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Once again the Colorado Rockies have lost shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a major injury. The the accident-prone star infielder has a broken rib that will probably sideline him for a couple of months.
This is very bad news for a Rockies team that has been fighting for first place in the NL West for the past two months. Colorado (currently second in the league in runs scored) has been a top ten offensive team all season and a loss of this magnitude–including the day-to-day soreness of Gonzalez and outfielder Dexter Fowler–could quickly sap the strength of the team.
Tulowitzki has been, by far, the best player on the team. He’s led the Rockies in hits, batting average, OBP, and runs created, along with being a full win in WAR ahead of Carlos Gonzalez whom is second on the team. Tulowitzki is third in the league–first in the National League–in wRC+ with 172. That kind of production lost will make a huge dent in the Rockies’ offense–mainly the team’s slugging prowess as Tulowitzki has posted a .288 ISO (second on the team to Gonzalez).
The loss of Tulowitzki’s defense is also a major blow to the team. He and the man to his right, third baseman Nolan Arenado, make up the best left side infield in all of baseball.
And on a smaller scale, the most recent injury likely spoils any possibility of using him as trade bait should the Rockies suddenly become sellers next month. Not that they were looking to deal Tulowitzki, but you’d have to assume there would be some lucrative offers from some contenders who are weak at shortstop (ie St. Louis Cardinals).
Rockies pitching has been good, but not great and they need a full-powered offensive attack if they can expect to continue to contend in the quickly crowding NL West.
Where it will really hurt is defensively. Tulowitzki is one of the best shortstops in the game, so its hard for any understudy to live up to that reputation. Tulowitzki’s UZR through just over 500 innings is 6.2 while Herrera’s is -1.5 through 89.1 innings. When it comes to range, there is no comparison and Tulowitzki has saved five runs defensively for the Rockies.
Tulowitzki–for now–will be replaced by Jonathan Herrera, a slightly above-average career hitter. In 36 games, he’s hitting .302 with a wRC+ of 86–almost 100 points lower than Tulowitzki. Herrera has done well when he’s played but his BABIP is incredibly inflated. Once he becomes an everyday player, I’d expect his current production to take a drop (he was a -0.2 WAR player when playing a full year in 2011).
Optimistically, Tulowitzki may be back in a month but even then you’d have to expect a period of adjustment before he gets back to his original production. But even by then, it might be too late for Colorado to gain back the ground it will likely lose.
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