2012 Player Reviews

Phillies Player Review: Jimmy Rollins

Having just won his fourth Gold Glove award, this player review could not come at a better time for Jimmy Rollins, a man who could use a few positives in his corner. That’s because 2012 was one of the more contentious between Rollins and the fans. Rollins once again drew criticism when he became the focal point for a city-wide debate on if and when it’s ever appropriate for a player to not give 100% on a seemingly routine out.

The sour taste of Rollins’s perceived laziness, coupled with a brutally slow start to the season and a proclivity for popping the ball up on the infield (seriously, I must have heard the statistic that he leads all of baseball in infield pop-ups 1000 times this season), left many fans chomping at the bit to be extra critical of the long-time Phillies shortstop, jumping at the opportunity to call Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s decision to extend Rollins before the season a big mistake.

But should we allow those minor things–some bad outs and a few lackadaisical lapses in judgment–define Rollins’s season in general?

On the surface, it was a pretty pedestrian year for the man we’ve grown fond of calling J-Roll. His .250/.316./.427 triple slash line isn’t setting the world on fire, by any stretch of the imagination. But if you dig deeper and compare Rollins’s statistics to his major league counterparts, it was a really good, borderline stellar year for the 33-year old.

Take, for example, his .743 OPS. Standing alone, that’s nothing to write home about. But that number ranked him sixth among qualifying major league shortstops. He also ranked first in runs scored (102), was tied for third in doubles (33), was second in home runs (23, which also led the team), and was fifth in steals (30). He did all of this while playing in 156 games, which also led the team. That’s important to note because that now makes two straight seasons where J-Roll was able to avoid a long-term stint on the DL after having many questions asked about his health following the 2010 season.

Going further, Rollins posted a .322 wOBA, his highest mark since 2008. He did all of this despite the unfortunate BABIP of .262.

And I haven’t even touched upon the aforementioned gold glove award yet. No matter your opinion of that award and its merits, there’s no denying that Rollins is still a plus defender and arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game. He provides above average offensive production, and outstanding defense.

But perhaps most telling of the type of overall season Rollins had is his WAR: 4.9. That number was second among big league shortstops this season, behind only Ian Desmond, and was the highest he’s posted since his 5.6 mark in 2008, when he was still in his twenties. That made his play worth $22.2 on Fangraphs, more than double what the Phils actually paid him.

Final Grade: A I know there are people who will disagree with this grade. But when you consider the position he plays and how he stacks up to those positional counterparts, I’d be remiss to give Rollins anything short of an A. You can talk about the laziness and the infield pop-ups all you want. The fact is this guy can still play at a very high level, and he proved it this season.

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  1. DCmikey

    November 2, 2012 at 9:09 am

    It’s funny bc some people on here did
    Not even want to re sign him. Geez.

    He played almost every single game and I believe was one of the only players never to hit the DL.

    YES he still swings at first pitches all the times and always seems to hit the infield pop up.

    Love Jimmy. Heart and soul for years

    • schmenkman

      November 2, 2012 at 10:03 am

      Agree — even those negatives get exaggerated. He swings at the first pitch less than most hitters:

      MLB average: 28%
      Rollins career: 22%
      Rollins 2012: 15% (under 20% in 5 of last 7 years)

      His popups were very high this year, but even with that, for his career he’s still around the league average (i.e. % of balls in the air that are caught by an infielder):

      MLB average: 13%
      Rollins career: 13%
      Rollins 2012: 22% (over 15% in 3 of last 4 years)

      He also walks more than the average leadoff hitter:

      MLB average: 7.6% walks; NL average: 7.6%
      Rollins career: 7.7%
      Rollins 2012: 8.9% (8.9% or higher in 4 of the last 5 years)

      And gets on base about the same as the average leadoff hitter:

      MLB average: .324; NL average: .319
      Rollins career: .328
      Rollins 2012: .316 (.320 or lower in 3 of the last 4 years)
      Rollins 2012 in the leadoff spot: .324

      While studies have repeatedly shown the batting order doesn’t make a huge difference (~10 runs per year), it does make some, and there’s certainly a strong argument that you need more than a .316 OBP in the leadoff spot. The point where this argument has always stalled, however, is when trying to identify a Phillie who would fit better in the leadoff spot than wherever else they hit in the order. Pierre was the favorite among many this year, but Rollins got on nearly as much for most of the year, and then often got himself into scoring position when he did so by hitting extra base hits.

      • Eric Seidman

        November 2, 2012 at 10:42 am

        Schmenk — with regards to your leadoff stats comment above, I want to meet it, take it out for a nice steak dinner, romance it, and then make passionate love to it.

        When people make blanket comments like “His OBP isn’t high enough for the leadoff spot” they are comparing some abstract concept that doesn’t exist in real major league baseball to a player. Yes, higher OBP players make more sense in the leadoff hole, but using Rollins there isn’t hurting the Phillies, relative to the league, if mostly everyone else is doing the same.

  2. phil

    November 2, 2012 at 9:39 am

    If you gave him any thing less than an A I would be disappointed. Jimmy Rollins played at an all-star caliber level this year. He was the only other position player we could say that about besides chooch and maybe Utley if he played an entire season.

  3. Michael T

    November 2, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I’ve read, and appreciated, similar analysis of Rollins’ 2012 season on several blogs and MSM sites/writers. Almost all of the analysis makes the point that as far as shortstops go, he’s still among the best. However, I think the analysis is incomplete if it doesn’t similarly look at his stats compared to other qualified leadoff hitters, which I suspect won’t be nearly as favorable of a comparison. (Of course that may be more of an indictment of the manager, than Rollins).

    • schmenkman

      November 2, 2012 at 10:12 am

      See more detailed stats above, but as a hitter overall he was much better than the average leadoff hitter.

      MLB avg OPS: .715
      NL avg OPS: .700
      Rollins’ OPS: .743

      • Michael T

        November 2, 2012 at 10:37 am

        Thanks for the info. Somewhat surprised to see was above average.

  4. George

    November 2, 2012 at 10:18 am

    I’d give him an A-, mostly due to his horrible start. I can’t fully agree with Michael T about the leadoff comparison, because his horrible numbers came mostly when he was batting third. 102 runs scored and 30 stolen bases seem pretty decent leading off, and he also managed to drive himself in 23 times, something most leadoff hitters don’t (or can’t) do.

    One further note: his BABIP is a little misleading. When you pop the ball up as much as Rollins did, luck has less to do with it. Popups are balls in play, and are almost always caught.

    That said, he was easily worth his $11 million. Just his defense and his ability to stay on the field were worth a lot of that. I just can’t imagine Michael Martinez playing 40 or 50 games at short, which is what a disabled Rollins would have meant.


    November 2, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I hope Rollins stays healty and has another outstanding year next year. He is our all-time best shortstop and a real gamer.

  6. George

    November 2, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Once again, Schmenkman comes up with the stats. Those numbers should put to rest the negative comments about Rollins’ abilities to lead off, although they probably won’t.

  7. Lefty

    November 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Okay someone has to be the antagonist, so I guess today it’s my turn. This isn’t an indictment of Jimmy at all, in fact I pretty much agree with the grade. But let me start with a question-

    How many major league teams bat their leading home run hitter in the leadoff spot?

    But, you know what? Charlie was still right to do it- because in April when he was hitting Jimmy 3rd and sometimes 4th- trying desperately to replace his injured middle lineup guys, Jimmy wasn’t producing.

    Uncle Chuck moves him back to leadoff – and boom, he hits again. It’s amazing that he didn’t hit his first bomb until May 13th, yet still led the team. Obviously the Pence trade and injuries are involved in that equation, but he still led the team. I keep reading/ hearing people say it doesn’t make much of a difference where players hit in the lineup, and I say BS.

    As much as I have learned to embrace the SABR side of things, there are two things I can’t justify. One is sometimes we go a little overboard and forget that these guys are not just numbers, but real people- with real psyches that they (no matter how much you pay them) can’t control, because they are their inner selves. Sometimes they get stuck in their ways, I know I do.

    Jimmy just has to hit leadoff.

    Is it because he’s spoiled, lazy, or selfish? I don’t think so. I think there is a comfort level, a give and take that every good manager understands about his players, and makes the best use of their strengths.

    As far as the pop ups. I’m a little tired of that stat too. Would you feel better if he was striking out? I agree with George though, those have to be taken into account when looking at his BABIP, it’s not ALL bad luck. IMO- BABIP is a pitcher’s stat.

    I’m all over the board on this comment and apologize for that, tight on time today. I mentioned two things I don’t buy, the other is the “Fangraphs says he’s worth X dollars”, phooey- the values are way off. Call them projections, or -what he would be worth on the open market, phrase it any way you want, I’m not buying. SABR metrics are supposed to help us dig deeper to get to the truth, no? Yet everyone wants to protect this one falsehood. I don’t know why, maybe because no one dares challenge the authority of Dave Cameron on this??

    The numbers are not real world. Every time I read a posting that tells me Fangraphs says – in this case – Jimmy’s WAR is worth 22.2 million, I simply divide it in half, and it’s shocking how often it comes out to be just about what they actually get paid. They should simply divide the WAR per $ number in half. It’s just my opinion, and after plenty of thought, there isn’t much anyone can say that will change the way I feel about that. Gotta run, have a great day folks.

    • schmenkman

      November 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Lefty, two things. When people say that batting order doesn’t make a big difference, they mean that if a player hits X, and another player hits Y, it doesn’t matter much where you put them (within reason — if you bat the pitcher leadoff and MiniMart 2nd, it will show). I completely agree that some players are more comfortable in certain spots and do better there for whatever reason.

      Secondly, we’ve gone around on the $/WAR thing, and while I know this won’t convince you, I’ll just reiterate that it’s not a projection, but a description of the past. i.e. when you look at 1) the WAR per year that FAs have produced (and discount it some for aging), and 2) what they signed for in free agency, the ratio between the two is about $4.5 million per WAR.

      • Lefty

        November 2, 2012 at 9:45 pm

        The numbers should be divided in half. Using FA numbers is not real world. What % of high paid FA’s represent the 750 men on rosters? Some players- if their FO’s are smart, don’t even make it to FA, they get signed long term while young. And what % of players actually even make it to FA before their careers are over? It’s an incorrect, improper and in many ways, a misleading formula IMO. Just think about it.

        It’s simple, take the best player at each position, then rank the rest, and go from there. Slotting, if you want to call it that.

        Troy Tulowitzki had three straight seasons averaging 6 fWAR. How much does he make? AAV 15.8m on a 10 year deal. And fangraphs is going to convince me that Jimmy Rollins is worth 22.2m?????

        Sorry friend, but no way, not even close. I deal in comps, Jimmy makes 11m and that’s the high end of what he’s worth entering his age 34 season. And that doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned it, it doesn’t disparage his career at all.

      • schmenkman

        November 2, 2012 at 10:12 pm

        Lefty, you’re right of course. If they get locked up early for their FA years, or if they aren’t good enough to make it to that payday, then of course you’re right — it doesn’t apply to those players.

        the only question the number is meant to answer is:

        What would this production be worth on the open (i.e. free agent) market, based on what FA’s with similar production have actually been paid on average in the past?

      • Lefty

        November 2, 2012 at 11:04 pm

        Schmenkman, when you get a chance log on and check your in box. Thanks.

  8. Brooks

    November 2, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Ahh Lefty – we’re just about on the same page.

    I had written a lengthy response to this post earlier on my work PC but this was one of the rare occasions when my work PC failed prior to the posting.

    I enjoy the statistics as much as the next guy and know they have a place as well but there is just so much that can be done with them. After all, Jimmy is invaluable to the team, I don’t doubt it but reality for this year:
    His strikeouts were higher than they have been since 2003.
    For the fourth year in a row, he failed to hit for his career average of .270.
    For the fourth year in a row, his stolen base attempts were under 40.

    On the plus side, he scored more than 100 runs for the 6th time in his career and was stellar at a very difficult position winning his 6th (I think) GG.

    I would grade Jimmy’s overall performance a high C or even a B- and let me explain why:
    His defense was incredible – that was the huge plus
    His offense, regardless of 23 hrs was pitiful, for most of the season he was hitting under .240 and raised his average near the end of the year. I’m sure Jimmy would agree that this was a bad year offensively for him.
    Lastly but more importantly, Jimmy is a veteran, a well paid veteran of this club who does not need to show the back of his neck when things look difficult. He is supposed to be a leader and how can the young guys look up to someone who hangs his head, shuffles his feet and just seems to throw a shrug when he should be giving it his all on every grounder or pop up – just in case the other team botches the play – we need this guy to lead by example.

    Look, I have always liked Jimmy but his attitude is wearing thin. He needs to step up, he needs to assume leadership.

    • George

      November 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      Personally, I don’t give a fart in a windstorm about Rollins’ batting average. It’s production one has to look at, and 102 runs scored is better than most players, no matter what spot in the lineup they occupy.

      Another thing: you omitted his excellent walk rate, choosing instead to single out his Ks.

      And even though he didn’t try more than 40 stolen bases, he managed to steal 30 in his attempts. That’s certainly better than trying too many and being thrown out. (A man on first is better than a man an out).

      I won’t even get into the “attitude” garbage, except to describe it as I already have.

      Your grade, in my opinion, deserves that same description.

      • brooks

        November 3, 2012 at 6:41 am

        George, since when did it become OK just to trash somebody’s opinion?
        “Garbage”? Really?

  9. schmenkman

    November 2, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    “His offense, regardless of 23 hrs was pitiful”

    Since Rollins’ offense overall was better than these two, you must also think that
    a) Pierre’s offense, regardless of his .307 average, was pitiful, and
    b) Scutaro’s offense, regardless of his .306 average, was pitiful.

    They were actually all about the major league average (Scutaro was much worse in Col, and much better in SF). But Rollins played better defense, at a more important position, as you rightly point out.

    Rollins might say that it wasn’t one of his better years offensively, but overall it was slightly better than his career average. His career breaks down like this, offensively:

    1 great, career year: 2007
    6 years around the league average overall: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012
    5 years below the league average: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010

    “his attitude is wearing thin”
    What attitude is that? How can you possibly know what his attitude is? And does he have this supposed attitude problem when playing defense, or only when batting? How about when running the bases?

    • Brooks

      November 2, 2012 at 9:53 pm

      In the post that did not post (sic) earlier, I did mention that this year he had his career high for free passes. Omitted this time around, my bad.

      Why would you ask what attitude is that? Have you selectively missed the games in which he trots to first base on a routine fly ball, or jogs to first when he hits a grounder? He has been pulled by Charlie for his antics in the past a time or 2, correct? Why would that be?

      • schmenkman

        November 2, 2012 at 10:17 pm

        I see him not running out balls when it looks like a sure out (which it is, like 99% of the time), and I see someone wisely saving his energy and risk of injury for when it matters. For the miniscule benefit of the handful of plays where it would matter, it’s much more important to me that he stays healthy.

        You see the same thing and instead you see bad attitude. But apparently that’s the only time you see bad attitude, so you must think he turns it off and on between half innings.

        In any case, it looks like we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

  10. Dave P

    November 2, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I like JRoll, but with all the pop ups, I’d say B+ or A-. How frustrating that was at times.

    • schmenkman

      November 2, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      Dave, look at it this way. His pop ups and strikeouts combined are still not as many as just the strikeouts of players like Ian Desmond and Hanley Ramirez.

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