Is Jimmy Rollins Back?
Hey Crashburn fans! My name’s Adam Dembowitz (@adamd243) and I’m very happy to be joining the team here. I was born in Philadelphia and raised in Cherry Hill, and I grew up listening to Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn get through bad baseball on late summer afternoons. I still hate Joe Carter. I was at Game 4 of the 2008 World Series, so, you’re welcome. And with that, let’s get to it.
He’s a former MVP. He’s one of the best shortstops in baseball (yes, still), and we expect a lot from him. But last year, he wasn’t himself. Now 147 plate appearances into the 2014 season, is Jimmy Rollins back?
In 34 games this season Rollins has a slash line of .276/.370/.441, which is similar to but slightly better than his career average of .269/.328/.426, with an especially superior on base percentage (OBP). We’re getting to the point of the season where the “small sample size” caveat doesn’t hold as much weight. After all, the season is about 20% completed. Jimmy’s produced 1.4 wins above replacement (WAR) this season, which is pretty good considering he produced 1.6 for the entire 2013 season. He’s on pace for 19 homers, 100 runs, 81 RBI, and 24 steals. Those would be his best numbers since 2012 and compare favorably to his 2009 season, but with less speed and a much, much better slash line.
Alright, so we’ve established that so far, Jimmy’s been pretty solid. In fact, no NL shortstop has produced more WAR, except “T-1000” Troy Tulowitzki. But is J-Roll’s early season success sustainable? Let’s take a look at some of the numbers and find out.
Rollins is walking 12.9% of the time, which hardly seems sustainable considering his career average is 7.8% and his single-season high is 10.2%. He’s striking out 16.3% of the time, which is also well above his career average (11.8%, believe it or not) and matches his single-season high of 16.4% from the Jim Thome and David Bell days of 2003. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .313, but his career average is .287 and he hasn’t had a BABIP at or above .300 since 2007. Rollins also has a .359 weighted on base average (wOBA), also higher than his career average (.327) and higher than any season since 2007. You might remember some hardware that came his way after that season. Jimmy lovers and haters know that he’s prone to the good ol’ pop fly. This season, his infield fly ball rate(IFFB%) is 14.6%, much higher than his 11.6% career mark and second only to his 19.0% in 2012. All of that seems to indicate a regression is forthcoming. But what if it isn’t? Let’s have some fun.
Look at the lower right hand corner of the strike zone this year compared to the 2009-2014 picture (from a lefthanded hitter’s perspective, since that’s where Jimmy gets most of his at bats). He’s attacking that corner more this year, but laying off the stuff in the dirt. He’s also laying off the stuff in on his hands, and attacking balls up in the strike zone.
If we look at pitch types, Rollins is seeing more fastballs this year than he has since 2009, and fewer changeups than ever. That’s most certainly impacted by batting in the second spot in front of The Man. After all, if you’re a pitcher, you pretty much have to go after Jimmy if the next guy is a future Hall of Famer who’s seventh in WAR among all position players this year (and Jimmy is no slouch at 27th overall).
So what can we take from all this? Given everything we just discussed, it seems like Rollins is being both more selective, and more aggressive. He’s striking out more, but he’s walking more and hitting more line drives, which is driving a higher BABIP. So rejoice, Phillies fans! It looks like we have our Jimmy back.