Sarge Is Awesome [.gifs]

Just a warning to you low-bandwidth, slow-computer people: there will be many .gifs after the jump, so don’t click through if you can’t handle it.

Staked to a four-run lead, the New York Mets wanted to get Mike Pelfrey through the bottom of the sixth inning as he was at the end of his rope, throwing over 120 pitches. With two outs and the bases empty, he had to get past Placido Polanco before hitting the showers. Polanco, as he always does, worked the count well, fouling a few pitches off and getting to 2-2. Pelfrey decided to throw him an inside slider, but went a bit too far inside, nearly hitting Polanco. Those of us watching on TV wondered if the ball grazed his uniform, but alas, it did not. 3-2 count.

Pelfrey then started jawing at Polanco for seemingly no reason. Broadcaster Tom McCarthy speculated that it was because Pelfrey thought Polanco was trying to lean into the pitch to get a free trip to first base. Polanco was as surprised as anybody to hear the criticism. The .gifs show this story unfolding in hilarious fashion. Click the link to watch the scene.

Continue reading…

The Cost of Injuries

Last year, one of the more popular recurring articles here was the accounting of the Phillies’ various injuries. If you can recall, the Phillies were absolutely ravaged by them last year; in fact, the only regular position players not to miss time due to an injury were Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez. This year is a different story. While the Phillies have had to deal with injuries, the effect has not been felt nearly as much on account of the extreme amount of success they have enjoyed throughout the season. After 128 games last year, the Phillies were 71-57, two games behind in second place. This year, they are 83-45, six games ahead in first place.

The Phillies’ WPHL broadcast posted this interesting graphic in the opener on Tuesday, detailing the long list of injuries suffered this year:

For those keeping score at home, that is 15 different players losing time to injury.

Using information from Cot’s Contracts, we are able to find out how much the injuries are costing the Phillies. Below is a table with the totals and a graph to put it in perspective.

Player Absent $/Gm $ to Date Cost
Lidge 100 $70,988 $9.09M $7.10M
Oswalt 56 $98,765 $12.64M $5.53M
Blanton 100 $52,469 $6.72M $5.25M
Utley 46 $92,593 $11.85M $4.26M
Contreras 111 $15,432 $1.98M $1.71M
Victorino 26 $46,296 $5.93M $1.20M
Polanco 33 $32,407 $4.15M $1.07M
Madson 20 $27,778 $3.56M $0.56M
Schneider 41 $9,259 $1.19M $0.38M
Ruiz 13 $16,975 $2.17M $0.22M
Rollins 3 $52,469 $6.72M $0.16M
Hamels 2 $58,642 $7.51M $0.12M
Romero 14 $8,333 $1.07M $0.12M
Brown 44 $2,556 $0.33M $0.11M

(click to enlarge)

Players listed as day-to-day were excluded, as was Brian Bocock.

The 14 players above have combined for nearly $28 million in missed time, not including the pro-rated salaries of the players who were added to the 25-man roster as replacements, such as Dane Sardinha, Pete Orr, Mike Zagurski, and Juan Perez.

Compared to mid-September last year, the Phillies have actually had more money spent on injured players, even though fewer players have been injured. On September 18, 2010, injuries had cost the Phillies $19.2 million on 582 DL-days. This year, $27.8 million has spent spent on 609 DL-days. Additionally, only one player had spent 70 or more days on the DL — J.A. Happ, 88 days — while three have done so this year. In fact, three players have lost 100 or more days to the DL: Brad Lidge and Joe Blanton with 100, and Jose Contreras with 111.

What is important to note is that the Phillies’ injuries in 2011 have targeted mostly non-essential players. Brad Lidge was, at best, a #3 on the Phillies’ bullpen depth chart going into the season. Roy Oswalt was #4 in the rotation behind Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels; Joe Blanton was #5. At various points last year, the Phillies went without half or more of their starting infield. As an example, when Halladay threw his perfect game against the Florida Marlins on May 29, 2010, Wilson Valdez started at shortstop and Juan Castro started at third base.

Overall, injuries this year haven’t had much of an effect on the Phillies’ ability to perform. Not only have they had significantly more breathing room, but they have had their optimal lineup (or close to it), both in terms of offense and pitching, for much of the season. The Phillies may have lost more in salary, but this year’s injury bug is not nearly as threatening.

Update on Shutdowns/Meltdowns

With the recent implosions by Phillies relievers, coupled with the season-ending injury of Jose Contreras and the debut of Michael Schwimer, much of the discussion about the Phillies recently has centered around the bullpen. After all, the starting pitching has been pristine as always and the offense has not caused any concerns ever since Chase Utley came back. As the Fightins are the class of the National League, the big concerns lie not with the rest of the regular season, but with the playoffs. Will the Phillies’ bullpen be good enough in October?

About a month ago, I wrote about the bullpen using stats from FanGraphs called shutdowns and meltdowns. The two stats track a reliever’s contributions to his team’s chances of winning the game. Increase the probability of winning by six percent or more, get a shutdown; hurt your team’s odds of winning by six percent or more, get a meltdown. At the time, it was no surprise just how well the Phillies graded out. To that point, Ryan Madson had been lights out and Antonio Bastardo was nearly unhittable.

With two depressing losses against the Washington Nationals — one where Madson gave up six runs in the bottom of the ninth, and another where Bastardo allowed a two-strike, two-out game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth — the bullpen was starting to look vaguely human. Fans on Twitter started worrying and talk radio callers prophesied doomsday scenarios; the team on pace for 105 wins was growing a bald spot!

The bullpen is not an issue — not even close. The Phillies have the second-best shutdown-to-meltdown ratio in all of baseball at 2.8 percent, exceeded only by the Atlanta Braves (3.1) and tied with the San Francisco Giants. That’s quite good company to keep. The Phillies also have the fewest meltdowns in baseball with just 35. The Boston Red Sox have the second-fewest with 40; the MLB average is 53.

Obviously, a factor in the Phillies rarely melting down is having few opportunities in which to melt down. The starting rotation eats up the lion’s share of the innings, a fact that should surprise nobody. In fact, in four fewer games, Phillies starters have pitched 37 more innings than the Milwaukee Brewers in second place with 799.2 starter innings pitched. Additionally, Phillies starters have tossed 15 complete games, a whopping nine more than the Los Angeles Dodgers, in second place with six.

On an individual level, Bastardo ranks among the elite. Just five relievers in Major League Baseball have a shutdown-to-meltdown ratio at 10.0 or greater; Bastardo is one of them.

Name Team SD MD TOT SD/MD
Greg Holland Royals 19 1 20 19.0
Jonny Venters Braves 43 3 46 14.3
Jonathan Papelbon Red Sox 27 2 29 13.5
John Axford Brewers 37 3 40 12.3
Antonio Bastardo Phillies 30 3 33 10.0

Madson isn’t far behind at 24-4 with a SD/MD ratio of 6.0, good for eighth place.

The Phillies may not have the best bullpen in baseball, but they are as safe as anybody if the starters can get through seven innings with a lead. Going into the post-season, the Phillies are just fine with the bullpen as presently constructed.

Your Twitter Questions Answered

Contracts and likelihood aside for a moment, who would you rather have at 1B: Ryan Howard or Jim Thome? (@TVGugs)

Ryan Howard, and it’s not as close as you’d think. Thome hasn’t played first base since 2007 and he hasn’t played there regularly since he was last a Phillie in 2005. I couldn’t see Thome being an asset defensively at first base. And for all the grief that Howard gets from the Saber crowd, he’s not awful defensively. It seems like first basemen are underrated defensively by UZR, so I take his 0.2, -12.6, and -4.6 marks from 2009-11 to tell me he’s about average. Offensively, the two players are about the same with Thome being a little bit better in the getting-on-base department.

With advanced metrics, where does Carlton’s ’72 season rank all-time? (@Pat_Donovan)

Unfortunately, FanGraphs doesn’t have a Play Index and Baseball Reference won’t let you search for FIP with its PI, so I can’t give a straight-up answer to that. However, I think it’s safe to say his 2.01 FIP (which was only four points higher than his ERA) is among the best. Not quite as good as 1997-2001 Pedro Martinez, but elite nonetheless. Martinez’s dominance was quite impressive because it came in the apex of the super-offense era (I refuse to call it the “steroid era”) when the average AL team scored five runs per game; in 1972, the average was 3.5 runs per game.

Jimmy’s injury… does this make it more or less likely he re-signs with the Phillies? Or, no effect? (@FelskeFiles)

Unless the injury is more serious than we think, and if it affects his performance, then it will be a hot button issue, but for now, it’s not going to affect anything. As long as Jimmy can use the off-season to recharge the ol’ batteries, there will be a few teams getting in line early to negotiate with him if the Phillies don’t get to him first. There just aren’t that many great shortstops in baseball, so if teams have to take a risk with an injury-prone player, they will. Jose Reyes is going to get a boatload of money in the off-season and he hasn’t even reached 100 games played this season.

what team is the least favorable post season matchup for the Phils? Giants? Brewers? Braves? (@bje79)

I think it’s pretty clearly the Atlanta Braves. The NL West may as well be the Triple-A of the National League, and the Milwaukee Brewers have been extremely lucky especially as of late. At the moment, they are out-performing their Pythagorean record by seven games. If the Braves are able to get Jason Heyward rolling (and in the lineup consistently), the Braves could be trouble in a best-of-seven series. On a good night, their starting pitching can go toe-to-toe with the Phillies’, so it is just a matter of a few favorable rolls of the die. And there is just no recourse once they get to the eighth inning with a lead.

Whom do you see as the Phillies closer in 2012? (@tholzerman)

That’s a tough question. I can see them going down any number of paths: re-signing Ryan Madson, going with Antonio Bastardo, or going after a free agent. At the moment, the Phillies already have $113 million tied up in 2012, going to nine players (assumes Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge‘s contracts will be bought out). I see the Phillies retaining Rollins at something close to three years, $39 million, so bump that up to around $126 million to ten players. The Phillies have been mindful of the luxury tax at $178 million, so that leaves them with a bit over $50 million for 15 roster spaces.

The next question is figuring out what it would take to retain Madson’s services. Given that his agent is Scott Boras and that he has emerged as a top-tier reliever with closer experience, I don’t see him settling the way he did back in 2009. If the Phillies have learned anything from the Brad Lidge scenario, it’s that bad things happen when you tie up a lot of money and years into a relief pitcher. It’s tough to say if they did learn that lesson; if they did, Bastardo will get the nod.

If I had to put it in percentages, I’d say 45% they stay with Madson, 45% they go with Bastardo, and 10% they go with a free agent closer.

Would it be too arrogant of the Phillies to let Cliff Lee DH a game in the World Series? (@skirkmcguirk)

Yes. But seriously, though, he can’t be any worse than Ross Gload, right? Lee’s .592 OPS puts him ahead of Pete Orr (.590), Michael Martinez (.550), Brian Schneider (.539), and Gload (.530) — and just behind Wilson Valdez (.592). Lee’s two homers tie or exceed everyone else’s total on the bench except Ben Francisco (6) and John Mayberry (10).

who is your favorite player excluding Ryan Howard? (@Giving_Chase)

Chase Utley. Not even close.

I’ll ask a serious question – What’s the max $ you’d give to Rollins? (@LoganDobson)

PECOTA sees Rollins as a ~2.3 WARP player on average over the next three years. At $5 million per WARP, he would be worth about $11-12 million annually. I would be fine between 3/$36M and 3/$42M but I could see him getting offered more than that if his health problems aren’t an issue and if Jose Reyes makes a killing on the open market. I don’t have a problem if the Phillies overpay Rollins a bit.

What do you expect from John Mayberry, for the remainder of this year and next? (@DashTreyhorn)

I have to play Debbie Downer with Yayberry. I think his success this year is a combination of a small sample size, pitcher unfamiliarity, and favorable conditions — he usually pinch-hits or starts games in situations that would favor him. He has had the platoon advantage in 41 percent of his plate appearances. To put that in perspective, among right-handed hitters with 200 or more plate appearances, only Xavier Nady (51%) and Matt Diaz (50%) have had the platoon advantage more frequently than Mayberry.

Remember how good Ryan Howard was when he entered the league? Pitchers tried to get him out every which way and Howard kept hitting the ball out of the ballpark. Eventually, though, they found his Achilles heel — left-handed pitchers throwing slop that breaks low and away, out of the strike zone. The same will happen to Mayberry. We have yet to see how he adapts, so the real test has yet to come.

victorino’s MVP chances? (@mikemcgoo)

Unless he goes on a tear over the next six weeks, I’d say pretty slim. Justin Upton is an outfielder having a better year and he is a much more well-known name, so if he keeps it up, I think he ends up with the hardware. If the Arizona Diamondbacks reach the post-season, he will only gain more favor of the “MVP must come from a playoff team” crowd.

Additionally, Victorino has missed time with two stints on the DL and a two-game suspension. While Upton has played in 127 games, Victorino has only played in 97. At FanGraphs, TangoTiger polled the readers to see how much playing a game was worth, and came away debiting a player 0.35 runs for missing a game. 30 games times 0.35 is 10.5 runs, or a little over one win.

Victorino should at least be in the discussion, though.

beyond this year, what would be the ideal lineup next season for the phillies (assuming no signings)? (@santo_caruso)

With the caveat that lineup construction doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, I’d go with Victorino-Utley-Pence-Howard-Rollins-Ruiz-Mayberry-Polanco-Pitcher. Not sure how that matches up with the most optimal lineup, but I think it makes sense.

Are the Phillies going to make ANY free agent signings this winter? If so, what position and who is possible? (@AntsinIN)

A lot of it depends on how the negotiations with Rollins play out. If Rollins leaves, they could go after a lower-tier shortstop; I don’t see them getting involved in the Jose Reyes sweepstakes. Also, as mentioned above, I could see them signing a free agent closer like Heath Bell.

Which reliever do you trust the most right now after Madstardo? And how would Worley figure in the playoff ‘pen?

Personally, I like Michael Schwimer even though he’s only pitched three innings in the Majors. He has decent strikeout stuff and good control, both two very important things to have as a reliever (and as a pitcher in general). If you want to hold his lack of MLB experience against me, my next answer would be David Herndon. I’ve been harsh to the guy in the past, but he found a way to miss more bats while still getting the same amount of ground balls. He is significantly better than he was last year.

If you could choose the stats shown on the scoreboard at CBP, what would you pick (keeping in mind the audience)? (@bsullivan_)

I’d just take RBI off. People don’t look at the scoreboard to analyze a player, so cluttering it up with more advanced stats would be pointless. But I would totally remove RBI because the continued ubiquity of the stat engenders bad habits.

Is mayberry making a case for the startimg OF job next year? (@CubeSide)

I wanted to answer “no” to this question, but really, he is. Domonic Brown isn’t doing so well in Triple-A right now (granted, it’s a small sample) and Mayberry has been on a tear. Everyone should hope that Brown has the left field job to himself going into 2012, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case. After all, teams love to add competition and making Brown fret may be another means of motivation.

What’s your stance on the cy young? Lee is making a statement so Doc isn’t such an easy shoe-in…

Overall, I really don’t care about anything the Baseball Writers Association of America gets involved with anymore. I used to care about the awards but they’re just not a big deal to me anymore. As to who wins, there’s still time for a late push, but Roy Halladay is the overwhelming favorite at this point.

What we do about power off the bench? (@Caoimhin89)

It’s not much of a problem. Everyone remembers the Matt Stairs home run, but 99% of the important plate appearances in the playoffs will be taken by players in the starting lineup. Having a bat off the bench who can pop a home run is a nice thing to have, but not a necessity. The Phillies are fine going into the playoffs with the bench they have currently, assuming Rollins is able to get back in the lineup.

realistic odds Phils add Thome on waivers? (@mthompson303)

Zero percent. Well, it’s non-zero, but virtually zero, anyway. Hard to see Thome not being claimed by 29 other teams.

should the Phillies leave Mayberry in and use Raul as a LHB off the bench or keep splitting the time bt them? (@yiliu5)

If there is anything to Ibanez’s monthly trends, going forward with Ibanez playing every day may not be so bad. Barring that, Mayberry is significantly more productive than Ibanez not just offensively, but defensively and on the bases as well. We’re at the point where Ibanez is simply a liability and the less playing time he gets, the better.

Twitter Q&A

As I was preparing to head into Philly to tape today’s episode of “Stathead“, I received note that the show was cancelled and would return next Tuesday. So, I have a bit of free time and there’s nothing in the blog queue. To fill both my free time and get some content up for you guys, I’m going to do a Twitter Q&A, completely stealing the idea from Craig Calcaterra. If you’d like to ask me a question about the Phillies, follow me on Twitter, then send me a question. I’ll try to answer them all, but don’t take it personally if I don’t get to yours.

Michael Schwimer Makes His MLB Debut

After several days of anticipation, Phillies fans finally got to see highly-touted relief prospect Michael Schwimer make his MLB debut yesterday against the Washington Nationals. The right-hander averaged nearly 12 strikeouts per nine innings with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, helping him maintain a 1.88 ERA. A rain delay shortened Roy Halladay‘s outing, opening the door for Schwimer to get his first taste of the big leagues, starting the bottom of the sixth inning.

While fans were hoping for a storybook start to his Major League career, Rookie of the Year candidate Danny Espinosa had other things in mind. The Nationals’ second baseman drove Schwimer’s second pitch, a fastball down the middle, well beyond the fence in right-center field. Quite the inauspicious start, given the hype. However, Schwimer quickly rebounded and retired the next three Nationals for an otherwise easy inning.

As the Phillies will play 23 games in the next 24 days, giving the rest of the bullpen a breather was a goal for Charlie Manuel — after winning the game, of course. So, Schwimer was called upon to pitch not just one but three innings, a yeoman’s effort as the late Harry Kalas would say. Schwimer’s second inning of work in the seventh went much more smoothly — he struck out the side, the #1-3 hitters in the Nationals lineup. The eighth inning was nearly as smooth: he got two quick outs, including a Jayson Werth strikeout, and worked around an Espinosa single to end the inning.

All told, the rookie’s line in his Major League debut: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR. Quite good.

Schwimer showcased a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a slider, and a change-up. You can see a .gif for each pitch after the jump, a warning to those of you with low bandwidth or otherwise slow computers. Continue reading…

Risk Aversion

I will try not to make this a frequent occurrence, as most people familiar with me know what I am about to say, but I just have to complain once again about Charlie Manuel‘s use of his starting rotation and his lack of use of the bullpen. Roy Oswalt made his third start since being activated from the disabled list in early August. His first start back was unspectacular and he didn’t have his normal velocity against the San Francisco Giants, who scattered 12 hits over six innings. Oswalt bounced back on August 13 with seven solid frames against the Washington Nationals while his velocity returned to normal.

Last night, however, Oswalt had arguably his best start of the season. Over eight innings, he struck out nine Nationals, beating his previous season-high of seven against the San Diego Padres on April 21. While there is some skepticism about the accuracy of the radar guns at Nationals Park, Oswalt was consistently around 91-94 MPH, averaging over 92 MPH. If there were any concerns about Oswalt last night, they were quickly laid to rest with his dominance of the Washington lineup. It was a pretty easy game. While Oswalt was breezing through eight innings, the Phillies took advantage of the mediocre John Lannan and the Nationals’ unreliable defense, tossing up five runs through six innings.

The issue came going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Oswalt, three starts removed from the DL, was at 96 pitches and the Phillies were 98 percent favorites in the game (and virtual locks for the playoffs), according to FanGraphs. While the bullpen was short a couple arms (Ryan Madson and David Herndon), recent call-up Michael Schwimer was certainly available, having spent a few days in the ‘pen with no actual work. Instead, Manuel sent Oswalt out to start the eighth.

Oswalt continued to dominate, striking out the first two Nationals he faced, Ian Desmond on five pitches and Rick Ankiel on nine. Ryan Zimmerman kept the inning alive by singling on the fourth pitch he saw. Oswalt had accrued an additional 18 pitches since the start of the inning, putting him at 114. Manuel strode to the mound, but as has been the case so often this year, did not remove his starter. He had a light-hearted chat with his pitcher, then jogged back towards the dugout.

Even if there was a legitimate reason to let Oswalt start the eighth, there certainly wasn’t one to let him finish off the inning. It has little to do with the specific pitch count, other than that it was “high”. Every pitch carries more risk than the preceding pitch. Even if we can’t quantify exactly how much, we know this to be the case. Additionally, when assessing the risk and reward of each scenario, we are really looking for an expected value; basically, what we stand to gain and how often we can expect to win versus what we stand to lose and how often we can expect to lose. Again, even if we can’t quantify every aspect, we can at least give ourselves a good idea of where we stand.

After the Zimmerman single, the Phillies were 99 percent favorites to win the game, up one percent from the start of the inning. Let’s make a list of potential rewards for letting Oswalt finish the inning:

I can’t think of one. The Phillies stood to gain one or two percentage points in win probability (virtual locks) and zero change in their playoff standings, since they are virtual locks and were playing a 60-63 team with no playoff hopes whatsoever.

How about a list of things that could have gone wrong?

  • Oswalt gets injured

What would they stand to lose in that scenario?

  • Their post-season starting rotation is short a pitcher, either putting more strain on Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, or requiring the Phillies to use Vance Worley in his stead. While there are arguments to be made that a swap from Oswalt to Worley wouldn’t be negative, it is certainly not a situation the Phillies would like to deal with, given their current situation.

Even if the probability of injury is small, say five percent, it still vastly outweighs the next-to-nothing the Phillies gain from using Oswalt for a meaningless regular season game in mid-August.

As I’ve said in previous articles, I fully recognize that Manuel is extremely skilled at managing a clubhouse. A strong argument could be made that he is the best manager in that regard in Major League Baseball. Perhaps he better earns the trust and support of his clubhouse by taking risks such as leaving his starters in for an inning or two too long. That’s certainly possible.

Even if that were true, though, is it really necessary to risk the team’s playoff future and a player’s short- and long-term health for that? That’s about as close to a legitimate argument as I’ve heard support the superfluous taxing of the starters’ arms, and it still comes up very short, in my estimation.

Finally, what is the point of going with a 12-man pitching staff when you aren’t going to use them all? Schwimer was promoted on Wednesday, and he has yet to pitch in a game. The eighth inning of last night’s game was a perfect opportunity to get the rookie’s feet wet: it was a low leverage spot and the Phillies would have greatly appreciated a solid inning (or two) of work with Madson and Herndon unavailable. Yet the rookie sat on the pine again while Oswalt tossed pitches 97 through 116 and the Phillies’ odds of winning increased by one whole percentage point. With Ross Gload playing injured (often needed to be pinch-run for when he gets on base) and only one other infielder on the roster with Placido Polanco injured, it would seem better to carry 11 pitchers and add another back-up infielder, perhaps Pete Orr.

The Phillies are on pace for 106 wins. They’re super awesome and we should all be extremely grateful for what we get to watch on a daily basis. However, it will all be for naught if the Phillies falter in the post-season because one of their starters suffered an injury in the eighth inning of a meaningless game in August because Manuel didn’t want to make his guy feel less manly, or because he wanted to chase a CG SHO. It’s just not worth the risk.

Ryan Sommers put it beautifully in his article on August 17:

Even once the playoffs arrive, for all the hair-pulling, hand-wringing, and second-guessing that will occur, the Phillies are essentially throwing the best roster in the league at a swirling cyclone of small sample variance and unpredictable machinations and hoping that they’re spit out on the other side as World Champions.

Let’s hope that “the best roster in the league” they throw at that swirling cyclone of small sample variance includes each every one of the four aces they worked to hard to acquire and keep around.

About Last Night…

So, just about everybody will have you covered with what went on last night, and I don’t have too much to add. The Nationals’ six-run ninth inning was one part Ryan Madson getting unlucky and one part Madson pitching poorly. (All right, maybe a dash of credit to the Nats for rallying in the first place.) Based on the reactions I saw on Twitter, there was a lot of knee-jerking, so I just want all of Philadelphia to know I have a rolled-up newspaper and I’m not afraid to hit you with it if you get out of line.

Remember: crashburnalley.com/2011/07/25/phillies-pitching-dominant-including-the-bullpen/

Take the loss in stride, like Chase Utley.

Is J-Roll Losing A Step?

Jimmy Rollins has often been a target for criticism throughout his Phillies career. Early in his career, he was a bit schizophrenic, resulting in fans referring to him as “Good Jimmy” when he was mechanically sound and “Bad Jimmy” when he was completely off-kilter. More recently, fans grew agitated when he would swing at the first pitch, calling him “First Pitch Jimmy” derisively. One area that has never been a reason for concern is his base running.

From 2001-10, Rollins has stolen 340 bases in 410 attempts, good for a success rate at 83 percent. Only six other players have stolen 300 bases dating back to 2001; none of them have a better success rate.

Player SB CS SB% From To Age Team
Juan Pierre 520 167 76% 2001 2010 23-32 COL-FLA-CHC-LAD-CHW
Carl Crawford 409 90 82% 2002 2010 20-28 TBD-TBR
Ichiro Suzuki 383 88 81% 2001 2010 27-36 SEA
Jimmy Rollins 340 70 83% 2001 2010 22-31 PHI
Jose Reyes 331 85 80% 2003 2010 20-27 NYM
Chone Figgins 322 111 74% 2002 2010 24-32 ANA-LAA-SEA
Scott Podsednik 301 102 75% 2001 2010 25-34 SEA-MIL-CHW-COL
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/19/2011.

While many have rightfully given credit to Davey Lopes for the Phillies’ overall base running excellence as of late, Rollins has always been aggressive and efficient. From 2001-06, before the Lopes era, Rollins stole 30 or more bases in five of six seasons with an aggregate stolen base success rate at 80 percent. However, from 2007-10, Rollins stole 30-plus bases in three of four seasons (the other season was injury-shortened) with a success rate at 88 percent.

Lopes left the Phillies for the smoggier atmosphere of Los Angeles before the 2011 season, but Rollins didn’t seem to be affected. From the start of the season to July 24, Rollins had stolen 21 bases in 23 attempts (91 percent). Not only did Rollins not need Lopes, he had also put to rest any questions pertaining to lingering injuries — calf and thigh injuries ruined his 2010 season. Since July 24, however, Rollins has only stolen seven bases in 12 attempts (58 percent). Most of the time he has been caught recently, such as one on August 17 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was out by a mile.

While, at least in the .gif above, credit should be given to catcher Henry Blanco on a great throw, Rollins never gets thrown out that badly. That, along with his overall recent woes on the base paths as of late, makes me wonder if J-Roll is losing a step. He is, after all, 32 years old, his prime drifting out of sight in the rear view mirror.

At the same time, Rollins still looks fine at the plate (.743 OPS since July 25) and has been playing nothing short of stellar defense at shortstop. If he was injured, particularly experiencing a re-aggravation of the calf or thigh injuries from last year, then we would see him slip in other areas, but that has not been the case. It’s certainly not the absence of Lopes, as Rollins was just as good without him in the first three and a half months.

Everyone is aware of J-Roll’s contract situation: he is eligible for free agency after the season, ostensibly his last chance for a lucrative multi-year contract. Negotiations between Rollins and the Phillies have been few and far between. If the Phillies were wary of his durability, Rollins has passed every test with flying colors. However, if it is true that Rollins has simply “lost a step”, it is a legitimate reason for concern — players don’t recapture those lost steps, after all. J-Roll has the final six weeks of the regular season and the post-season to assuage our concerns; otherwise, a wrench will be thrown into the free agent market for shortstops.