April 14, 2011
But over this season's first 11 games, Tulo has done everything in his power to excessively reward his team's impatience.
The 26-year-old shortstop homered again in the Rockies' 6-5 win in the first game of Thursday's doubleheader against the New York Mets. That gives him a MLB league-leading six homers in 11 games for a start to the season that @mlbstatoftheday says no other shortstop has ever matched.
Of course, if we go back to the end of the 2010 season — when Tulowitzki made an incredible push for NL MVP while trying to will the Rockies into the playoffs — his numbers look even more remarkable.
[Thursday's] homer [...] was his 21st in 39 games since [Sept. 3, 2010], which would be a ridiculous 87 homers over the course of a 162-game season.
During that 39-game stretch Tulowitzki has hit .313 with 21 homers, 32 total extra-base hits, 51 RBIs, and an .810 slugging percentage. During that same time period no other hitter in baseball has even 15 homers or 40 RBIs or a .700 slugging percentage.
We're still only two weeks into the season, so all the prerequisite warnings about small sample size apply. But last season's late surge definitely gives us the courage to ask the following question: Can Troy Tulowitzki hit 40 homers for the Rockies this season?
If he can, it wouldn't be a simple feat. The 40-homer mark has only been reached by three shortstops in baseball history. Alex Rodriguez(notes) did it most recently in 2003 and hit the mark six times before moving to third base with the New York Yankees. Ernie Banks did it five times for the Chicago Cubs and was the first shortstop to pass the mark with 44 homers in 1955. Finally, Rico Petrocelli hit 40 as a 26-year-old shortstop with the Boston Red Sox in 1969 (but never hit more than 29 in any of his remaining seasons).
Tulowitzki has six homers in 52 plate appearances this season. That gives him one homer every 8.6 PAs, which is just a tad bit unsustainable given that Barry Bonds was at one every 9.09 in his 73 home run season in 2001. (If Tulo did keep it up, he'd hit 75 homers over a regular 650 PA season to break both Bonds' record and A-Rod's record of 57 homers for a shortstop, set in 2002.)
This hot start definitely brings 40 homers into play, though. Tulowitzki hit a career high 32 homers in 2009 with a rate of one homer every 19.6 plate appearances. If he goes back to that rate, he'd hit 31 more homers over 600 more plate appearances.
But does anyone really believe a healthy Tulowitzki is really going back to the world of 19.6? At 27, he should be entering his power prime and that puts 40 well within reach. Even one homer every 15 plate appearances for the remainder of the season would give him 40 additional homers to put him in the mid-40 range.
The only key, then, is having Tulowitzki remain healthy throughout the season. Two of his four big league seasons — 2008 and 2010 — have been hampered by injuries ranging from a torn quad tendon to a cut palm to a fractured wrist. Tulo stays away from the freaky stuff and not only does he have a shot at hitting 40, but he also has a great chance at becoming only the 12th shortstop in history to win a MVP award.
What do you think? Will Tulo get there?