Jimmy Rollins and the Hall of Fame

In the comments of Saturday’s article on the declining Jimmy Rollins, a few were discussing the shortstop’s chances of making the Hall of Fame. Rollins is currently sitting on 2,158 career hits, 1,238 runs, 450 doubles, 107 triples, 199 home runs, 831 runs batted in, and 423 stolen bases. Baseball Reference gives him credit for 41.8 career Wins Above Replacement while FanGraphs pins him at 45.5.

Per Baseball Reference, here is the complete list of Hall of Fame shortstops and their career WAR:

Player WAR/pos From To Age
Honus Wagner 113.3 1901 1917 27-43
Cal Ripken 95.5 1981 2001 20-40
Ozzie Smith 76.5 1978 1996 23-41
Luke Appling 74.4 1930 1950 23-43
Arky Vaughan 73.0 1932 1948 20-36
Barry Larkin 70.3 1986 2004 22-40
Joe Cronin 66.3 1926 1945 19-38
Pee Wee Reese 66.2 1940 1958 21-39
Lou Boudreau 63.1 1938 1952 20-34
Luis Aparicio 55.5 1956 1973 22-39
Bobby Wallace 55.2 1901 1918 27-44
Joe Tinker 53.3 1902 1916 21-35
Dave Bancroft 48.6 1915 1930 24-39
Travis Jackson 44.1 1922 1936 18-32
Rabbit Maranville 42.8 1912 1935 20-43
Phil Rizzuto 40.5 1941 1956 23-38
George Davis 37.7 1901 1909 30-38
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/15/2013.

With the exception of Phil Rizzuto, Rollins would actually need to cross the 55 WAR threshold before he passes a shortstop who played in the post-integration era of baseball.

In Hall of Fame discussions, players can qualify with a great peak (e.g. Sandy Koufax) or with longevity (e.g. Bert Blyleven). Rollins has neither. Via Baseball Reference, his single-season high in WAR was 6.1 in 2007, the year he controversially won the NL MVP award. Reds shortstop and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin matched or exceeded that three times. Cal Ripken six times. Rollins posted 4+ WAR in five consecutive seasons from 2004-08. While great, it isn’t elite-level longevity. Larkin, for example, averaged just under 6 WAR from 1988-99, an 11-year span.

Then there’s the fact that Rollins was, at best, an average hitter over his career. Baseball Reference credits him with an adjusted OPS of 96 while FanGraphs lists him the same in wRC+. Here’s the same list of Hall of Fame shortstops listed by OPS+:

Player OPS+ From To
Honus Wagner 153 1901 1917
Arky Vaughan 136 1932 1948
Lou Boudreau 120 1938 1952
Joe Cronin 119 1926 1945
Barry Larkin 116 1986 2004
Luke Appling 113 1930 1950
Cal Ripken 112 1981 2001
George Davis 112 1901 1909
Bobby Wallace 104 1901 1918
Travis Jackson 102 1922 1936
Pee Wee Reese 99 1940 1958
Dave Bancroft 98 1915 1930
Joe Tinker 96 1902 1916
Phil Rizzuto 93 1941 1956
Ozzie Smith 87 1978 1996
Luis Aparicio 82 1956 1973
Rabbit Maranville 82 1912 1935
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/15/2013.

Rollins’ problem is that, for all of the great things he did on offense, he erased a lot of it by making a ton of outs. He has a .269 career average and a .327 on-base percentage. The aggregate league averages over his career were .268 and .338. He led the league in outs on four separate occasions: 2001-02, ’07, and ’09. Even his career slugging percentage (.426) was a point below the league average.

Any argument in favor of enshrining Rollins in Cooperstown will make heavy use of counting stats, but they are skewed because he took so many at-bats as the lead-off hitter. Additionally, the offenses for many of the teams he was involved with were above-average, leading to lots of lineup turnover. Rollins’ counting stats would look a lot different if he had spent his career with, say, the Seattle Mariners and was used as their #7 hitter. Ultimately, Rollins doesn’t have a good enough case to get into the Hall of Fame, but considering that Jack Morris has been on the precipice of baseball’s highest honor recently, you never know what spurious logic the Baseball Writers Association of America could develop in the coming years.

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62 comments

  1. Larry

    September 17, 2013 11:41 PM

    “The “lazy” attack on Rollins is more personal in nature, and that’s why it bothers me.”

    Scott, it’s not a personal attack against you though. A lot of people don’t give Rollins a lot of respect on this site. He’s very controversial, that’s why I told Bill he was a great topic. As I told you, I give very unbiased opinions about the Phillies. I mocked Rollins for his non hustle and personality issues. However, I also gave good valid reasons why he will be HOF worthy when it’s all said and done.

    Some people like Phillie697 think it’s hilarious that people would even think he has a shot at the HOF. You just have to take it with a grain of salt and state your opinions why you would disagree. He wasn’t trolling JRoll, he just gave his opinion, like I did, which was more neutral than most.

    Just to make you feel better about JRoll or give you a similar example:

    If you were a Sixers fan back in the day, you knew Allen Iverson was a very good player,(One of the best Sixers ever) yet he had the reputation of being lazy. I’m sure you remember the whole “practice” thing. He brought that on himself though. Probably one of the funniest interviews ever. How many times did he say the word practice? lol

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCHNAoVP1x8

  2. Larry

    September 18, 2013 12:01 AM

    Pedro,

    Cliff Lee gets that pass. How many Phillies pitchers hustle like he does? He actually wanted to steal a base yesterday up 11-2. In his defense he probably was in shock that he had run support. He’s probably had the worst or 2nd worst run support in all of baseball for the past 2 seasons. Here is a guy who actually runs to the mound and runs to the dugout between innings. We’ve never seen a Phillies pitcher do that. His tempo of the game is so fast and he’s always dealing strikes. He is so respected by Phillies fans and deserves it. This guy gives you effort and he can hit, run, and bunt with the best of all the other pitchers around the league. His stats as a Phillie speaks for itself.

    BTW most pitchers don’t hustle around the bases. He is just a different animal. He’s not a controversial guy which might have to do why hardly anyone talks about him, even when the thread is about him. When he was given that big contract, he proved that he is who we thought he was, end of story.

  3. Dan

    September 18, 2013 04:41 AM

    The problem I have with JRoll is that the jogs to first base do not inspire a good attitude with the rest of the players. It is especially important now that we have a bunch of younger players coming in. They see a veteran like Rollins take a jog to first on a pop-up or routine ground ball, and it might make them think that is OK. I’m sorry, it is not OK. I watched a game a couple of weeks ago where J-Roll hit a pop-up to shallow right, and the right fielder couldn’t quite get to it. If Jimmy ran hard out of the box, he would have been at second easily, instead he watched it, jogged at the start and then when he realized the ball was going to drop took off full speed only to be gunned down easily at second. IMO, at the very least running hard on any ball put in play is a minimum requirement for a major league ballplayer.
    Look I am a life long Phils fan, and love many aspects of Jimmy’s game. The running to first base is one of a couple things that sticks in my craw. I do think he has a shot at the HOF, but it’s going to depend on what he does in the next few years. IMO his best shot is cutting down on his swing and going with the pitch from time to time. 50 or more pop-ups a year going forward is not going to help him in his quest.

  4. Scott G

    September 18, 2013 08:16 AM

    Larry,

    Critiquing someone objectively (statistically), like Phillie697 did is one thing. Critiquing someone for subjective things like hustling/lack thereof, and trying to predict if a player would be safe when hustling is completely different to me. It feels like an unnecessary/subjective commentary that can’t be proven. That’s why it bothers me. Maybe he pulls a hammy or aggrevates his calf again if he’s busting it on plays where it won’t matter, and such injury would sideline him for who knows how long.

  5. pedro3131

    September 18, 2013 08:31 AM

    Why is it that when Cliff Lee does stuff like that, or pulls one of these (my favorite Phillies play in my lifetime) somewhatmanlynerd.com/gifs/cliffleecatch.jpg … He gets a pass, whereas for other players we seek out those instances where guys don’t live up to our notion of “hustle”. I mean really, as much as I love that play, it’s really just an arrogant play, with no fundamentals. Now you could either say that’s Cliff being Cliff, or you can say look at that lazy guy.

    Certainly Jroll isn’t the only guy who doesn’t “hustle”. If we accept that guys like Chase “hustle” then it’s implied that guys like Chase don’t “hustle” so why is only one of those guys the subject of our ire.

  6. Phillie697

    September 18, 2013 10:17 AM

    Okay, I will weigh on this “discussion,” if you can generously call it that, by channeling my inner RAJ. “I don’t care about hustle. I care about production.”

    Seriously, if a dude is hitting with a wOBA of .415, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass he doesn’t run out a routine ground ball. The “attack” on JRoll, if you will, isn’t an attack on his hustle; it’s an attack on his production. He hasn’t been producing, and for some god-knows-what reason, people want to attribute it to something. “Oh shit, he didn’t run out that ground ball!!! That’s why he sucks!!!” It’s damn moral judgment, that’s what it is.

    Sometimes moral judgments are appropriate in sports. You hit your wife? You deserve to be ridiculed. You cheat and then lie about it? You can go to baseball hell. You make racist remarks? I have no sympathy for you. JRoll maybe, maybe, maybe, doesn’t give his all on every play? I couldn’t give a shit.

    As for you hitting a paltry wOBA of .294, JRoll? Yeah, you’re going to have to explain that one yourself. Because, hate to tell ya, it’s kinda shitty.

  7. Larry

    September 18, 2013 11:54 AM

    @ Pedro,

    It depends on the player and how he is doing. If a player is having a good offensive season like Chase, then he would get a pass for not hustling. If Jimmy is not doing well offensively and doesn’t hustle then he doesn’t get a pass, especially knowing that he has been disciplined so many times about this already. Imagine Michael Martinez not hustling on a play that he could have been safe on. How would you feel about him? Your perception would be different.

    Cliff lee gets arrogant sometimes, but it’s funny, entertaining arrogant……because he’s the great Cliff Lee. It wouldn’t be so funny if say Kyle Kendrick did that.

  8. Scott G

    September 18, 2013 12:03 PM

    Michael Martinez hasn’t been an elite SS for the last decade plus. Nor does he have any prior calf/ankle injuries (that I’m aware of). He hasn’t earned a pass. I’d say Jimmy has earned the right to judge hustle plays from non-hustle plays.

  9. Larry

    September 18, 2013 12:25 PM

    “Michael Martinez hasn’t been an elite SS for the last decade plus”

    Since we are talking about offense only right now, I’ll point out a few excerpts from Bill’s article:

    “Then there’s the fact that Rollins was, at best, an average hitter over his career. Baseball Reference credits him with an adjusted OPS of 96 while FanGraphs lists him the same in wRC+.”

    ” He has a .269 career average and a .327 on-base percentage. The aggregate league averages over his career were .268 and .338. He led the league in outs on four separate occasions: 2001-02, ’07, and ’09. Even his career slugging percentage (.426) was a point below the league average.”

    It would be tough to call Jimmy’s offense elite even at the position he plays. His defense was certainly elite, but since this discussion has been about offense mostly, “elite” is a tough word to justify, given his career slash line.

  10. Scott G

    September 18, 2013 01:56 PM

    I’m not talking about just offense. Why would Rollins overall abilities be taken into account when discussing how “lazy” he is.

    He’s been an elite SS overall. If his being “lazy” on offense (which is absurd considering his 2Bs, 3Bs, and SBs) keeps him healthy and on the field for his defense, I’ll take it.

  11. Scott G

    September 18, 2013 01:57 PM

    ugh.. Why wouldn’t Rollins’s overall abilities be taken into account… ?*

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