2014 Phillies Report Card: Jimmy Rollins

We’ve come full circle. My first article for this site was a look at Jimmy Rollins‘ early-season success. It’s fitting, then, that I was (randomly) tasked with evaluating the 14th season of the greatest shortstop in Phillies history. Because of his past performance for this team and a skill set that still plays very well at his position, I expect a lot of Jimmy Rollins, and I know many of you do as well. Overall, I love the way he plays. I love watching him play defense, which he does better than most shortstops in the league. But man, sometimes I hate watching his plate appearances.

So I was really pleased to see a .370 OBP after 34 games. I dug deep into his swing patterns because I wanted there to be, nay, I truly believed there was, a concrete explanation indicating he could maintain some semblance of a patient plate approach. Of course, I didn’t expect him to maintain a .370 OBP for the season, but I did think he could manage a .340ish season. Well, Jimmy finished with a .323 OBP, which is basically just who he is as indicated by his career .327 OBP. He’s finished with an OBP above .340 just three times in his career: 2004, 2007, and 2008. That was a long time ago.

I’m focusing so much on OBP because Jimmy hits on top of the lineup, and if you haven’t heard, it’s important for the hitters at the top of the lineup to get on base. However, I don’t want to pretend any more that Rollins can be the player I want him to be, namely, one who gets on base more than 35% of the time. I accept him now for who he is and the skills he has –  good defense, decent baserunning that only hints at his speed demon days, above average power for his position, and essentially league average hit tools.

Relative to his position, Rollins performed quite well in 2014. Among qualified shortstops, he finished 10th in plate appearances, 3rd in homers, runs, and steals, and 9th in RBI. His walk rate of 10.5% was SECOND in the league and was the highest of his career.  His .151 ISO was 4th, and both his .319 wOBA and 102 wRC+ were 6th. Looking at the components of fWAR, his baserunning was 7th, his defense 6th, his offense 6th, and his overall 4th. Those are all pretty fantastic. By traditional and advanced metrics, Rollins was one of the best shortstops in the game this year. His offensive production was right up there with Hanley Ramirez, Ian Desmond, Jhonny Peralta, Starlin Castro, and Jose Reyes. Defensively, he’s still elite enough to be graded out as similar to Erick Aybar or Alcides Escobar.

There’s nothing overtly anomalistic in his batted ball numbers. So how did he manage to have a career-high walk rate but register a Jimmy Rollins OBP? A career high strikeout rate, that’s how. He struck out 16.4% of the time, matching his career high from 2003. His 100 strikeouts, though unsurprising given the 2012 and 2013 trend he showed toward a higher whiff rate, were the most he recorded in a single season since 2003.

A 35-year-old shortstop who’s been well past his peak for several years just put up a top-5 (at worst, top-7) season relative to his peers. That’s solid gold, and worth significantly more than the $11 million he collected. His contract is up after next year, and while I expect Jimmy to stick around until 2017 (hmm, what’s going to happen then?) there’s really no way to know how long he’ll be wearing red pinstripes. I’m going to enjoy Jimmy Rollins for who he is for as long as I can.

Grade: B+

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  1. Chris S.

    October 17, 2014 09:01 AM

    After last year my expectations for Rollins were extremely low. The fact he had such a fantastic year in all aspects of the game, I would have given the man an A+. Jimmy turned back the clock and it was great to see him play at such a high level. Hopefully he can do it again next year.

  2. Chris

    October 17, 2014 09:12 AM

    It was nice to see Rollins bounce back from whatever happened last year. His defense was expecting to go down, but didnt. He walked at the highest rate of his career I believe. He regained his power stroke. Ran the bases extremely well.

    I think the only thing that would stop me from giving him an A Chris S. is that his average did dip to .243. And I understand batting average isnt everything, you still need to hit some times to win games. His OBP was still a dip below his career norms (not expecting him to improve in that area), so his increased walk rate came at expense of his average – which isnt the worst thing. If he can maintain his walk rate next year, and get back to the .260-.265 average…. I think that would be absolutely ideal.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      October 17, 2014 01:19 PM

      His OBP was almost exactly his career average. His increased walk rate did not come at the expense of batting average. He struck out more because he was going for power. His average wasn’t that far off from what he’s done recently.

      • Chris

        October 17, 2014 01:23 PM

        Maybe my words came out wrong, but you said what I meant. His OBP was relative to what his careers what (I think it was .003 off), so the additional walks came with less hits. What I meant was I hope he still walks the same amount next year, and can raise his average to about .260-.265.

        If you can get that from Jimmy, he may be in discussion of best hitting SS in the game outside Tulo.

      • Chris S.

        October 17, 2014 01:33 PM

        What do you make of Jimmy’s BABIP? Is he unlucky or is it what we should expect from him since it has hovered around .269 (give or take 10 points) for the last 3 of the last 4 years. However, his career average is .286.

      • tbarr

        October 17, 2014 02:50 PM

        if his obp was the same and he walked at a higher rate then didn’t his avg drop accordingly? as far as swinging for power,well isn’t that what people have complained about him forever. lots of players strike out more late in their career due to lessening abilities

  3. Adam Dembowitz

    October 17, 2014 01:40 PM

    As I wrote in the article, his batted ball numbers don’t really show any big anomalies.

  4. Richard

    October 17, 2014 02:51 PM

    it’s also worth remembering/emphasising, for both his BA and OBP, that offense is down league-wide, so Rollins’ numbers this year are better relative to the league than they would have been in many other years of his career

  5. Carmine

    October 20, 2014 09:11 AM

    Good analysis, Adam. So what we have is a perfectly good shortstop offensively and defensively for not a lot of money in the scheme of things. That’s fine, but it also seems that the Jimmy Rollins of 2015 should not be hitting number one or two in the lineup. Part of what made the 2007-11 Phillies such a great team was that they had middle infielders who not only provided superb defense, but performed well in key spots in the batting order. Now, both Rollins and Utley are still providing good value compared to others at their positions but are value-losing propositions as number two and three hitters. Of course, that assumes the Phillies have better hitters from the traditional power slots in the lineup to take their place in those spots, which they don’t.

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