Jimmy Rollins and His Place in Baseball History

Jimmy Rollins got his 2,000th career hit on Tuesday in a 2-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The controversial shortstop and 2007 NL MVP award winner has had an incredibly successful career that has come under scrutiny recently due to a combination of age- and injury-related concerns. As we recently discussed, Rollins still — at the age of 33 — ranks among baseball’s best shortstops, right up there with Elvis Andrus (23 years old), Ian Desmond (26), and Jose Reyes (29). With the career milestone he recently achieved, though, it helps us remember his place historically, not just among his current peers.

So, let’s make our way to Baseball Reference’s Play Index and see what kind of company Rollins is keeping.

This first table shows every player since 1901 to have compiled in their careers at least 2,000 hits, 175 home runs, and 350 stolen bases. This shows that the players had not just longevity, but power, speed, and contact abilities as well.

Player OPS+ H SB HR From To PA Pos
Barry Bonds 182 2935 514 762 1986 2007 12606 *78/D9
Joe Morgan 132 2517 689 268 1963 1984 11329 *4/7D58
Bobby Abreu 129 2434 398 286 1996 2012 9908 *9D7/8
Rickey Henderson 127 3055 1406 297 1979 2003 13346 *78D/9
Cesar Cedeno 123 2087 550 199 1970 1986 8133 *8397/5
Paul Molitor 122 3319 504 234 1978 1998 12167 D543/6879
Roberto Alomar 116 2724 474 210 1988 2004 10400 *4/D6
Barry Larkin 116 2340 379 198 1986 2004 9057 *6/4D
Craig Biggio 112 3060 414 291 1988 2007 12504 *4287/D9
Willie Davis 106 2561 398 182 1960 1979 9822 *8/97D
Johnny Damon 104 2769 408 235 1995 2012 10917 *87D9/3
Jimmy Rollins 97 2000 398 187 2000 2012 8129 *6/4D
Marquis Grissom 92 2251 429 227 1989 2005 8959 *8/79D
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2012.

Shortstop is the second-most important position on the diamond after catcher, making Rollins’ achievement all the more impressive. Historically, teams have opted for defense over offense, leading to the prominence of players like Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel. The only other shortstop on the list is Barry Larkin, a Hall of Famer. In fact, even ignoring position, that table is chock full of Hall of Famers including Larkin, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar, Rickey Henderson, and Joe Morgan. Soon-to-be Hall of Famers Barry Bonds and Craig Biggio shouldn’t be forgotten, either.

The following table lists the number of unique seasons with at least 30 doubles and stolen bases, as well as at least 10 triples and home runs. Since 1901, only nine players have had multiple seasons matching that criteria, and only Juan Samuel has done it as frequently as Rollins.

Yrs From To Age
Jimmy Rollins 4 2002 2007 23-28 Ind. Seasons
Juan Samuel 4 1984 1987 23-26 Ind. Seasons
Jose Reyes 3 2006 2008 23-25 Ind. Seasons
Lou Brock 3 1964 1969 25-30 Ind. Seasons
Carl Crawford 2 2005 2010 23-28 Ind. Seasons
Johnny Damon 2 2000 2002 26-28 Ind. Seasons
Kiki Cuyler 2 1925 1930 26-31 Ind. Seasons
George Sisler 2 1920 1921 27-28 Ind. Seasons
Home Run Baker 2 1911 1912 25-26 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2012.

Among those listed on the table, Baker, Brock, Cuyler, and Sisler are Hall of Famers. Rollins is also in the company of some very productive contemporaries including Reyes, a fellow shortstop.

Rollins’ MVP season in 2007 was impressive in and of itself (even if his worthiness of the award was very debatable), becoming one of four players with a “quadruple-double” — at least 20 each of doubles, triples, home runs, and stolen bases.

Player Year 2B 3B HR SB Age Tm Lg PA OPS Pos
Curtis Granderson 2007 38 23 23 26 26 DET AL 676 .913 *8/7
Jimmy Rollins 2007 38 20 30 41 28 PHI NL 778 .875 *6
Willie Mays 1957 26 20 35 38 26 NYG NL 669 1.033 *8
Frank Schulte 1911 30 21 21 23 28 CHC NL 687 .918 *9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2012.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Rollins did this as a shortstop. And not just any shortstop, but among the best defensive shortstops in baseball for more than a decade. He is one of 12 shortstops (min. 8,000 PA and having played 90% of his games at SS) with at least 40 fielding runs over his career.

Player Rfield PA From To Tm
Ozzie Smith 239 10778 1978 1996 SDP-STL
Luis Aparicio 147 11230 1956 1973 CHW-BAL-BOS
Omar Vizquel 130 11988 1989 2012 SEA-CLE-SFG-TEX-CHW-TOR
Pee Wee Reese 117 9470 1940 1958 BRO-LAD
Roger Peckinpaugh 100 8387 1910 1927 CLE-TOT-NYY-WSH-CHW
Dave Bancroft 93 8248 1915 1930 PHI-TOT-BSN-BRO-NYG
Alan Trammell 75 9376 1977 1996 DET
Bert Campaneris 61 9625 1964 1983 KCA-OAK-TEX-TOT-CAL-NYY
Royce Clayton 55 8164 1991 2007 SFG-STL-TOT-TEX-CHW-MIL-COL-ARI
Jimmy Rollins 48 8129 2000 2012 PHI
Dick Groat 48 8179 1952 1967 PIT-STL-PHI-TOT
Luke Appling 41 10254 1930 1950 CHW
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2012.

Because defensive stats are more unreliable than offensive stats, I checked FanGraphs and it agrees that Rollins has been among the best defensively dating back to 2001. UZR puts Rollins at 52.8, second-best in baseball behind J.J. Hardy at 64.1. On a basis of 150 defensive games, Rollins (5.2) ranks sixth behind Hardy (10.9), Andrus (7.2), Alexei Ramirez (6.9), Alex Gonzalez (5.8), and Troy Tulowitzki (5.3).

Rollins will need several more very productive seasons before he can be legitimately considered for the Hall of Fame (and even then, he would still be on the outside), but make no mistake: he has had an incredibly productive career and ranks among the best Phillies of all-time.

Player WAR From To Age PA
Mike Schmidt 103.0 1972 1989 22-39 10062
Richie Ashburn 54.6 1948 1959 21-32 8223
Chase Utley 51.8 2003 2012 24-33 5025
Sherry Magee 45.7 1904 1914 19-29 6314
Bobby Abreu 45.3 1998 2006 24-32 5885
Jimmy Rollins 38.7 2000 2012 21-33 8129
Johnny Callison 37.2 1960 1969 21-30 5930
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/6/2012.

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27 comments

  1. Santos

    September 06, 2012 07:14 AM

    MVP season was 2007, not 2008.

  2. Phylan

    September 06, 2012 09:46 AM

    that last chart must be broken, it suggests that Bobby Abreu was one of the best Phillies ever!!!!

  3. Scott G

    September 06, 2012 10:01 AM

    I think it’s safe to say that Jimmy Rollins is pretty undervalued by the fan base. He’s been a rock in the field for a long time now, and has always been acceptable at the plate. Not the greatest lead off hitter, but you can’t really blame him for a managerial mistake. People need to see the forest for the trees.

    On a separate note, Utley’s WAR/PA is staggering when compared to the other name’s on that list.

  4. Ryan

    September 06, 2012 10:18 AM

    Utley’s roughly tied with Schmidt for WAR/PA…no one else even comes close. That is very impressive indeed.

  5. pedro3131

    September 06, 2012 10:40 AM

    Thanks for the write up Bill. I was actually wondering why there hasn’t been more coverage of Rollins 2000 hit this morning in the shower. I’d be interested in reading any study that tracks athlete’s perception and popularity over time, as I suspect Jimmy’s is at a particular low point.

    They recently posted an article on the NYT about how Philadelphia has never embraced Joe Frazier, and it’s had me wondering about athlete popularity and what different factors go into it. The NYT article didn’t really seem to reflect my experiences in Philadelphia but I think the author was suffering from a lack of relevant research on the topic.

  6. Bill Baer

    September 06, 2012 10:48 AM

    Philadelphia has a long history of blaming its best players for the organization’s systemic failures. McNabb, Iverson, Abreu, etc. and now Rollins.

  7. Glenn

    September 06, 2012 10:51 AM

    I’m a huge J-Roll fan and it’s amazing how he can be so loved by the city and fans but so hated at the same time. I’ll never forget listening to Franzke call his walk off double against Broxton in 2009, one of my favorite baseball memories every.

  8. Scott G

    September 06, 2012 11:13 AM

    Glenn,

    Probably one of my favorite memories as well. I’ll continue to share how I “saw” that exact hit before it happened based on the way Broxton grooved the first pitch of the AB. I feel like certain players have their typical hit on certain pitches, and I just remember begging Broxton to throw the pitch again.

  9. Mike

    September 06, 2012 11:32 AM

    Frank Schulte was clearly juicing. No, seriously, he must have been drinking ALOT of juice (it was 1911 – no roids yet) to put up those numbers relative to the rest of his career.

  10. Scott G

    September 06, 2012 11:39 AM

    haha I guessed what that was even before clicking on it. Always a great view.

  11. Jonny5

    September 06, 2012 11:44 AM

    Rollins deserves better from the Phillies fan base. Most have the attention span and memory of a 1 year old Labrador Retriever.

  12. Richard

    September 06, 2012 11:46 AM

    Rollins is a fine leadoff hitter, especially given the contruction of his teams and their available options. It’s not been a mistake to bat him there.

  13. Mike B.

    September 06, 2012 11:49 AM

    I can’t imagine Jimmy not having a huge place in the Phillies history! It’s true he has moments when he doesn’t follow up on what he perceives are balls that will be caught and slows down, but this doesn’t compare with the good he has always done for the club.

  14. Scott G

    September 06, 2012 12:05 PM

    Richard,

    Not to get into the whole lineup optimization argument, but seriously? You want to give the guys with an average (in the sense of the rest of the team) OBP the most PAs??

    People I’d rather have batting leadoff than Rollins:

    Victorino in years past
    Utley
    Ruiz (of recent)
    Werth
    Rowand in ’07
    Abreu in ’06.

    Please don’t take this as a slight of Rollins. I want one of the BEST batters batting 1st.

  15. Les G

    September 06, 2012 12:23 PM

    Ruiz leadoff youre kidding right?

  16. Bill Baer

    September 06, 2012 12:27 PM

    Ruiz has had a higher OBP than most of the Phillies in recent years.

    Aggregate OBP since 2007:

    Player OBP PA Pos
    Chase Utley .383 3223 *4/3
    Pat Burrell .383 1243 *7/D
    Jayson Werth .380 2114 *9/783
    Aaron Rowand .374 684 *8
    Carlos Ruiz .364 2439 *2/5
    Hunter Pence .357 676 *9
    Ryan Howard .356 3525 *3/D
    Shane Victorino .345 3496 *89
    Ben Francisco .332 594 /978D
    Placido Polanco .330 1453 *5/4D
    Raul Ibanez .329 1776 *7/D3
    Jimmy Rollins .326 3749 *6/D
    Chris Coste .325 560 *2/D3
    John Mayberry .314 751 7/839D
    Greg Dobbs .310 943 5/739D4
    Pedro Feliz .306 1088 *5/6
    Wilson Valdez .300 663 /4651
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 9/6/2012.
  17. Richard

    September 06, 2012 01:00 PM

    Victorino played better when he did not bat leadoff.

    Of those, Werth is the guy I could see (and, indeed, he’s batting leadoff for Washington now, and doing a bangup job), but I’m not at all shocked or offended that his power kept him in the middle of the order. Utley should be batting second. Except that when guys bat second they think their job is to move the runner over. (Players really do subscribe to lots of old fashioned wack-a-doodle notions about what your role is in certain parts of the order, which makes lineup optimization not so straightforward.)

    Ruiz has only emerged recently as a high OBP guy (last three years). And I don’t blame Manuel one iota for not moving him up in the order till this season.

    When I say Rollins is “fine” I don’t mean optimal. I mean he’s fine. The team has not suffered at all from him batting leadoff. It has lost but maybe a handful of runs, going by lineup optimization tools. Essentially making it not worth discussing over and over again.

    And my reference to it not being a “mistake” by Manuel is meant to tweak your elevation of your opinion to a self-evident fact, which Manuel ignores at the team’s peril. No doubt certain such facts exist. I submit that lineup construction is not one of those.

  18. Mike

    September 06, 2012 01:15 PM

    If Ruiz had the highest OBP on the team, he still should not hit leadoff. His first job is to be a catcher, and that job takes an enormous toll on a player’s mind and body. The last thing he needs to worry about is being a leadoff hitter, whose job includes taking pitches. I’m not sure if that’s an “old fashioned wack-a-doodle notion” or not, but it’s important for two reasons: (1) to increase a pitcher’s pitch count (and in this era of pitch counts, getting a starting pitcher out of the game early because of a high pitch count is crucial) and (2) to let his teammates know what kind of pitches are working or not working for the opposing pitcher on that particular day.

  19. Scott G

    September 06, 2012 02:08 PM

    1) Ruiz sees plenty more pitches than Rollins as it is.
    2) Batting 4th(?) too lazy to look it up or even recall, which he had to do for much of this season, takes as much a toll as leading off, and he certainly excelled everywhere this season.

    Richard,

    Why settle for fine, when you can have GREAT? haha

  20. jauer

    September 06, 2012 05:08 PM

    Ruiz had a .340 OBP in 2007. His outlier year was 08, and every year since then he’s had a solid OBP.

  21. Frank

    September 08, 2012 08:58 AM

    Man, I was all about Rollins in this post until I saw the last graph and started thinking about how damn good Utley is.

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