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.
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.
|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|
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.
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.
|Pee Wee Reese||117||9470||1940||1958||BRO-LAD|
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.