The Return of Jimmy Rollins’ Power

A year ago, eulogies were being penned –the once great Jimmy Rollins was done. The former MVP and once elite shortstop hit a paltry .252/.318/.348 with just six home runs as defensive metrics began to sour on a man who had once been among the league’s best defenders at shortstop. Rollins set career lows in ISO, HRs and RBI. His rWAR (-0.2) was far and away the lowest of his prodigious career. All of this combined with the fact that he was a 34-year-old playing one of the most physically demanding positions on the field and the Rollins’ Demise narrative was defensible but, as it turns out, also wholly inaccurate.

The starkest example of Rollins’ 2013 struggles was the complete disappearance of his power. After not having an isolated power (ISO) below .131 since his age 24 season, his ISO plummeted to.097 — for reference, Ben Revere currently has a .060 ISO.

This season has seen a dramatic turnaround. Rollins is currently sporting a .156 ISO good for 5th best among all MLB shortstops and well above the current MLB average ISO for shortstop: 0.116. He currently has 15 home runs and could very well reach 20 by the season’s end for just the 5th time in his career. Not only is he performing well compared to his peers, what Jimmy Rollins is doing with the bat this season is historical. Only five MLB shortstops have ever hit with more power than Jimmy in a season at age 35 or older:

Rk Player Year ISO Age Tm Lg BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Jimmy Rollins 2014 .156 35 PHI NL .241 .318 .398 .715
2 Cal Ripken 1996 .188 35 BAL AL .278 .341 .466 .807
3 Eddie Joost 1952 .170 36 PHA AL .244 .388 .415 .803
4 Eddie Joost 1951 .172 35 PHA AL .289 .409 .461 .870
5 Honus Wagner 1912 .172 38 PIT NL .324 .395 .496 .891
6 Honus Wagner 1911 .173 37 PIT NL .334 .423 .507 .930
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/8/2014.

For a player whose true calling card has been plus defense and plus speed, Jimmy Rollins’ power may be the thing that sets him apart and solidifies what is, in my opinion, already a borderline case for the Hall of Fame. Already he is one of just eight shortstops in MLB history with 200+ home runs. Admittedly much of his career was played in the era of high-octane offense, so let’s take a look at how his power compares to his peers over his career:

Rollins ISO

Year ISO – Avg MLB SS ISO – Jimmy Rollins % Difference
2001 0.134 0.145 8.21%
2002 0.132 0.135 2.27%
2003 0.132 0.124 -6.06%
2004 0.136 0.166 22.06%
2005 0.124 0.141 13.71%
2006 0.132 0.201 52.27%
2007 0.132 0.235 78.03%
2008 0.119 0.160 34.45%
2009 0.122 0.173 41.80%
2010 0.112 0.131 16.96%
2011 0.117 0.131 11.97%
2012 0.121 0.177 46.28%
2013 0.118 0.096 -18.64%
2014 0.116 0.157 35.34%

With the exception of the first few years of his career, 2013 is the clear outlier in regards to Rollins’ power. He has been notably above average throughout his peak and now well into his mid-30s. Is it enough for him to one day be enshrined in Cooperstown? That’s a debate for another day, but as it stands, Rollins ranks 17th in career ISO among all 188 MLB shortstops with 3,000+ career PAs. Whatever his final legacy will be, that type of power combined with 447 career steals and stellar defense at shortstop is an incredibly special career.

What is also abundantly clear is that reports of the death of Jimmy Rollins were premature. Given that the absolute best case scenario for the Phillies next great hope at shortstop, J.P. Crawford, is a 2016 MLB arrival, Rollins’ continued presence in the Phillies lineup (barring a trade) now that his $11M 2015 option has vested should be welcomed with open arms.

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11 comments

  1. Andrew Finkernagel

    August 08, 2014 02:21 PM

    Rollins’ contract was getting absolutely blasted by fans last year, but I think it’s one of the few times Ruben actually did his job well.

    He was patient and waited out the market, and this contract has wound up being a tremendous bargain for the club. I really hope Jimmy retires as a Phillie.

    • Chris S.

      August 08, 2014 02:32 PM

      My thoughts exactly, his worth according to fangraphs is right around $44 million since he signed his contract. We still have another year and a half left so anything he produces over what he already has is gravy.

    • Jonathan

      August 08, 2014 02:53 PM

      There’s no doubt he’ll retire as a Phillie (1-day contract, if necessary).

      I think I share your sentiment, the he plays his entire career as a Phillie, and therefore gracefully retires after the 2015 season (maybe a 1yr contract after 2015?).

      Without a doubt in my mind, #11 should be retired by the Phillies when it’s all said and done.

      • Tim

        August 10, 2014 05:22 PM

        I agree, but I believe the Phillies policy is only retiring the numbers of Hall of Famers and I fear Rollins will fall just short.

  2. Greg

    August 08, 2014 03:49 PM

    Kind of a shame that Jimmy played .1 inning at second base in 2002, or else he could’ve spent his entire career on one team only playing one position. Anybody know who’s played the most games at one position without ever having played another position (besides DH)?

    • Corinne Landrey

      August 08, 2014 04:56 PM

      If each outfield spot counts as a separate position, it’s probably Derek Jeter — 2,641 games at shortstop, 62 at DH.

  3. Major Malfunction

    August 09, 2014 07:47 AM

    While I concur that his career has been impressive for a SS, trying to sell him as a HoF contender based on 17th ISO all time at SS isn’t going to turn heads or garner votes where it counts. Nobody ever cares who comes in 17th at a race.

    Ironically, I think that’s part of the reason he won’t get in is because he was good, but not great, in every category. A 5 tool player. But not great in any one category that’s sexy enough to the HoF voters to cull the votes he needs.

    Sadly, it’s the result of the old school voters. If Rollins led the league every year in SB or tied Ozzie for most GG at SS, they’d put him in. I just don’t see them voting him in and Jimmy hiding around 30% for awhile. I certainly hope I’m wrong, but that’s probably what happens.

    • Fatalotti

      August 09, 2014 03:34 PM

      It’s not just old school voters. Even by advanced stats, Rollins “only” has 48.3 fWAR (44.7 bWAR), only a 96 wRC+ (certainly decent for a shortstop, but nothing noteworthy). These WAR numbers are below the threshold that is generally accepted to be the line that HoF players cross. Rollins has had a very nice career, and is undoubtedly the Phillies best SS, but I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer. That’s not a knock, and should not diminish how truly impressive and fun-to-watch Rollins’ career has been.

  4. tom b

    August 09, 2014 01:40 PM

    i think you’re giving him a little too much praise for his power numbers. have you seen his batting average or his obp. very mediocre. he’s been a good player but i don’t think the hall of fame should be for good players,only great ones

  5. Andy

    August 10, 2014 10:04 PM

    Assuming about 150 hits this year and next, he’ll end up close to 2500 hits assuming he is not injured. I wonder if hitting that arbitrary measure will help him with HOF voting.

  6. Beez Nutz

    August 11, 2014 08:23 AM

    Jimmy Rollins is not done playing yet. He has AT LEAST one year left. To try and make his case for the HOF or his case to not be in the HOF is very premature at this point.

    He is still the 6th best defensive SS in baseball right now according to Fangraphs. And he has been very effective at the plate for a SS … its not unrealistic at all (of course, pending injury) that he can play another 3 years. Certainly giving him a very real compilers chance at the hall.

    if he has another 3 years (yes optimisitc but realistic) he could be looking at estimates of
    H – 2,600+
    HR – 240 – 250
    2B – 500+
    SB – 500+
    RBI – 1,000+

    That looks pretty HOF worthy to me as a SS when you couple in his defensive talents.

    I get that people have changed their outlook on what makes a hall of famer and nobody any longer likes to take a look at a players career relative to his position. But, to completely neglect that argument is also ridiculous. Especially when said player is and has been elite defensively at that position – even more so when the position puts a premium on defense.

    Does he make it, who knows. But to discount it already is premature is all im saying. He’s not done playing yet and looks like he can play a few more quality years still.

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