Several weeks ago, in the same way my last article on rookie first and second half splits was inspired, my attention was alerted when a podcast personality contrived that Troy Tulowitzki, before his most recent bout with the injury bug, had performed poorly because Carlos Gonzalez had been out of the lineup.
The pundit grabbed the lowest handing fruit he could find in an effort to create a narrative, and a dogmatic one at that, as to why the Colorado Rockies slugger had not lived up to his pre All-Star break numbers.
******* *******’s (I’d prefer the article to be more about the subject of Tulowitzki and Gonzalez than the podcast member) argument was that without Carlos Gonzalez in the lineup, pitchers could approach Tulowitzki without fear, give him less strikes, and that is why his hitting has declined.
While this pundit surmised that Troy Tulowitzki’s performance declines when Carlos Gonzalez is out of the lineup, the numbers tell a much different story.
While we will look at the more direct numbers in a moment, the idea that Tulowitzki plays worse without Gonzalez is essentially the idea of lineup protection at a micro level. There have been countless instances that have debunked the idea of lineup protection, and, to my knowledge, none that have proved its existence.
The research looked at all games from 2010—Carlos Gonzalez’ first complete season—to today.
The results paint a much lighter picture than the Guernica that ******* ******* painted.
In games where Tulo has played without Cargo, he has had a higher AVG, OBP, OPS, and BB%. One might think that Tulowitzki would continue his normal performance without Carlos Gonzalez in the lineup, but, as this information suggests, it is hard to imagine that Tulo plays better because Carlos Gonzalez is not in the lineup, which leads me to believe what one would normally think about out of the ordinary performances in a small amount of at bats.
The utility of these results should be used for descriptive, and not predictive, purposes. Troy Tulowitzki has only had 479 plate appearances without Carlos Gonzalez, and that is far from a large enough sample size to be deemed reliable.
But because of the recent remarks made by Tulowitzki, it seems like it will be more likely than not that sooner rather than later we will see a large enough of a sample size of Tulo in another uniform to see if this trend continues.
While Tulo has played worse and is hurt as of late, we might expect that it is because he was unlikely to live up to the performance he had in the first half, and not because of Cargo’s presence or lack thereof in the lineup. Over the course of the first half of the season, Tulowitzki’s posted the 15th best OPS in a half of a season since 2010.
Tulo’s latest play suggests a regression to the mean, and while we are powerless to know exactly why regression happens, some pundits proclaim to know the reason (i.e. Tulo plays worse without Carlos Gonzalez), when really their specious statement is noise with a coat of eloquent words painted upon it.
When the next “expert” tells you that Tulo has preformed poorly, because “ he wants out of Colorado” or “he wants to be traded”, you’ll know to be more skeptical and not passively agree.
If he gets healthy at some point this season, we should expect Tulowitzki to perform close to his projections in all areas for the rest of the year, and it will be with or without Carlos Gonzalez, not because of him.
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