In the week before Opening Day, we’re looking at each of the five offensive positions that are not known quantities.
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins, Opening Day Age: 32
2010: 394 PA, .243/.320/.374, 17 SB, 1 CS
2011 (Bill James-projected): 605 PA, .266/.329/.424, 15 HR, 25 SB
Why should you believe that a 32-year-old shortstop, coming off his two worst offensive seasons ever, in the decline phase of his career, is due for a monster season? Three things: luck, health, and plate discipline. First, J-Roll has a career BABIP of .290, and while BABIP is less based in luck for hitters than it is for pitchers, there’s still a luck element involved. In 2009, his BABIP was .251, and in 2010 it was .246. Granted, in 2010, his line drive rate was down, but so was his HR/FB rate, and, to touch on the second point, he was either out of the lineup hurt or in the lineup hurt for most of the season. Despite this, Rollins posted, for the first time in his career, a season where he walked more than he struck out, accompanied by his highest-ever walk rate and lowest-ever strikeout rate. On all three of these externalities, Rollins is due to regress to the mean, which, I think, makes the Bill James projections look conservative.
Or he’s just getting old and will be an offensive zero for the rest of his career, and I’m in denial because I’m a huge J-Roll fan. But let’s hope for option No. 1.