The Fall of Troy Tulowitzki

The 2017 season marked a career best for many players. As the season commenced we saw records broken, position depth expanded, and some truly remarkable moments.

Let me tell you why Troy Tulowitzki’s “elite level” is most definitely a thing of the past.

The shortstop position, specifically, is arguably the deepest in all of baseball, with names like Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor bolstering the young crop of incredible talent. Of course there are also the rising stars in Didi Gregorius, Xander Bogaerts, and Addison Russell. Yet the one name who seems to be disappearing more and more each season is Troy Tulowitzki.

Tulowitzki is one of baseball’s best players over the past decade, and for a while he was heralded as the best shortstop in the league. From the year 2007 to 2015, in a Rockies uniform, Tulo wRC+’ed less than 100 once. In his two full “seasons” with Toronto he’s already wRC+’ed a new career low, 78.

Whether it’s the “Coors effect” or not, there is no denying that Tulowitzki was one of baseball’s finest players, and one of the more exciting to watch whilst with the Rockies — Coors Field in itself has a 27% OPS change due to its atmosphere, which gives a huge advantage to hitters.

Evidently so; Tulo’s road splits compared to his home ones were unbalanced.

Tulowitzki’s Road vs. Home OPS splits from 2007-2015

  • 2007
    • HOME- .960 OPS
    • AWAY- .719 OPS
  • 2008
    • HOME- .704 OPS
    • AWAY- .758 OPS
  • 2009
    • HOME- 1.000 OPS
    • AWAY- .859 OPS
  • 2010
    • HOME- 1.034 OPS
    • AWAY- .863 OPS
  • 2011
    • HOME- .948 OPS
    • AWAY- .881 OPS
  • 2012 *played 50 total games
    • HOME- .793 OPS
    • AWAY- .908 OPS
  • 2013
    • HOME- 1.008 OPS
    • AWAY- .848 OPS
  • 2014
    • HOME- 1.246 OPS
    • AWAY- .811 OPS
  • 2015 *half season w/ COL
    • HOME- .831 OPS
    • AWAY- .697 OPS

Despite the lopsided splits, he still posted great numbers each season. However, the huge gap between his OPS per season on the splits should’ve raised some eyebrows, no?

During his tenure with the Rockies, Tulowitzki earned four All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, and two Silver Slugger awards, putting together a rather staggering resumé.

He posted a combined WAR with Colorado of 35.5, and posted a 5.0 WAR or better six times, making him one of the most consistent players in the league. So where or when did it seem to change?

The one large setback in Tulo’s Colorado career, and his biggest issue now, is his health. In his 12-year career, he’s only played 131+ games twice. He’s had issues staying on the field, and for that reason should be called one of the worst contracts in recent MLB memory. His Toronto days are an ugly reflection of his once-great Colorado ones.

Tulo since joining Toronto:

  • 987 PA over 238 games
  • .727 OPS (over three seasons)
  • 101 wRC+ (2015 half with COL), 103 wRC+ (2016), 78 wRC+ (2017)
  •  3.3 WAR (total over three seasons)

 

It can be argued that Troy Tulowitzki is washed up. His lack of production and inability to stay healthy make him more of a burden than an advantage for Toronto.

Tulowitzki was traded (in the summer of 2015) for prospects Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro, and Jesus Tinoco, as well as Jose Reyes, yet he has not been anywhere near the player Toronto was expecting to have for a few years.

Needless to say, it looks like the Rockies made the smart move offloading their star player.

His contract with the Blue Jays is a huge blemish on their team, which is full of horrid contracts. He signed a 10-year, $158-million deal with the Rockies back in 2011, and made $20 million with the Blue Jays this season. He appeared in just 66 games.

This is how his salary pays out until the end of the 2021 season:

2018- $20 million

2019- $20 million

2020- $14 million

2021- $15 million option, $4 million buyout

For a player that was already questioned by many because he had the luxury of playing for the Colorado Rockies, earning the initial contract he was given was a great deal if he stayed in a Rockies uniform for his entire career. However, some things are not meant to be.

Tulowitzki’s player value during 2016 and 2017

  • Batting: 1.8 (2016) / -.7 (2017)
  • Base Running: -2.7 (2016) / -3.5 (2017)
  • Fielding: 4.9 (2016) / -1.1 (2017)
  • Positional: 5.5 (2016) / 2.9 (2017)
  • Offense: -0.8 (2016) / -10.5 (2017)
  • Replacement: 16.4 (2016) / 8.0 (2017)

For context, here are Carlos Correa’s past two seasons:

  • Batting: 17.9 (2016) / 30.7 (2017)
  • Base Running: 4.0 (2016) / 1.6 (2017)
  • Fielding: -2.3 (2016) / -1.7 (2017)
  • Positional: 7.0 (2016) / 4.8 (2017)
  • Offense: 21.9 (2016) / 32.4 (2017)
  • Replacement: 19.9 (2016) / 14.9 (2017)

There are clear indications that Tulo has lost a step. He didn’t even play a single game the entire second half of the season, after being placed on the 10-day DL with a hamstring issue. His health, bat speed, and glove work are all in question.

A key contributor to his demise is claimed to be the turf in Rogers Centre. Transitioning from the usual field in Colorado to a false grass in an indoor stadium midway through your age-31 season can be rather tough on the joints and muscles.

While Tulowitzki has had his moments in a Blue Jays uniform, there is no way that this was a move for the future, despite what general manager Alex Anthopoulos said following the trade back in 2015.

Anthopoulos on July 25th, 2o15: “I just think we got better, for the short and for the long term. Ideally, you don’t shop in the rental market; that doesn’t mean we’ll rule it out, we’re open to it, but our preference is always for guys who are under control and will be here for a while.” — “This is a long-term acquisition.”

Since acquiring Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays have been seemingly getting worse each season. While this may in no way be Tulo’s fault, the fact that his production has dipped drastically does indicate his lack of contribution.

  • 2015 record: 93-69
  • 2016 record: 89-73
  • 2017 record: 76-86

The move “for the future” looks to be more of a “weight from the past” if anything. I find that Troy Tulowitzki was one of the best talents that baseball had seen, three or so years ago. Now he is holding his team back, and should be viewed as a washed-up player.

While Tulo’s power is still there — he posted hard-hit rates over 30% each season with Toronto — it is clear that he cannot perform anywhere near what he once was able to do. Whether you blame that on his injuries, the Coors effect, or whatever else it may be, there is a clear line that Tulo has passed into the downfall of his career.

Troy Tulowitzki’s value is diminishing yearly, and when it’s all said and done, the possibility of Toronto eventually just terminating his contract seems more and more likely. With each swing of the bat, and 0-for-4 performance, Tulo is just shooting himself in the foot. A once greatly valued and important player, he’s now a mediocre-tier shortstop, based on value. His age isn’t helping him — neither is the turf — and the fact that he is now seemingly slowing down in the field as well means the future is looking dimmer and dimmer for Tulo.

Although it can be said that it is “too early” to judge this trade, based on the lack of performance history for the players Colorado has received, it can be said that they offloaded the contract of Tulowitzki, and have seen better days because of it.

With his fantastic career behind him, Tulo most definitely will not be calling it quits. Because of his immense contract, and money he has pouring in, the long-tenured SS will likely be seeing more and more time off the field, and as a DH rather than out there every day.

At this point in his career, seeing as to how he seems to be frequently bouncing on and off the DL, Tulo’s value is diminishing each season. The fact that the Blue Jays still are set to owe him $58 million over the next three seasons, and how his “One Trade” clause has been used already by Colorado, does not sit well for them. While he sells tickets and jerseys, no one wants to come watch someone go 0-for-4 over the course of only playing 60 games. With the fall of Tulo comes the rise of the extremely talented pool of IF players that MLB has to offer.

We should be grateful for Tulo’s production over the past several years, but it is time for his once reserved place among MLB’s top shortstops to be dismissed.



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Want to get into Sabermetrics, post college... Majoring in Statistics, Minoring in Communications

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Dominikk85
Member

The park has not much to do with his decline, his body is just done from all the injuries. He was already pretty bad his last half season in Colorado.

Of course Colorado helps but his home road split was pretty normal for coors.many coors hitters have a 200 plus ops points split gap. Tulo was mostly around 150 points or so in Colorado. Matt Holliday was a 1000/800 guy in coors and became a 900 guy in stl.

The best thing you can do to judge a coors hitter is throw away the home stats, take the road ops and add 60-70 points to that to account for road disadvantage and road coors hangover.even if you don’t believe in coors hangover you are not doing much wrong because the leagues home road split is already 40 points and adding 20 points additionally probably can’t do much wrong.

With Holliday that method proved to be pretty accurate retrospectively and if you did that for tulo you would have also ended with around a 900 neutralized ops which is pretty elite. Tulo is basically this generations Nomar. Easy hall of fame talent but his body wasn’t able to withstand the stress of the game.

tung_twista
Member
tung_twista

No. The huge OPS gap between home/away simply reaffirms the fact that Coors is an insanely hitter friendly park.
Case in point.
From ’09-’14 Tulowitzki’s wrc+ in away games was 131, 18th among all batters with more than 1000 PA.
Yes, it is smaller than his overall wrc+ 139 or his home wrc+ of 145.
However, note that non pitchers had a wrc+ of 105 in home and 95 in away games in 2017.
So he underperformed his expected away wrc+ by 4. Big whoop.

Another way to put it, Tulowitzki was basically this year’s Bellinger (home wrc+ 142 away wrc+133) for six(!) years while playing good shortstop.

Dominikk85
Member

yes. the splits look insane but adjusted for the park basically hit the same on the road and at home. you just can’t look at coors home splits.

but even when you don’t believe in the road hangover and just take his road OPS and add 40 Points just for the neutral road adjusment (not Factoring in that most west parks are pitchers parks) he still was an elite hitter.

of course he was no 1000 OPS guy but he basically was correa/seager with a better glove but a lot less durability.