After the 2011 season, the Phillies signed shortstop Jimmy Rollins to a three-year $33 million contract with a fourth-year vesting option. It was a move met with enthusiasm. Though Rollins was old and had battled some lower-half injuries in previous years, he still ranked among the best shortstops in the game. The first year of his new deal was good: he posted a .322 weighted-on base average, continued to play sterling defense, and stole 30 bases in 35 attempts — a typical Jimmy Rollins year. Baseball Reference rated him at 2.4 Wins Above Replacement while FanGraphs was much more generous at 4.8 thanks to different methods of evaluting his defense. Either way, though, he was at worst slightly above-average.
2013 was a completely different and, sadly, worse story. The Rollins we came to know and love had disappeared. Name an aspect of his game and it tanked:
- Power: His .177 isolated power in 2012 dropped to .097, tied for the 14th-lowest among 140 qualified hitters.
- Base running: According to Baseball Prospectus, he dropped from +5.3 runs on the bases in 2012 to +1.7. He stole just 22 bases in 28 attempts, the fewest attempts he’s had in a full season in his career.
- Defense: Baseball Reference had him declining from -8 in 2012 to -15 while FanGraphs had him going from +7.9 to -2.7. Either way, a steep decline.
Rollins finished at 0.2 WAR per Baseball Reference and 1.6 per FanGraphs, putting his range between replacement level and average. His bad year caused that three-year deal to turn from a bargain into a loss. When I reevaluated the deal in September, I wrote, “Going into the final guaranteed year of his contract, Rollins would need to have a 4-WAR season for the Phillies to break even.”
Rollins turns 35 in November. Since 1980, only four shortstops — Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin, Ozzie Smith, and Omar Vizquel — have put up a 4.0 WAR season or better at the age of 35 or older. The same group of players along with Cal Ripken, Jr. and Larry Bowa are the only ones since 1980 to even put up 2.0 WAR or better at age 35 or older. Based on historical data, it looks like Father Time has finally caught up with Rollins. The odds of him bouncing back from are not good.
The power is the most concerning aspect because it was what separated him from most shortstops. He is one home run shy from becoming the eighth shortstop to hit 200 or more career home runs. He is one of 18 shortstops all-time with a career ISO of at least .150 (min. 4,000 career plate appearances). Most shortstops can play the position well defensively, and a lot of them can steal bases, but it’s rare to find that skill set along with the ability to hit double-digit home runs year in and year out. If he’s not hitting for power, then he’s not offering the Phillies much over Freddy Galvis.
I gave Rollins a D- for his 2013 season. Of all the things that could have gone wrong for the Phillies this past season, Rollins cratering was not one they expected. Here’s looking at you, J.P. Crawford.