Tulowitzki leading Rockies' dramatic turnaround

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Starring for the Rockies during their World Series run in 2007 made Troy Tulowitzki a household name as a rookie, but he had a rough sophomore campaign that included a 108-point drop in OPS and missing one-third of the season with injuries.
Despite a clean bill of health for this season Tulowitzki got off a very slow start, hitting just .216 with a measly .683 OPS through one-third of the Rockies’ schedule while getting benched by then-manager Clint Hurdle.
Hurdle has since been replaced by Jim Tracy and Tulowitzki has since been one of the most valuable players in baseball, hitting .324/.410/.622 with 24 homers, 47 total extra-base hits, 46 walks, 14 steals, 66 RBIs, and 71 runs in 92 games dating back to early June.
In fact, toss in his usual stellar defense at shortstop–which includes just one error in his last 41 games–and there’s a viable argument to be made for Tulowitzki being the most valuable player in baseball during the past two-thirds of the season. Seriously. Here are the OPS leaders over that nearly four-month stretch:

                        OPS
Albert Pujols         1.116
Derrek Lee            1.074
TROY TULOWITZKI       1.028
Hanley Ramirez         .981
Pablo Sandoval         .981
Kendry Morales         .979
Prince Fielder         .979
Adam Dunn              .974
Garrett Jones          .972
Joe Mauer              .962



Albert Pujols is obviously amazing and he’d get my vote for NL MVP, but during the past two-thirds of the season Tulowitzki has been in the same stratosphere because even with Coors Field in the mix a 1.028 OPS from a strong defensive shortstop is definitely comparable to a 1.116 OPS from a strong defensive first baseman. Not coincidentally, Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Joe Mauer are the only guys from that list who play an up-the-middle position defensively.
After starting the season 18-28 under Hurdle the Rockies have gone 68-37 under Tracy, which is an amazing turnaround that will lead to winning the Wild Card. Among the many things that have gone right for Colorado during the past 100 games Tulowitzki should be at the very top of the list. Not bad for a guy who’ll turn 25 years old on the same day as Game 3 of the NLDS.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.