There’s no two ways about it – Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has absolutely owned the month of September. Through 18 games, he’s posted an insane slash line of .351/.407/1.000, launching 14 home runs and driving in an astounding 34 runs. His phenomenal play has fueled the Rockies’ late-season charge and has them just a game and a half back in the NL West.
He’s won the last two NL Player of the Week awards, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. What may come as a surprise, however, is the fact that he’s starting to generate some serious MVP chatter. For the last month or so, the NL MVP race has been a three-way event (featuring Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, and Albert Pujols, as we wrote here earlier). Tulowitzki’s torrid September has us considering him, too, despite the fact that he missed a full month in June.
If Tulo keeps up his insane pace and propels the Rockies to the NL West title, it would be tough to deny him the MVP, especially considering he was jobbed out of the Rookie of the Year award in 2007 (Ryan Braun? Are you kidding me?). But we’ll leave that discussion out for now. What’s really compelling are his chances to win the triple crown.
The triple crown race, while intriguing as recently as a few weeks ago, has cooled off, with both Gonzalez and Pujols far enough ahead in separate categories to effectively nullify their chances at winning it. But if Tulowitzki can hit 14 dingers in just 18 games, is there a chance he could launch a few more and steal the lead from Pujols? Could he drive in enough runs and rack up enough hits to pass CarGo for the title?
Let’s consider this one category at a time. Pujols is currently the NL home run leader with 39. While it’s a lofty assumption, let’s assume that he doesn’t hit any more this year, making the cutoff for the triple crown an even 40. If Tulowitzki keeps hitting home runs at his season-long pace (26 in 422 at bats, or roughly one in 16), he doesn’t have a prayer. But what if his September magic continues?
In the month of September, Tulo has hit a home run once every five at bats, which is close to once per game. The Rockies have 13 games left to play, and while it’s ridiculous to assume he’s going to go yard in each of them, it’s not completely out of the question. Assuming he has an average of four plate appearances per game (which, knowing the Rockies, is conservative), he has a 2.8% chance of hitting 14 more home runs.
It’s not likely, not by a long shot. What’s crazy, though, is that he has a nonzero chance of pulling it off. 1 in 37 isn’t probable, but there’s at least a chance.
The race for the batting title is equally exciting. Teammate Carlos Gonzalez currently leads the NL in batting average at .340. Let’s assume that’s the cutoff. Tulo is currently hitting .325, which isn’t so far off. Assuming again that he’ll have 52 more plate appearances (again, conservative), he’ll need another 22 hits to pass CarGo. It’s still not terribly likely, but the numbers give him a 2.5% chance at finishing with a .340 average.
Once again, you shouldn’t expect him to pull this off, but the mere fact that it’s still possible is staggering.
Last, we have the RBI title. Pujols and Gonzalez are co-leaders in the NL right now at 107 each. We’ll go ahead and set the cutoff here at 115, meaning Tulo has to drive in another 26 runs to secure the RBI crown. Our projections give him the best chance at winning this title at a whopping 5.6 %. That’s twice as likely as either of the other two.
Put it all together, and Tulo has about a 1% chance of winning the triple crown, assuming he can keep up his scorching pace. Again, that’s hardly likely. Our numbers have him finishing with 35 HRs, hitting .327, and driving in 110 runs. He’ll have a solid case for the MVP with numbers like that.
But we’re still holding our breath that he can achieve something even bigger, and who knows? Maybe we’ll see another Rocktober to remember.