“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” — Thomas Jefferson
I doubt Troy Tulowitzki would agree with that quote. As we all know, nobody works harder than Tulo. However, despite his outstanding work ethic, Troy is having a very unlucky season. In fact, the Rockies as a team have been victims of bad luck. While they have some flaws, they are far too talented to be playing this poorly. Fortunately, the numbers suggest that they will eventually turn it around.
I’m a big fan of Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). I like the stat’s randomness. I could nerd out and spend 2500 words discussing BABIP, but it would be nice if a few people read this. Therefore, I’ll refrain. For the purposes of this article, all we need to know is that, in short sample sizes, BABIP is heavily influenced by luck and can vary greatly. However, over the long term, BABIP typically follows the law of averages. Whenever an established player has an extremely high or low BABIP, they should eventually “regress” back to their career norm. If you want a more detailed synopsis of BABIP, head here.
Troy Tulowtizki has had an awful month. He’s hitting .198 since May 1st. However, it’s been one of the most unlucky slumps of his career. Yesterday’s game provided a great snapshot of Tulo’s season up to this point. He went 0-4, but absolutely scorched three balls directly at fielders. If it feels like that’s been happening a lot to Tulo, it’s because it has. For the month, he has an absurdly low .178 BABIP. The league average BABIP is around .300 and Tulo’s is over .300 for his career. For the season, his BABIP is just .217.
Granted, poor performance can also contribute to a low BABIP, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Tulo. He is hitting the same percentage of groundballs, line drives, and fly balls as he did last year. Also, he’s using all fields. For whatever reason, he’s just hitting it right at people.
As a team, the Rockies have been uncharacteristically bad at Coors Field — 13-15 this season. If they were playing as well as they usually do at home, they would probably be in first place. Their current .500 road record is more than acceptable. However, like Tulo’s slump, the Rockies’ poor home performance has been partly due to bad luck.
Currently, the Rockies’ home BABIP is .289 and ranks 17th in baseball. Since the introduction of the humidor in 2002, the they have led all of baseball in home BABIP five times. They’ve finished lower than third just once — ninth in 2008. It’s hardly a coincidence that 2008 was another very disappointing season for the Rox. However, even in 2008, their home BABIP was almost twenty points higher than it is right now. In terms of home BABIP, this last month has probably been the most unlucky in franchise history.
At some point, things will turn for the Rox. However, it’s impossible to know when. These kinds of statistical anomalies can last an entire season. Unfortunately, the Rockies can’t afford to be unlucky for much longer. Starting tonight, they have sixteen straight games within in the NL West. If some hits don’t start falling soon, it may be too late. Maybe TJ was right and hard work will eventually take over, but that certainly hasn’t been the case so far.