This season hasn’t yet been kind to our fair shortstop, Jimmy Rollins. Let’s dive into the numbers and see where he might be going wrong:
Rollins’ biggest crux seems to be swinging as a right-handed hitter. He’ll do this when facing a left-handed pitcher. Those numbers: 14 AB / 1 H. The hit was a single, and was a pitch thrown right down the turnpike. Now, this is a small sample size, of course.
As a left-handed hitter he also hasn’t had great success. Those numbers: 42 AB / 9 H (1 HR, 2 2B). The home run was a pitch down the turnpike that he pulled into right field. He’s had his best success with pitches outside the zone, which would normally signify he’s probably late on breaking pitches, driving them the other way for hits. However, that’s not the case. Almost all of Rollins hits are up the middle; one hit was pulled into shallow outfield for a hit; one was hit the other way down the left field line.
Interestingly, his metrics are in line with career numbers. He’s swinging at pitches outside the zone at the same rate (19 percent this year) as usual; he’s actually swinging at pitches inside the strike zone at normal rates; moreover, his contact rates are right on. He has struck out seven times so far, putting him in line for approximately 85 strikeouts, which is close to his normal total.
So why is Rollins hitting .179?
Chris Wheeler noted that Rollins was seeing more breaking pitches than usual this season. This is true: he has seen 5 percent more sliders and 3 percent more curve balls; conversely, Rollins has seen 2 percent fewer changeups. This may not seem like a huge difference, but it is: Seeing just a few more breaking balls, and early in counts, will throw off a hitter. Especially Rollins, who enjoys locking in on first-pitch fastballs sometimes. Since he’s swinging at normal rates, making contact at normal rates and yet showing poor results, the issue, of course, is timing. He’s minutely off.
Minute is important. He is making contact, but he’s swinging slightly too early, expecting fastball but instead, making contact with a breaking pitch as it falls on its second motion. That induces the weak ground ball to a slider, or the weak pop up to a curveball.
What’s the solution? Rollins has to keep swinging; the swing will lock in once he gets a feel for the pitches he’s seeing. If he’s milliseconds off the slider and curve, he’s close enough to rectifying, he just has to adapt. Taking a few pitches wouldn’t hurt, either, but if Rollins is to be a main cog in the offensive production come midseason, he has to keep attempting to get on base via the hit. It’s the best bet for the team.