Beyond The Numbers: Jimmy Rollins

October 3rd, 2013 by Mike H. | Filed under Baseball, General, Phillies.

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Numbers don’t lie in baseball. Every debate can be won or lost on a varying degree of quantifiable and non-quantifiable stats. For years, the Phillies were a team that was only as successful as their leadoff man, Jimmy Rollins. As the Phillies, and Jimmy Rollins, end yet another sub-mediocre season, it made me wonder if Jimmy Rollins needs the Phillies more than they need him. His questionable demeanor on and off the field makes him anything less than what a leader should be. His overall production is borderline causing more of a hinderance than a catalyst. So let’s drill down Rollins’ numbers and see what we learn.

Rollins spent five seasons in the minors after being drafted out of high school by the Phillies. In 2000, Rollins ranked 95th on Baseball America’s preseason top 100 prospects list and peaked at 35th the following season, despite never truly dominating any level. In the five seasons in the minors, Rollins accumulated a triple slash line of .262/.329/.385. Between his speed and defensive ability, one could definitely understand why scouts thought Rollins would eventually be a premiere player. Unfortunately, Rollins’ offensive game, like the game itself, ebbed and flowed.

Rollins’ first four major league seasons panned out eerily similar to his minor league stats. Rollins accumulated a stat line of .262/.317/.395 from 2000-2003. Rollins the headliner appeared with the opening of Citizens Bank Park in 2004. He exploded onto the scene and from 2004 thru his 2007 MVP season and the World Championship in 2008, Rollins produced at an alarming level. For five years, Rollins averaged a .286/.342/.468 line. Alarmingly, ever since winning a ring, Rollins’ numbers dwindled back down, almost mirroring his minor league and pre-CBP numbers, to .253/.317/.398.

So what happened to the straw that stirred this team’s drink? Did it disintegrate? Was it temporarily enhanced? Who knows, but for a period of time Rollins was considerably better than what his average states he should be, offensively at least. I’m not saying that Jimmy was on performance enhancing drugs, but his drastic increase and decrease statistically could infer otherwise.

As far as the team going as Jimmy goes, let’s look at that for a minute. It is true, the Phillies history does show that the Phillies have been successful when Rollins is successful, but how much of a difference maker is it? Let’s just look at the team’s success since winning the World Series by drilling down some splits. The following stats show the number of games Rollins played that season, followed by number of games won, and runs Rollins scored in those wins.

  • 2009: 155 games played (89 won). 78 runs scored.
  • 2010: 88 games played (54 won). 42 runs scored.
  • 2011: 142 games played (86 won). 73 runs scored.
  • 2012: 156 games played (79 won). 72 runs scored.
  • 2013: 160 games played (71 won) 43 runs scored.

So by year, Rollins scored 87.6% of the time he played and the Phillies won in 2009, 77.8% in 2010, 84.9% in 2011, 91.1% in 2012, and 60.6% in 2013. While most numbers outside of 2013 look respectable, let’s combine Rollins scoring during wins and actual team winning percentage. We are led to believe that if Rollins is scoring runs, then the team is destined to be successful. So combining Rollins scoring 87.6% of the time and a .574 winning percentage, Jimmy personally created a .502 winning percentage over 155 games, which equals 78 wins. In an injury shortened 2010, Rollins scored 77.8% of the time over a .477 winning percentage, creating a personal .371 winning percentage, or 33 wins. In 2011, an 84.9% run scoring percentage with a .606 team winning percentage equals a personal .514 winning percentage, or 73 wins. In 2012, a 91.1% run scoring percentage and a .506 team winning percentage equals a .465 personal winning percentage, or 73 wins. Finally in 2013, a 60.6% run scoring percentage and a .444 team winning percentage equals a .269 personal winning percentage, or 43 games.

Obviously, this doesn’t take into effect games where Rollins scored more than one run or zero runs in any win that he played in, but it is at least a decent ground work to see how he really does effect the outcome of a game. I think that is merely coincidental that Rollins’ doing well is as influential as it is made out to be. In fact, I think it is more likely, based on the quality/streakiness of this team, that the team is just doing better on a given night.

While Rollins has managed to play in 97.5% of the games since signing his three-year, thirty-three million dollar extension before the 2012 season, He’s hit well below his career batting average of .269, gotten on base at below average rate, and hit has barely hit for similar power. Which leads me to the contract. What is he getting paid for? The last two years of his previous deal weren’t exactly career years. In fact, they were statistically abysmal. As far as WAR is concerned, 2010 & 2011 barely classified Rollins as a major league starter. So he got rewarded for mediocrity? And in a market that played in the Phillies favor as it was one that had no real suitors for Rollins and they had a potential in-house candidate in Freddy Galvis.

While Galvis’ offensive numbers can be offensive, the money saved by not signing Rollins and going with Galvis at 5% of the cost would have helped this team in other ways. If Rollins wasn’t re-signed, there’s a good chance that Hunter Pence would have still roamed right field in 2013. Unfortunately, the Phillies may be stuck watching the demise of Rollins as his 2015 option vests with just 500 at bats in 2014. Even if the Phillies could find a team that would want the declining shortstop, Rollins has expressed that he has no desire in waving his no trade clause, so that he can make his way to the top of the Phillies all-time leader boards in various stats. While I don’t believe that the success of the Phillies is tied as closely to Rollins’ success as we are led to believe. I do believe that the failures will be.

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