Jays From the Couch brings you our 2016 Toronto Blue Jays Player Highlights & Lowlights. This time: Troy Tulowitzki
On October 19th, Cleveland closer Cody Allen delivered a 2-2 inside fastball to once All-Star SS Troy Tulowitzki, and as the veteran popped an easy fly ball up to first baseman Carlos Santana in foul territory, the Blue Jays roller coaster season of 2016 was over. Most of the focus of the 2016 Jays surrounded the contract demands of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but in his first full year as a Blue Jay, Troy Tulowitzki settled into his new role with the team and put up a solid season for the 2016 Wild Card Champions.
Although Tulo put up his third-worst AVG over the course of his seven-ish non-injury plagued seasons, he still saw plenty of success with 24 HR and 79 RBI (most since 2013). The analytics were less kind, with an WRC+ of just 102 (barely above-average). All told, Tulowitzki was a 2.8 fWAR player in 2016, with much of that value coming from his defense – more than serviceable for a 32-year old.
It’s strange to think of Tulowitzki as an average player after seeing his sheer dominance over the past decade in Colorado. Some of that likely had to do with the park he was playing in, and his analytical decline might be stemming from the absolute deluge of short stop talent we’ve seen debut in the past two seasons including Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and others.
While Tulowitzki’s offensive prowess may be in decline, he’s still one of the better defensive shortstops out there. In 2016 he boasted a 10 DRS season with a UZR of 4.9 and a UZR/150 of 5.4, so as his contributions with the bat slow, his glove surely hasn’t.
Tulowitzki hit 24 HR in 2016, but none bigger than a big blow off a tremendous pitcher in Yu Darvish during the ALDS. This 105 MPH monster gave the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead in the second game of a three game sweep of the rival Rangers (we can say that now, right?).
Home runs are great, aren’t they? Sure they are, but so are smooth double plays, which Tulo proved he can do all by himself:
or with the help of others:
Tulowitzki continued to show in 2016 that his arm strength at shortstop has gone unchanged and is one of his greatest defensive assets.
While 2016 was a solid season for Tulowitzki, it certainly wasn’t a dream season. He walked at just a 7.9% rate while striking out at 18.6%, posting his lowest average (.254) since his second season and lowest-career OBP (.318). Some of this may be explained by his in-zone contact rate drop of about 6% since his prime years (2010-13), but it’s worth noting that this hasn’t been a precipitous rise, and may just be a sign of struggling with higher velocity as he slows down a bit into his 30s.
The Blue Jays will need significantly more from Tulowitzki in 2017 than they did this season, and he’ll likely need to deliver from a higher spot in the lineup. For far too much of this season Tulowitzki led off innings after Russell Martin ended them, and it might bode well for the Blue Jays to give the more cromulent hitter (this is not debatable) more swings than the other. While the lineup surely isn’t set for 2017, Tulo probably slots into the fifth or sixth spot behind Kendrys Morales or whatever half of the Smoak-mystery guy platoon that manifests (related: Bring me Sean Rodriguez.)
The year 2017 will be an important one for Tulowitzki, who is likely entering his declining years and will soon have pressure from both Richard Urena and Lourdes Gurriel within the next couple of seasons. If he can provide league average-plus production with very good defense in 2017, though, the Blue Jays will remain happy with one of their clubhouse leaders and all-around better players.
*Featured Image Credit: Terry Foote UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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