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Five Up, Five Down

Rise of Troy, NL Central's atrociousness and more

Posted: Friday August 24, 2007 3:47PM; Updated: Monday August 27, 2007 10:12AM
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FIVE UP

Troy Tulowitzki
Rockies rookie Troy Tulowitzki is armed with an absolute cannon in the field.
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I. The NL ROY runner-up to-be: At this point, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun has pretty much locked up National League Rookie of the Year. Through his first 79 games, "The Hebrew Hammer" has compiled impressive stats: .332 batting average, 24 homers, 17 doubles, 62 RBIs, 59 runs and 10 steals. But enough about Braun.

It's time to hand out some well-deserved props to the player who should finish second in the NL ROY race. Not Houston's Hunter Pence, who just spent a month on the disabled list, but rather a player who has received considerably less buzz. I'm talking about Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki -- the most complete rookie position player in either league.

Unlike Braun or Pence, Tulo has been in the starting lineup since Opening Day. The 22-year-old won the starting shortstop job over incumbent Clint Barmes with a spectacular showing in spring training, and the Rockies have reaped the benefits.

At the plate, Tulowitzki is hitting a robust .293 (including a .359 clip in August) and leads all rookies in runs (72) and RBIs (67). He's displayed great ability to spray the ball all over the field, and boasts immense power potential in his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame. With 17 home runs (including 15 since June 7), he's already tied for the sixth-highest total ever by a rookie shortstop. And at this point, hitting is the weaker aspect of his game ...

Defensively, this rookie already plays at a Gold Glove level. Many experts projected Tulowitzki would eventually move to third base because of his size, but he's making quite a statement to stay put. Tulo ranks third in fielding percentage (.983) among everyday shortstops, and leads the position in putouts and assists. Supreme athleticism gives him surprising range for his size, but Tulo's most impressive attribute is definitely his bazooka arm. Seriously folks, this kid wings it across the diamond in the mid-90s. Think Shawon Dunston with accuracy.

If you can't tell, Five Up, Five Down absolutely loves every aspect of this kid's game ... except for one -- his entrance music. At home games, Tulo's hitting song is R. Kelly's I'm A Flirt. Troy, you're stepping into the batter's box, not the club.

II. "Mighty Mouse" Pettitte: While we're on the subject of entrance music ... Starting pitchers don't really have intro tunes, but I've got a request for the next time Andy Pettitte toes the rubber in Yankee Stadium:

Mr. Trouble never hangs around,
When he hears this mighty sound,
"Here I come to save the day."
That means Mighty Mouse is on his way.
Yes sir, when there is wrong to right,
Mighty Mouse will join the fight.

Entering Wednesday night's game, there was most definitely "wrong to right" for the Yankees. Having lost the first two games of the series against the Angels, New York was on the verge of being swept. Then Pettitte saved the day with seven brilliant innings of one-run ball, improving his August record to 5-0 (with a 2.06 ERA) and furthering his reputation as one of the finest big-game pitchers of this generation. With this victory, Pettitte holds an amazing 68-33 career mark after a Yankees loss. Take notice, Mr. Trouble.

III. Edwin Jackson: Earlier this season, I pointed out the horrendousness at the back end of Tampa Bay's rotation. But that public lambasting included a key caveat regarding 23-year-old right-hander Edwin Jackson: "Jackson actually has the potential to be a solid starter if he ever learns to harness his nasty arsenal." Well harness he has. Jackson started the year at 0-8 with an 8.20 ERA, but over his past five starts, the Rays hurler owns a 1.36 ERA. On Wednesday, he outdueled Daisuke Matsuzaka to earn his fourth win of '07. Jackson still needs to reduce his walks, but at least the barn's broad side no longer eludes him completely.

IV. Byrnesy's wheels: When did Eric Byrnes turn into Ricky Henderson? The Diamondbacks' rambunctious outfielder has logged 18 steals since the All-Star break, trailing only Jose Reyes (22). Boasting a .300 average, 18 homers, 71 RBIs, 78 runs and 35 steals, this dude's fantasy baseball sex appeal is off the charts.

V. Millar's streak: With a fifth-inning walk Thursday, Kevin Millar reached base for the 50th consecutive game, breaking Ken Singleton's 30-year-old franchise record. Millar is still 34 games shy of Ted Williams' all-time mark, and Mr. Cowboy Up's career on-base percentage (.367) is far inferior to that of The Splendid Splinter (.482) -- so this record's probably safe. But the fact that I just mentioned Millar's name in the same sentence as Williams, arguably the greatest hitter ever, should count for something.

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