We near the end of our 2011 Phillies player review series. Today is Jimmy Rollins. Ryan Howard will be last.
Mystery team involved or not, the Phillies without Jimmy Rollins just wouldn’t seem right. Rollins’ decade as leader of the team has been one of the most interesting, exciting, frustrating, and fun tenures of any sports star in Philadelphia…maybe ever. In the same game – hell, in the same at-bat – he can make you smile and cringe several different times. But usually, in the end, you leave with a sense that Rollins has helped the Phillies in some way.
In 2011, frustration may have taken more of a central role in our feelings toward Rollins. No, he’ll never return to being the J-Roll of 2007 – the MVP-winning shortstop that exploded for a once-in-a-lifetime season. I think Phillies fans continue to believe there is some of that magic dust left somewhere. But, let’s be honest with ourselves; that J-Roll ain’t coming back.
What we’re left with is an aging, yet plenty-good Rollins that is beginning to fine-tune his game knowing that he can’t quite do the same things he did from ’01-’09. Leg injuries in 2010 scared folks into thinking the ultimate demise of Rollins was closer than expected. A better 2011 quelled those beliefs, somewhat.
A look at Rollins’ stats from ’11 and you’ll find all of those ingredients listed above. We’re frustrated because we believe Jimmy can be closer to a .300 hitter than a .250 hitter (he finished at .268 last season). The 16 homers he hit were an exciting addition of power to a team that, at times, struggled to produce power. The 30 bases Rollins swiped were fun to watch; his legs are still working pretty well, even at 33-years-old. An interesting piece of the statistical puzzle, however, is his lack of extra-base hits. Crossing off his injury-riddled 2010 year, Rollins set career lows in doubles (22) and triples (just two).
His .736 OPS is also cause for concern, as that number dipped to the second-lowest of his career (2010 not withstanding).
Defensively, he’s as solid as ever. Rollins has noticeably lost a quarter-step (three-eighths?) and his range at shortstop has suffered as a result. That being said, how many other shortstops in baseball would you trust over J-Roll? Maybe just a handful; names like Tulowitzki, Andrus, and a few others. Rollins is still a wizard with the glove and if he can continue that through most of the next contract he gets (presumably from the Phillies), then it’ll help make it worth paying the guy $10 million-plus per season.
You could make the argument he was aided by having a “Gold Glove” third baseman next to him in Placido Polanco – that is, when Polly could get on the field. Even so, Rollins committed only seven errors at a prime position in over 1,200 innings in 2011. His UZR in ’11 was just 2.9 and over the last three years that figure is 14.3, good for seventh among shortstops. However, the eye test tells me he’s been a solid contributor flashing the leather just as often as he did as a Younger James. (By the way, with UZR, I find that Asdrubal Cabrera, a fine shortstop in his own right, ranks second to last in UZR over the last three seasons).
What will we see from Jimmy once he gets that new contract? Hard to tell, but I’ll bet he gives solid defense as long as his legs allow him. He’ll also give some head-scratching plate appearances. He’ll also provide some rally-starting hits and steal some big bases, as he’s been known to do.
What can we hope for in the future (if he’s still with the Phillies, that is – and maybe if he isn’t)? That Rollins learns to use the gaps and corners to his advantage and that he puts himself in the best possible shape every season to combat the rigors of a full season at 33 and beyond.
As for 2011, it was vintage J-Roll, providing us with a rash of different emotions. And a pretty good year overall.