108: Just how good is Troy Tulowitzki? (spoiler: he’s really good)

Jays fans should expect big things from Troy Tulowitzki in 2016 (photo: Stan Behal/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)

Jays fans should expect big things from Troy Tulowitzki in 2016 (photo: Stan Behal/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)

Mar. 22, 2016

By Tyler King
Canadian Baseball Network

Toronto Blue Jays’ shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is not your typical superstar -  

Sorry, let me rephrase.

Troy Tulowitzki is not your typical superstar ... in this millennium

He doesn’t do the whole ‘Twitter’ thing. He doesn’t flaunt the big endorsements; nor does he intentionally hog the media limelight, unless of course he’s hitting season-saving three-run JACKS in Game 3 of the ALDS. 

The only time the American media really seems interested in Tulowitzki is when he’s ripping into Colorado Rockies management for how they treated him at last year’s trade deadline - by the way thanks for that guys, happy to have him!

Now the last thing I want is to come off sounding all “Goose Gossage” here (honestly, can that guy shut the hell up already?). So I’ll be clear, there is nothing wrong with taking on the role of the vocal, social-media savvy franchise player. In fact, they are absolutely necessary to the growth of today’s game.

A world without bat-flips or pitcher stare-downs or umpire freakouts or #HDMH is, frankly, a boring world. This generation doesn’t do boring.

It’s just when it comes to Troy Tulowitzki, those aren’t the qualities he appears to embody. He’s generally much more temperate, at least off the field, and doesn’t seem as comfortable with all those extra-curricular shenanigans. And, Mike Trout aside, that’s simply not the first personality-type that comes to mind when you think “superstar” nowadays.

But do not be fooled, Jays fans! God-willing, you’re about to see Tulowitzki for a full season, and for anybody who is relatively new to the game there’s something you ought to know:

The man they call TULO is still one of the best players in baseball. 

He just prefers to let his numbers do the talking.

***

Even as I write this, it feels somewhat ridiculous to have to argue that Tulowitzki - a five-time all-star - could ever be “overlooked”.

However, I’d bet that when the Jays traded for Tulo last July you scrambled to your computer or smartphone and found yourself researching his stat-line. When you saw his numbers I’m guessing you felt slightly embarrassed for not knowing more about him.

(Come on, be honest, I couldn’t have been the only one.)

But then you got to see him play. You saw the Blue Jays’ record change immediately , thanks to Tulo and a host of other new deadline acquisitions.

Even though his life inside the American League batter’s box got off to a slow start - he hit .239 in his first two months with Toronto - fans have been bombarded by baseball insiders referring to Tulowitzki as one of the league’s best all-around shortstops. 

His defence unquestionably transformed the middle of the Jays’ diamond down the stretch last year, making every pitcher better - especially when compared to the defensive conundrum that was his predecessor, Jose Reyes. 

The Jays were a .500 ball-club before they acquired Tulowitzki on July 28th. They then won 31 regular season games with him the lineup. They lost only 10.

Yet somehow it still feels like he doesn’t get enough credit, that people don’t fully understand just how good Tulo has been throughout his career. I would argue then that they also don’t know how good he can and will be in 2016.

If you were to ask the average Jays fan to rank the current roster, you may see a lot of lists that read something like: 1. Josh Donaldson 2. Jose Bautista 3. Edwin Encarnacion ... After-all, home runs are flashy. They’re what people tend to remember most. 

But if you look at the numbers and accolades Tulowitzki has accumulated over his 10 years in the league - playing in more than 1,000 games - there is no doubt that he has earned the right to be placed on par with some of those big names, if not even slightly ahead.

Tulo has a career batting average of .297. He boasts a .369 OBP; .508 SLG; and .877 OPS.

Put simply, those numbers are good. Like really, really good ...

To give you some perspective, those career numbers lead all active Blue Jays in each category. And yes, that includes guys with nicknames like the Bringer of Rain, Eddie, and Joey Bats.

Admittedly, it was a bit surprising to see Tulo with a higher SLG and OPS - both measures of a hitter’s power - than those three primetime sluggers. But when you remember that Tulowitzki has had six 20 home run seasons including two where he hit 30, then it makes a lot more sense.

Because of injury woes, some of Tulo’s year-to-year home run totals may not appear quite as impressive. But when you control for those injuries by averaging his numbers over a 162-game span, you start to realize what an elite offensive talent he truly is.

His home run total when averaged over a full season is 29, which is one home run higher than the 162-game average of perennial MVP candidate and Canadian-native Joey Votto. It is only marginally lower than some of the more recognizable Blue Jays power hitters - Donaldson averages 30, Bautista and Encarnacion average 33 and 32, respectively. 

Tulowitzki has also had four 90+ RBI seasons, including 106 in 2011. When averaged over 162-game span his RBI total equals 100 - which is one better than MLB poster-boy Mike Trout.

Unlike Trout, Votto and Donaldson, Tulowitzki does not have an MVP trophy sitting on his mantle. However, he has finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting three times (finishing fifth in 2009 and 2010).

He has two silver slugger awards - given to the best offensive player at each position. Bautista has three (Votto has none). 

Offensive accomplishments aside, Tulo also happens to be one of the league’s best defenders. And I mean EVER.

According to Baseball-Reference, he holds the highest fielding percentage of any shortstop in the history of the game.

He currently has two Gold Gloves - which is two more than all of those other guys mentioned above (although I expect one could be coming Donaldson’s way in the very near future).

The moral of this story? Tulowitzki is a superstar. Case-closed. Open and shut. I have no doubt that many casual Jays fans will also come to this conclusion in 2016. 

With all that Colorado Rockies drama behind him, he’s spent much of the off-season getting to know his teammates. Not to mention if you’ve watched him in Spring Training he’s made a few tweaks to his swing. They seem to be working.

In 12 spring games and 31 plate-appearances, Tulo has hit .290/.371/.677 with FOUR home runs. One of those shots came on Sunday, and it was hit so damn far the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield barely even flinched.

All I can say is, get ready to see more of that in the coming season.

Now excuse me while I go and order my authentic TULO jersey ... I’ll need that baby by April 3rd.

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Follow Tyler and #Section108 on Twitter: @tylerjoseph108