Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Troy Tulowitzki and the Hall of Fame?

This morning, I watched the characters of MLB Network's Hot Stove debate whether or not Troy Tulowitzki is on pace to have a Hall of Fame career. They compared his offensive stats to those of Barry Larkin's stats through their first six Major League seasons. Barry Larkin is the most recent inductee into the Hall of Fame. Here are their stats during their first six seasons:

Barry Larkin Batting Stats for Years 1986 to 1991

YearTmGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSOPS+TBGDPHBPSHSFIBB
1986-1991CIN69528742589402762118245829013329210233.294.350.426.77611211024525272316
Average116479432671272041048225353918484443
per 162 games1626706049417828614683174955257116764

Troy Tulowitzki Batting Stats for Years 2006 to 2011

YearTmGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSOPS+TBGDPHBPSHSFIBB
2006-2011COL69729742632438770152211224435128285480.293.364.505.86911813308424102331
Average116496439731282542074854880222144245
per 162 games1626906111021793652910312767112309206368)
Baseball-Reference.com


One of the analysts said that Tulowitzki's numbers are great in comparison to Larkin's numbers, but much of Tulo's stats are influenced by the Coors Field factor. He said that this will be held against him when it comes time for them to vote. The Coors Field Factor is a term used in the baseball world to describe the high offensive numbers players display in Coors Field. What a lot of people forget is that Coors Field has been using a humidor since 2002, which is four seasons before Troy Tulowitzki even stepped foot into Coors Field.

The humidor adds moisture to the baseball which makes it heavier and larger, which will cut down on the distance it travels when hit by a batter. A lot of people believe that the amount of home runs are due to the thin air in Colorado, but it's actually due to the dry air. Yes, the elevation does help the ball travel further, but not as much as a ball that's smaller and weighs less. By MLB's rule, a baseball can weigh between 5.0 ounces to 5.25 ounces and measure between 9.0 to 9.25 inches in circumference. It's believed that before the humidor was installed in Denver, that the baseballs being used in Coors Field weighed close to 4.6 ounces and measured around 8.5 inches. Now, the baseballs in Colorado weigh right around 5.12 ounces and measure around 9.15 inches. Here's a study that shows that the humidor cuts down on the number of home runs at Coors Field: Has Coors Field's Humidor Really Worked? - From Our Editors - SBNation.com

Although the thin is still a factor when it comes to how far a baseball travels at Coors Field as opposed to a baseball that travels at sea level, it's borderline insignificant when it comes to home runs due to Coors Field's expansive outfield, which is easily the largest in the game.

Dimensions of Coors Field:

Coors FieldColorado RockiesBehind Home Plate
54'
LF
347'
LF-CF
390'
CF
415'
CF-RF (Marked)
(375')
CF-RF (Actual)
382'
RF
350'
(Clem's Baseball Blog)

Where the offensive numbers do become inflated are in the singles, doubles, and triples because of the large area of outfield space for hits to find holes. As the number of hits increase due to size of the field, so do the number of at-bats. This gives the player in Coors Field more opportunities to get hits than those playing at sea level. I agree that players in Colorado have had the luxury of playing in a hitter friendly park, but people also need to realize the talents of the players whether they play in Coors Field or not.

Luckily, there's a way to determine what Troy Tulowitzki's offensive stats are by using "Neutralized Batting" statistics. This puts the player into the average setting for all major league baseball players. It takes into account many things, including ballpark factors, as well as the player's average statistics (home/away).

Troy Tulowitzki's Neutralized Batting (Career):

All seasons are converted to 162-game seasons &
average team scoring of 716 total runs (4.42 R/G)

YearAgeGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBBBSOHBPSFBAOBPSLGOPSRCGact
200621251039312202015392510.215.291.269.560725
20072215565859591163315228765313082.274.340.454.79490155
20082310141037043922328421365622.249.317.386.70345101
200924151611531901492383082196811239.281.360.524.884101151
20102512251546079138303258510457855.300.365.541.90690122
2011261435945297415434228968567945.291.360.522.88299143
Career6972891257838971614320114397472674802323.278.348.481.829432697
162g Avg162672599901663352692116211255.278.348.481.829100162

Baseball-Reference.com

As you can see, Tulowitzki's offensive stats are still significantly better than Barry Larkin's stats through their first six seasons. All of Tulo's stats dropped from his actual statistics, but he still leads Larkin in Home Runs, RBI, SLG, and OPS. Out of curiosity, I took Tulowitzki's Neutralized Batting statistical averages and projected his offensive stats for him by the age 32:

RUNS (839), HITS (1546), DOUBLES (308), TRIPLES (45), HOME RUNS (244), RBI (857).

Now, compare those to Barry Larkin's stats by age 32:

RUNS (828), HITS (1476), DOUBLES (254), TRIPLES (48), HOME RUNS (135), RBI (626).

Remember, these comparisons are with Tulowitzki's stats adjusted to the Neutralized Batting Statistics, which means no affects from the Coors Field Factor.

Another way for us to compare Troy Tulowitzki and Barry Larkin is by their Cumulative WAR (Wins Above Replacement) by Age:

Source: FanGraphs -- Barry Larkin, Troy Tulowitzki

As you can see by the graph, Tulowitzki's cumulative WAR continues to be trending upwards at a steady pace. It is also well ahead of Barry Larkin's pace in his first six seasons. Barry Larkin's cumulative WAR over his career was 70.6. If Tulowitzki plays the same amount of seasons as Larkin, and continues this trend, then his cumulative WAR will be 77.58 by the time he's done playing. That puts him ahead of such greats as Joe Cronin (75), Derek Jeter (74), Arky Vaughn (74), Ernie Banks (74), and Robin Yount (74).

Another point to make is that Tulowitzki has already won two Gold Gloves at shortstop. Barry Larkin won two Gold Gloves in his entire 19 season career. Defense remains constant from ballpark to ballpark, so there's no Coors Field Factor when it comes to Tulowitzki's defensive prowess.

There isn't a player currently at shortstop in the National League, or either league for that matter, that looks to threaten Tulowitzki's dominance at the position, both offensively and defensively. I suspect that Tulo will pile up the Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers over the years to come, and I will also bet that he'll get at least one MVP by the end of his career.

Barry Larkin obviously deserved to be in the Hall of Fame, and if Troy Tulowitzki continues to play at this caliber, then he will be a deserving Hall of Famer as well. With or without Coors Field.

Posted by David Lewis (davidlewis3321@gmail.com)

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