Posted: 2:40 pm Friday, May 23rd, 2014
By David O'Brien
Aftering taking three of four from the Central-leading Brewers, the Braves welcome to town the Rockies and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who leads the majors by wide margins in batting average (.380), on-base percentage (.484) and slugging percentage (.733), and also leads the National League with 13 home runs.
Colorado is 26-21 and three games behind West leader San Francisco, but the Rockies are nine games over .500 at home (16-7) and four games under on the road (10-14). And there is no bigger reason for that disparity than Tulowitzki.
His .380 average is the major league leader by more than 40 points, with San Diego’s Seth Smith (.338) next in the NL and the Detroit duo of Victor Martinez (.327) and hitting savant Miguel Cabrera (.326) leading the American League.
But here’s the rub: Tulowitzki is hitting an absurd .521 (38-for-73) with a .600 OBP and .959 slugging percentage in 21 games at Coors Field. I mean, seriously. Meanwhile, in 24 road games he’s hit .247/.375/.519 slash line that’s still strong, but pales next to the home stats. We only just passed the quarter pole of the season and I’m sure it’ll even out quite a bit, but for now, this is the mother of all disparities.
Tulo’s 1.559 OPS at home is absolutely Bonds-ian, a full 302 points higher than the Braves’ Justin Upton (1.257), who has been a beast in home games and ranks third in the majors in home OPS, just behind Smith (1.275).
Meanwhile, Tulo’s .894 road OPS doesn’t crack the top 30 among major leaguers with at least 50 road plate appearances, and his .247 road average is tied with Seattle’s Mike Zunino for 134th in the majors among those with at least 50 road PAs.
The numbers have raised some eyebrows, particularly among division opponents in the NL West. This week Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow said on a San Francisco radio talk show that it was “as if” Tulowitzki is stealing signs at Coors Field. And that started a frenzy among the local media in Denver.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss was dismissive of the suggesstion and joked: “We’ve got a light bulb on the scoreboard we flash. Keep an eye on Dinger (Rockies mascot); he’s involved. We switch out the balls. We’ve got the umpires in on it.
“I love it when other teams talk about that. I think it just feeds the beast.”
Rockies teammate Carlos Gonzalez kidded that he was jealous: “I’m going to talk to him. I want the same guy to tell me what pitch is coming.”
As a team, the Rockies are hitting a majors-leading .344 with 38 homers and a .560 slugging percentage in 837 at-bats in home games, and .251 with 25 homers and a .411 slugging percentage in 824 at-bats on the road.
There’s probably only one way for Tulo to quiet some skeptics, and that’s to produce numbers that are at least a little closer to something we’re used to in the way of home/road split, rather than one that makes the memorably bloated home numbers from the Blake Street Bomber days at Coors seem mild by comparison.
To that end, the Rockies’ slugging shortstop has done just that of late: In his past 10 road games, Tulowitzki has hit .333 with four homers and eight RBIs.
By the way, there is only one current National League ballpark where Tulowitzki has never homered, and he’s only got a limited number of chances to do so before the team moves to its new ballpark in the ‘burbs in 2017. That’s right, Tulo has not homered at Turner Field. In fact, he hasn’t done much at all at the ballpark in downtown Atlanta.
Tulowitizki is 12-for-59 (.203) with no homers in 17 games at Turner Field, with a .258 OBP and .271 slugging percentage.
The same can’t be said of the Rockies’ Gonzalez, who has hit .387 (12-for-31) with two homers and seven RBIs in 10 games at Turner Field. Also worth noting: second-year Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is 4-for-13 with two homers in four games in Atlanta.
• Opposite trending: The Braves are 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA, .275 batting average, 26 runs and eight homers in their five games, after going 5-12 with a 4.04 ERA, .211 batting average, 40 runs and nine homers in their previous 17 games.
Meanwhile, the Rockies are 4-7 with a 4.10 ERA, .263 BA and 42 runs in their past 11 games, after scorching in their previous 20 games with a 15-5 record, 3.64 ERA, .319 BA, 136 runs and 35 homers. Yes, .319 with 136 runs and 35 homers in a 20-game stretch through May 6.
The series between these teams has been quite one-sided lately, with the Braves going 12-2 against the Rockies since the beginning of the 2012 season. The Braves hit .309 and posted a 3.08 ERA in those games while out-homering the Rockies 20-11 and outscoring them 96-50.
Colorado had a 6.19 ERA in those 14 games. Last time the teams met, the Braves swept four from the Rockies July 29-Aug. 1 in Atlanta.
• Freeman wrecks Rockies: As much as Freddie Freeman has developed a rep as the heir apparent to Chipper when it comes to killing the Mets, the big Braves first baseman has done a whole different level of damage against the Rockies, albeit in far fewer opportunities.
Freddie Free kills them, home and away.
He has a .365 career average (31-for-85) with 17 extra-base hits, 10 home runs and 25 RBIs in 22 games against the Rockies, with a .455 OBP and .812 slugging percentage.
That’s nearly twice as many homers as he’s hit against the Phillies (five) in barely one-third as many games and fewer than half as many at-bats. Among NL East opponents, Freeman has five homers in 62 games (217 at-bats) against Philly, seven homers in 60 games (214 at-bats) against the Nationals, and six homers in 62 games (214 at-bats) against the Marlins.
He has a personal-best 13 homers in 59 games (222 at-bats) against the Mets, the only other team besides the Rockies that Freeman has double-digit homers against.
And it’s not as if it’s been a Coors Field effect — Freeman actually has more homers (six) against the Rockies in 12 games at Turner Field than he has at Coors (four in 10 games). In fact, his six homers in just his home games against the Rockies is more homers than Freeman has overall – home and away — against all other teams except three NL East opponents.
Freeman went 8-for-12 with two homers and six RBIs in his last three games against the Rockies during the Braves’ four-game sweep in Atlanta last summer, including a 4-for-4 game and a two-homer game, the second multi-homer game of his career against the Rockies.
• Laird, too? You know Freeman has raked against the Rockies, but Gerald Laird? Yes, the veteran backup catcher is 12-for-25 (.480) with four doubles and five RBIs in eight games against the Rockies, including multi-hit games in all but one of the six games in which he’s had more than one plate appearance against them.
Only two of those five multi-hit games came at Coors Field. Laird had a pair of 3-for-4 games against the Rockies in Detroit in 2009 and 2012.
Braves Friday lineup
- Heyward RF
- BUpton CF
- Freeman 1B
- JUpton LF
- Johnson 3B
- Simmons SS
- Uggla 2B
- Laird C
- Floyd P
Tulowitzki leads the world in just about everything in the way of home stats, but Justin Upton’s nine homers in home games is the major league leader. Tulo has eight…. Speaking of J-Up, he’s got a nine-game hitting streak vs. Rockies in which he has sizzled at 17-for-37 (.459) with three doubles, four homers and nine RBIs, including a two-homer game Aug. 1 in Atlanta….. Against tonight’s Braves starter Gavin Floyd, Michael Cuddyer is 12-for-36, Justin Morneau is 7-for-33 (.212) with three homers, and Carlos Gonzalez is 3-for-7. No other current Rockies player has more than three at-bats against him…. Floyd will face righty Jordan Lyles, who was 5-0 with a 2.66 ERA in eight starts before giving up five runs on six hits and six walks in 3-1/3 innings of a loss to San Diego in his last start Saturday. Justin Upton is 4-for-6 against Lyles and Dan Uggla is 2-for-3. No other Brave has more than one hit or three at-bats against him.
• It’s Memorial Day weekend in America. If you’re traveling, drive safely and be careful this weekend, folks. And click here for the great James McMurtry doing one of my favorite “holiday songs,” as it were. Enjoy.
“MEMORIAL DAY” by James McMurtry
Mama keeps tryin’ to get the game on the radio, daddy’s gotta know the score
There’s a big yellow thing on a flat bed trailer
Wonder what that thing’s for
We got towels rolled up in the back seat window
Keeping us out of the sun
Just a hundred more miles and we’ll be at grandma’s
Sure is gonna be fun
Maybe she’ll take us fishin’
Maybe she’ll bake us a pie
Remember like she did that one time
Back before grandpa died
It’s Memorial Day in America
Everybody’s on the road
Let’s remember our fallen heroes
Y’all be sure and drive slow
Ninety eight degrees in the shade of the tool shed
Can’t go back in the house
They’re all in the kitchen yellin’ ‘bout something
Don’t know what it’s about
Joey ‘n Mary said not to worry
Said it’s just the same old fight
Happens whenever they all get together
Everything’s really alright
It’s Memorial Day in America
This is how it’s supposed to be
Let’s remember our fallen heroesIn the land of the free
Daddy’s in the big chair sippin’ on a cold beer
Grandma’s cuttin’ a switch
She overheard Mary cussin’ her brother
Called him a son of a bitch
She got a good green limb off a sweet gum sapling
Man that’s bound to sting
But Mary don’t cry just stands there and takes it
Doesn’t seem to feel a thing
No Mary don’t cry, you know she’s a big girl
Wonder what made her so mad
She takes those licks looking in through the den door
Staring right straight at her dad
There’s a big yellow thing on a flat bed trailer
Daddy nearly hit that bird
They’re both in the front seat
Starin’ right straight ahead
Neither one saying a word
The sun’s going down in the rear view mirror
Gonna be driving all night
Wonder if the neighbor’s fed the canary
Wonder if the cat’s alright
About the Author
David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002, and previously covered the Marlins for the (Fort Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel for seven years. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism.