Jays From the Couch looks into the recent success the Toronto Blue Jays are seeing from Troy Tulowitzki. It has to do with his handling of the fastball
Even a Slice of Peak Tulo is a Mighty Fine Dish
For you non-Beatles and/or John Lennon fans out there, John Lennon famously separated from his wife Yoko Ono in 1973 and started a relationship with his and Ono’s assistant, May Pang. Entire books have been written about the 18 month period, which Lennon would later refer to as his “Lost Weekend.” Well, Blue Jays SS, Troy Tulowitzki, seemingly took a break from his marriage to crushing fastballs about 18 months ago, and Jays fans can only hope that he has returned to the sanctimony of being a fastball assassin.
I first referenced Tulo’s emerging problems with hitting fastballs, and particularly high fastballs, on April 12, in which I referenced the good work done by the people at Fangraphs. Dave Cameron shared a renewed concern about Tulo in his May 12th piece, which ironically immediately preceded the starting point of a Tulo revival. Cameron primarily looked at Tulo’s struggles from another perspective, which was his Z-Contact%, which is the rate of contact for a batter when swinging at pitches in the strike zone. As Cameron documented, Tulo’s Z-Contact% had been in steady decline over the preceding 5 years and had plummeted to sub 80% at that point for the 2016 season.
Since the beginning of the Rangers series in Texas on May 13th, Troy Tulowitzki’s fastball and contact rate against strikes has reversed dramatically. Beginning on May 13th through Thursday’s win against the Tigers, Tulo’s Z-Contact% rebounded to 89.6%, which is still below “peak Tulo” but a dramatic improvement. His PITCHf/x data since May 13th shows a similar dramatic improvement against four-seam fastballs, again not to “peak Tulo” levels but still pretty darn good.
The sample size since May 13th encompasses only 124 plate appearances, so it is surely too soon to celebrate that “Tulo is back.” However, I think Jays fans can be encouraged that the improvement appears to be driven by a shift in approach back to what made him an elite hitter for the vast majority of his tenure in Colorado.
From the July trade deadline through May 12th this season, Tulo’s hard contact rate was just 30.7% and he had become pull happy, with a Pull% of 52% over the period. Since May 13th Tulo has reverted back closer to his historic norm with a hard contact rate of 38.5%. His Pull% of 41.8% is a good bit below his historical norms, but most of the shift has been towards using the middle of the field, which was a prominent part of his game when most productive.
Just like everyone else, I have no idea whether this shift in approach by Tulo is sustainable or whether he is simply on a hot streak. Regardless, I plan on enjoying it while it lasts, as even a slice of “peak Tulo” is a sight to behold.
*Featured Image Credit: Terry Foote UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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