J-Droll

If there’s one thing the Phillies aren’t short on in the organization, it’s middle infielders. From Chase Utley to Jimmy Rollins to Cesar Hernandez to Freddy Galvis to (if you grin and bear it) Kevin Frandsen, that’s a handful of players under control in 2014 that can, feasibly, play up the middle.

The only problem, of course, is that only one of those guys is a viable Major League player right now.

Consider:

  • Frandsen has come up with a big hit from time-to-time, but is 4-for-36 in August and leaves something to be desired on defense.
  • Galvis has a .626 Major League OPS in 364 PA; a .617 career Minor League OPS
  • Hernandez has missed the vast majority of the past month with a wrist injury and will get more looks in center field when he returns

And fine, so three bench guys are playing like bench guys. Their problems and presence on a roster mean relatively little when compared to the struggles of the man expected to be the starting shortstop through next season.

Jimmy Rollins’s offensive problems are not new. Really, he’s never been an exceptional offensive presence any year other than 2007, his three best OPS+es aside from that MVP campaign being 104, 102 and 101. This year, however, things have become rather concerning. Rollins entered Tuesday’s game hitting .246 (3rd-worst) with a .303 OBP (2nd-worst) and .336 SLG (by far a career worst), and went 0-for-3 with a walk. He has five home runs a year after hitting 23, 15 steals after consecutive 30-steal efforts and a 71 percent stolen base rate that’s his worst since 2003. What’s more, if you put stock in advanced fielding metrics, Rollins’s defense has also been significantly substandard in 2013.

Defensive problems – real or imagined – are harder to diagnose. Leaving those aside and focusing solely on offensive performance, where do Rollins’s most glaring flaws now lie?

One of the most glaring issues for me, personally, has to do with something atypically Jimmy. For his career, Rollins has a negligible platoon split (.756 OPS as a LHB, .744 as a RHB). Really, he’s been pretty consistent as a switch-hitter; at least, more so than Shane Victorino. This year, though, the gap is widening a bit, and batting from the right side seems to be the biggest issue. Specifically, Jimmy just hasn’t been able to square up fastballs from left-handed pitchers. Compare the difference against heaters entering Tuesday:

  • As RHB: .215/.282/.292, 13.2% whiff rate, 18.2% line drive rate against 260 fastballs
  • As LHB: .238/.291/.359, 7.0% whiff rate, 22.3% line drive rate against 702 fastballs

Disparate, but not insignificant samples show that those struggles are apparent. And really, only the fact that he’s been so bad as a RHB keeps the LHB performance from being cringeworthy on its own.

Not being able to catch up to or square up the heat is typically a very bad thing. If Rollins is dealing with slower bat speed associated with age, this may not improve. But if Steve Henderson or Wally Joyner or whomever finds his or herself occupying the hitting coach position next season is paid to do one thing, it would be to identify and correct what potential problems could be hindering Jimmy. Assuming that’s even possible.

On the whole, the shortstop position doesn’t feature a ton of high-powered bats. The league average shortstop OPSes .685 in 2013, and only four qualified shortstops have an OPS above .800 entering Tuesday. Among those qualified batters who play mostly SS (think Not Ben Zobrist), Rollins stacks up like so:

  • .298 OBP (12th)
  • .331 SLG (15th)
  • .629 OPS (13th)
  • .278 wOBA (14th)

Each of those numbers falls well below the 50th percentile for shortstops.

As a result of being a 10&5 player, Rollins carries a no-trade clause, one he opted not to waive under any circumstances this summer. Whether he changes his tune this winter or by next July obviously remains to be seen. The Phillies are on the hook for $11 million in 2014, plus no less than $5 million in 2015. The 2015 money works as follows, according to Cot’s:

  • Vests for $11M at 500 PA in ’14 and/or 1,100 combined PA in ’13-’14, plus a non-DL status
  • If the PA requirements are not met, the option turns into a club option for $8 million, or a player option for $5 million

That second bullet is complicating, because that $5 million is not a buyout, if the language in Cot’s is correct. Rollins would not be a free agent. That’s obviously a scenario to be dealt with this time next season, but the specter of Rollins potentially being dead money for more than just one more season hangs in the air in a slightly more corporeal form.

Of course, things could improve with an offseason for Rollins to rest whatever ails him. It would just be preferable for the encouraging signs to come before we’re forced to hope against hope for them to come around the bend.

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14 comments

  1. hk

    August 21, 2013 03:24 AM

    They should sit him often over the remainder of this year to (a) rest his old body, (b) give the PA’s to a young guy and most importantly (c) make the option less likely to vest.

  2. hk

    August 21, 2013 05:45 AM

    By the way, according to Cot’s, it’s 600 PA’s in 2014 or 1,100 in 2013 & 2014 combined, so with Jimmy already over 500 PA’s this year, every additional PA in a meaningless game this year gets him closer to having it vest.

  3. Phillie697

    August 21, 2013 09:52 AM

    The $5M CAN be a buyout if the Phillies had strong enough FO/manager. “So you’re under player option for $5M… We will gladly pay you said $5M to sit on the bench because you now, well, suck.”

    Of course, it’s still a cap hit, but not a big one.

  4. PB

    August 21, 2013 09:59 AM

    Good article Paul. Saw the lefty/right splits in action yesterday when they brought in Brothers to face Rollins and force him to the right side of the plate.

    Also, FYI, the Cesar Hernandez link goes to the BR page for an early 90s outfielder for the Reds

  5. prs130

    August 21, 2013 10:29 AM

    I have an idea… let’s pencil him in at leadoff

  6. Larry

    August 21, 2013 11:45 AM

    Is Freddy Galvis still on the team? I haven’t seen him in a long time. Now would be the time to use him with JRoll playing so bad. Maybe Galvis is being punished internally for something he did that didn’t go public? Galvis is better than Mini Mart, yet we are seeing more of him lately.

  7. Jeff P

    August 21, 2013 12:37 PM

    Galvis was sent to AAA in July to get the opportunity to play everyday again. The org thinks highly enough of him as a potential starter to want him to get regular ABs.

    I don’t think it ever happems, but can’t blame ‘em there.

  8. Ethan

    August 21, 2013 01:13 PM

    If they were to sit Jimmy simply to save the option, pretty sure the player’s union might raise an eyebrow or two.

    Unless Jimmy waives the no-trade to go to, say, Oakland (hometown), looks like we have him for a while

  9. hk

    August 21, 2013 03:17 PM

    Ethan,

    Hence reasons (a) and (b). If you rest a performing player to avoid a vesting option, there’s an issue. If a player with a vesting option is sucking it up, the team should have the right to replace him.

  10. Larry

    August 21, 2013 05:35 PM

    And Poof….Mini Mart is gone. Nice!

  11. Bigred

    August 21, 2013 07:01 PM

    Great article,
    wowwhere has Jimmy’s power gone? 23 to 5!!..now i remember why i dropped him in my fantasy league.

  12. Ryne Duren

    August 22, 2013 09:59 AM

    hk As a former chief shop steward I don’t foresee any union problems concerning them sitting him to evaluate another players value to the future of the team. That’s their out. As long as they are paying him his money due he has no argument.
    The way it works is a person files a grievance it goes through the procedural steps and then the union international decides if they will take it to arbitration. If the union decides to do that and the player wins the Phillies would have to pay all of the arbitration fees/ If the union loses they would be on the hook. It will be up to the union to decide if their case for Rollins has any chance. The Phillies or any other club has all kinds of things they can do to throw a monkey wrench into a case such as that. I don’t think he would have a snowballs chance in winning that argument.

  13. hk

    August 22, 2013 10:31 AM

    Ryne,

    Thanks for the experienced perspective, which is consistent with my point. They should publicly announce that they’re bringing up Galvis because they want to see him play every day SS while privately they can admit they are benefitting from increasing their chances of not having the option vest.

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