Monday, June 1, 2009

Is Troy Tulowitzki A One Year Wonder?

Troy Tulowitzki hit .291 in his rookie season with 24 home runs and 99 RBI's. He lost the Rookie of the Year award by only two points, losing out to Ryan Braun. Any other year and Tulowitzki would have won the award in a landslide. The 24 home runs set a rookie record for a shortstop in the National League.

His play was a major reason why the Rockies found themselves in the World Series for the first time in franchise history. He was rewarded with a long-term contract in the off season that would assure Tulowitzki would be in a Rockies uniform for at least the next six seasons.

Since then, however, Tulowitzki has yet to experience anywhere near the level of success that he had in his rookie campaign.

In 2008, Tulowitzki started out slow, pressing too much in clutch situations. Then, in late April he suffered a quad injury that landed him on the disabled list for six weeks. When he returned the struggles continued. Tulowitzki's frustration came to a head when he was removed late in a July 4th game for a pinch hitter. He went down the tunnel to the clubhouse and smashed a bat against the ground. The bat shattered in his hand and cut him so severely that he would require stitches and 15 days on the disabled list.

Finally, after hitting .166 in the first half of the season, Tulowitzki turned the corner and hit .327 after returning from his second trip to the disabled list. It seemed as if Tulo was relaxed in the batters box and not concerned with trying to do too much.

However, once the 2009 season started, Tulowitzki returned to the form that had critics questioning if his rookie year was just a fluke. Through Monday Tulo is hitting .221. It is cleat that he is back to squeezing the bat too tightly and trying to do too much in pressure situations.

On Wednesday against the Dodgers, Tulowitzki went 0-for-5, hitting into a double play and striking out three times, the third coming on a pitch in the dirt with the tying run on second base in the ninth inning.

It has been suggested that in 2008 Tulowitzki was trying to prove that he deserved his large contract, and that so far in 2009, he is feeling the pressure of trying to be the leader of the offense after the off season trade of Matt Holliday to the A's.

The stat that most adequately describes Tulowitzki's struggles so far in '09 is his .073 (3-for-41) batting average with runners in scoring position.

Tulowitzki has as much determination as anyone in the Majors. It drives him to succeed and he strives for success everyday. It is his greatest asset. Unfortunately, what is his greatest aspect has also turned into his greatest weakness.

The shortstop is so determined to succeed that he gets into his own head when he fails. Instead of forgetting his previous at-bat, he goes up to the plate and tries to make up for what went wrong the last time at the plate. This results in a tighter grip on the bat, and impatience at the plate.

There is no doubt that Tulowitzki is in the upper echelon of Major League shortstops defensively. However, for him to be effective, he needs to be able to hit at least .280 at the plate.

The Colorado Rockies have put a lot of weight on the shoulders of Tulowitzki, calling the third year shortstop the clubhouse leader of the team. However, Tulowitzki may fit better into the secondary leader role, where he can let someone else lead in the clubhouse and let him lead by example on the field.

Either way, Tulowitzki is in desperate need of finding his stride from his rookie season. If the Rockies are going to have any success in the future, they need Tulowitzki to be more than a one-year wonder.

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