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:
|Pee Wee Reese||66.2||1940||1958||21-39|
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+:
|Pee Wee Reese||99||1940||1958|
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.