a defender and now a dangerous power hitter, the Rockies have a special player in Troy Tulowitzki.

He is the kind of player teams are built around.

Scratch that.

He is the kind of player playoff teams are built around.


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