Jimmy’s Got His Head in the Clouds

In previous years, when Jimmy Rollins has spoken in Clearwater, he has proven to be prescient.

Prior to the 2007 season, Rollins declared that the Phillies — not the New York Mets — were “the team to beat”. That year, Rollins became one of four players in baseball history to have a 20 double, 20 triple, 20 home run, and 20 stolen base season en route to winning the National League MVP award, and the Phillies won the NL East on the last day of the regular season.

Going into the 2008 season, Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran opened fire on Rollins, declaring that the Mets were the team to beat. Rollins responded by calling Beltran a plagiarist and declaring that the Phillies would win 100 games. The Phillies won 92 regular season games and another 11 in the playoffs, resulting in the franchise’s second World Series championship.

Last season, the Phillies once again made it to the Fall Classic. Rollins had kept his predictions to himself all season long. It was a good decision as Rollins had a disappointing year both offensively and defensively and thus unable to back up his talk as he had in previous years. However, as the Phillies were getting ready to face the New York Yankees in the World Series, Rollins took out his crystal ball on “The Jay Leno Show” and predicted the Phillies would win it all in five games, six “if we’re nice”. He was wrong as the Phillies lost in six.

Perhaps clairvoyance rises and falls with age just like physical skills like swinging a bat. Rollins will be 31 and a half years old when the regular season starts and presumably his best years are behind him. J-Roll disagrees.

Scott Lauber:

On the one-month anniversary of his wedding, Jimmy Rollins spoke to the media for nearly 20 minutes after today’s workout. Among the highlights were Rollins’ individual goals for 2010: Steal 50 bases, score 150 runs, bat .300 and make fewer than three errors.

I wanted to see in which echelon of baseball players Rollins saw himself, so I went to Baseball Reference and used their Play Index to find how many players have stolen 50 bases, scored 150 runs, and hit .300. My findings (click to enlarge):

No one has performed that well in 110 years.

I lowered the criteria to 45 stolen bases, 140 runs, and a .300 batting average. Only six players have done it:

  • Ty Cobb, 1911 Detroit Tigers: 83 SB, 147 R, .420 AVG
  • Ty Cobb, 1915 Detroit Tigers: 96 SB, 144 R, .369 AVG
  • Max Carey, 1922 Pittsburgh Pirates: 51 SB, 140 R, .329 AVG
  • Rickey Henderson, 1985 New York Yankees: 80 SB, 146 R, .314 AVG
  • Chuck Knoblauch, 1996 Minnesota Twins: 45 SB, 140 R, .341 AVG
  • Craig Biggio, 1997 Houston Astros: 47 SB, 146 R, .309 AVG

Cobb, Carey, and Henderson are Hall of Famers and Biggio will be soon enough. Just three players since 1985 have accomplished this feat out of the tens of thousands of players who have put on a Major League uniform.

The projections see Rollins stealing between 29-35 bases, scoring 87-104 runs, and hitting .265-.272. PECOTA, not included on FanGraphs for obvious reasons, has Rollins at 31 SB, 91 R, and a .281 AVG. Just as the computer models don’t see Rollins recapturing his age 28-29 baseball skills, it doesn’t look like he’ll recapture his age 28-29 acumen either.