Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Merits of Dirtbags: Tulowitzki vs. Crosby

This is a feature that I've had banging about in my head for a while, and since it's too late for me to spend the time uploading my Photo Day pix (yes, I got them... hooray!) I thought I'd do a side-by-side comparison of the Long Beach State alma-mater shortstops on two of my teams. The scholarly commentary also got added. Also just for the record: STEVE FINLEY CUT! Thank the lord, I need to update my sidebar. The Rockies did in fact give the geezer his release, and promoted Sean Barker, just like I told them to. I cannot help but think this must portend many good things.


The Basics

Name: Troy Trevor Tulowitzki
Nickname: Tulo
Age: 22
Birthday: October 10, 1984
Birthplace: Santa Clara, California
Residence: Santa Clara, California
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 205
Throws: Right
Bats: Right
High School: Fremont High School
College: Long Beach State
Drafted: First Round, 2005, Colorado Rockies (seventh overall)
MLB Debut Season: 2006
First Full Season: 2007
Salary: $381,000

2007 Stats

Batting Average: .275
BABIP: .340
Home Runs: 3
Runs Batted In: 26
On-Base Percentage: .347
Slugging Percentage: .393
OPS: .740
Walks: 21
Walk Rate: 9.3%
Strikeouts: 48
Strikeout Rate: 23.3%
Double Plays: 5
Stolen Bases: 1
Caught Stealing: 2
Clutch Rating: 1.82
WPA: 1.60
RC/27: 4.36
Total Chances: 118
Errors: 2
Double Plays Turned: 25
Fielding Percentage: .983

Fun Stuff

Astrological Sign: Libra
Marital Status: Single
Awards: He’s hoping for the NL Rookie of the Year 2007...
Best Buddy: Chris Iannetta
Hobbies: Video games (specifically MLB 2K7) generally being confident and exuberant.
Personality: Hyper, brash, extreme self-confidence with a hint of swagger
Fun Facts: In high school, he earned six varsity letters total – four in baseball and two in basketball. He hit .519 as a senior and also pitched, going 15-1 as a hurler. This explains the reason he has been clocked as high as 94 mph throwing to first base. On April 13, 2007, he turned only the thirteenth unassisted triple play in ML history.


The Basics

Name: Robert Edward Crosby
Nickname: Croz, BoCro
Age: 27
Birthday: January 12, 1980
Birthplace: Lakewood, California
Residence: Long Beach, California
Height: 6’3"
Weight: 215
Throws: Right
Bats: Right
High School: La Quinta High School
College: Long Beach State
Drafted: First Round, 2001, Oakland Athletics
MLB Debut Season: 2003
First Full Season: 2004
Salary: $2.5 million

2007 Stats

Batting Average: .244
BABIP: .276
Home Runs: 5
Runs Batted In: 23
On-Base Percentage: .289
Slugging Percentage: .366
OPS: .655
Walks: 12
Walk Rate: 5.5%
Strikeouts: 37
Strikeout Rate: 18.0%
Double Plays: 7
Stolen Bases: 6
Caught Stealing: 2
Clutch Rating: -0.36
WPA: -1.20
RC/27: 3.32
Total Chances: 235
Errors: 8
Double Plays Turned: 33
Fielding Percentage: .966

Fun Stuff

Astrological Sign: Capricorn
Marital Status: Engaged (Gina)
Awards: AL Rookie of the Year, 2004
Best Buddy: Nick Swisher, Huston Street, Danny Haren
Hobbies: Video games, driving his pimpmobile (Black Cadillac Escalade with spinners, last time I looked) and flirting. A lot. Personality: Frat-boy sense of humor and fun, a ladies’ man, and stubborn.
Fun Facts: He is the son of former Major Leaguer and current scout Ed Crosby, and his younger brother Blake is also a ballplayer. He was the starting shortstop on the 2000 USA National Team, and in his three years at CSU Long Beach, he amassed a .324 batting average. His selection for the AL Rookie of the Year award was a vote shy of being unanimous, despite the low .239 average he had, the lowest ever for a winning rookie.

Hilary's Scholarly Commentary: The presence of Bobby Crosby in the A's farm system was the chief reason that they didn't re-sign fan favorite shortstop Miguel Tejada, opting instead for a six-year, $66 million deal for Eric Chavez. (You can ask A's fans their opinion of the deal now, but since Chavez has declined while Tejada is still hitting at a consistently high level, it looks like they misjudged, but not even Beane is psychic, no matter how many appearances he may give to the contrary). Crosby posted a decent full first season in the majors, and won the Rookie of the Year despite a .239 batting average. Voters were probably swayed by the fact that he had 22 HR and 64 RBI, as old-school stats are generally the only thing that ever glimmers through their consciousness. Crosby has never been a great fielder, and in his rookie season he amassed 19 errors in 505 chances for a .975 fielding percentage, but the fact is that he's so often hurt that it's difficult to judge what he'd be like if he was ever healthy and playing a full season at his potential. It's not what everyone thought it was, as Crosby is a shadow of the player that Tejada is and almost literally a thousand times less durable as well. Still, to be fair, he's been doing a shade better in May and June after a horrible start to the season, at least offensively. His defense is still very much a fifty-fifty proposition, and he can make an adventure out of even routine ground balls. He also doesn't want to change his swing, which leads to a continued rate of high K numbers (at least he's brought his strikeout rate down from 21% last year). He only walks 5.5% of the time, and as I've mentioned before, it's not that hard to pitch to him. Throw a slider outside in the dirt, and he'll go fishing.

Also, if you take a look at some of those "new-fangled" sabermetric stats above, you get some pretty alarming numbers. Crosby's clutch rating is in the negative numbers, which means he's not at all the guy you want up there in a high-leverage situation. For example, with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom ninth of a tie game against Boston, he grounded into a first-pitch double play, and unfortunately, he's always been a bad hitter with ducks on the pond (.232 with runners in scoring position, .250 with runners in scoring position and two outs and the bases loaded, and .189 in late-inning pressure -- he also hits .385 in the first inning, lower every inning thereafter, and .197 after the seventh. In other words, "Beer Vendor" would be an apt nickname). Crosby's RC/27, or Runs Created Per 27 Outs, is 3.32, which means that a team of nine Crosbys would average about three runs a game. His WPA, or the average wins that he contributes to his team, is also in the negatives, which means that the A's might actually be better without him. Unfortunately, they have no other real options unless they want to make Marco Scutaro into an everyday player, and while great in clutch situations and off the bench, Marco isn't really a starter.

Now, about Tulo. You already know that I love the kid, but I am not entirely blind to his faults. Tulo, like Crosby, was a highly touted shortstop prospect, but unlike his fellow Dirtbag, he appears (thus far) to be living up to his hype. Drafted with the Rockies' first pick in 2005, he never played an inning at AAA and was promoted directly to the majors from AA Tulsa last September, making the Road to the Show in practically record time. As evidenced from early returns, there isn't much he could have learned in Colorado Springs. After struggling out of the gate to an .185 average at one early point in the proceedings, Tulo made the adjustments (something Crosby doesn't do) and accordingly watched his average go up. Also unlike Crosby, he's always been a strong fielder, and he does possess a cannon for an arm. While Crosby's throws from deep in the hole are a choose-your-own-adventure, Tulo almost always makes the play, and makes it look easy. His previous experience as a pitcher explains why he's been clocked going as high as 94 from short to first, and should the Rockies ever run out of bullpen help, I am all for sticking either Tulo or Brad Hawpe (also a former high school pitcher) in there to see what happens. My dearest hope is to see a position player pitch, as I think that would be exceedingly amusing.

Tulo walks at a slightly higher rate than Crosby (9.4% to Crosby's 5.5%) so he has somewhat better pitch recognition and selection, but it's still possible to get him to chase, as evidenced by his 23% strikeout rate. Tulo will have to work on that, as that means he's striking out on close to a third of his trips to the plate, but fortunately he makes up for it with an astronomical and almost uncanny knack for getting the big hit. His clutch index is the highest in the major leagues, and when it comes to pressure, he's the guy you want up there, as evidenced by these numbers: .283 with runners on base, .400 with the bases loaded, .600 in late-inning pressure, and .533 under late-inning pressure with runners on. Some guys just have that clutch makeup, and the active desire to be the hero, while others try to avoid the spotlight, and the ultra-confident and slightly swaggering Tulowitzki, who will cheerily tell you that he has never been on a losing team and is determined to change fortunes in Colorado (good for him, someone has to) always wants to be the guy at the plate. He's the guy that Rockies fans want up there too. Tulo's still working on the RC/27, as nine of him would score about four or so runs a game, but his defense is generally sterling, which gives him a leeway that Crosby doesn't have with his leaky glove.

In conclusion, if someone put a gun to your head and forced you to pick one of the ex-Dirtbag shortstops, take Tulowitzki. He has a much higher upside and at the tender age of 22, is only going to get better. Crosby is 27 and has never been that great, plus he's an injury risk. Still, A's fans refuse to believe that he's a complete wash, and he can occasionally show flashes of value. But when put head-to-head with his collegemate (they weren't at school at the same time, seeing as Crosby's five years older than Tulowitzki) he comes out on the short end of the stick. Psst, it's something called adjustments, Croz...


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