Troy Tulowitzki has become only the 8th player in Major League history to hit 200 home runs from the shortstop position.
After starting the season so poorly, Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki finally has something to celebrate in 2016.
Tulo has hit just .175/.274/.357 over his first 35 games, leading to some scary conclusions about his ability, approach and even eyesight. His eventual BABIP-fueled regression notwithstanding, Tulowitzki is having the worst year of his career by a country mile, barely performing above replacement value for the Blue Jays.
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But yesterday, he did something that only 7 players have ever done in the history of Major League Baseball. As he strode up for his fourth at-bat against the Texas Rangers on Thursday night, he was staring at another 0-fer and struggling to find a hole in the defense. He’d just watched Edwin Encarnacion go deep off Tom Wilhelmsen, and Justin Smoak double into the corner in right.
As Rangers’ pitching coach Doug Brocail strode out to the mound to talk to Wilhelmsen, Tulowitzki stared at the barrel of his bat, knowing that the big right-hander didn’t have his best stuff. If he was going to get one, this was his chance. He was going to be ready for that first pitch fastball, and put it in the seats.
But Wilhelmsen and catcher Bobby Wilson had other ideas. Tulowitzki saw two straight breaking-balls in the zone, fouling off the second to fall down 0-2. He walked 10 feet away from the plate, frustrated with himself for not punishing a mistake pitch, and somehow getting himself into another hole. He adjusted his gloves and stepped back in just hoping to get something he could put in play.
What he got, was a middle-in 95 mph fastball. Tulowitzki pulled his hands in and swatted the ball into left-center field like he has so many other times, getting just enough of it to put it over the high left-field wall in Arlington. Tulowitzki trotted the bases like it was any other homerun, always the professional. But it wasn’t just another home run.
With the drive, Tulo became just the 8th player in MLB history to hit 200 home runs from the shortstop position. Most players who start at the position either don’t last long enough to hit that many, or aren’t as offensively gifted as the former-Rockie. He hit his first off Woody Williams on September 4th, 2006 as a 21-year old call-up.
The leaders ahead of him are mostly either hall-of-famers or soon will be, including his boyhood idol. Cal Ripken (345#), Alex Rodriguez (344*), Miguel Tejada (291), Ernie Banks (266#), Derek Jeter (255), Jimmy Rollins (229*), and Vern Stephens (213) are the only players to have hit more from the position. Even most of these players eventually moved on from shortstop, something that may happen to Tulowitzki some day.
*denotes active player
# denotes HOFer
For now, he has a good chance to pass at least four of them, including the man who made him want to play shortstop in the first place, and the reason he wears #2 (aside from the obvious name reference), Derek Jeter. It took Jeter 1927 games to hit his 200th from shortstop, and though they are very different offensive players, it’s amazing that Tulowitzki has now hit his in only his 1124th.
Indeed, only Rodriguez (826) and Banks (876) have done it in fewer games. If the 31-year old Tulowitzki can stay healthy and reclaim even a small part of his former power, he could easily find himself third on the all-time list.
So let’s forget for a moment that Troy Tulowitzki is having a poor year, or that he may never again be the perennial MVP candidate we saw in Colorado, and think of him as what he truly is: one of the greatest hitting shortstops to ever play the game.