Phillies Focus: Jimmy Rollins

December 22nd, 2011 by Mike H. | Filed under Baseball, Phillies.

Jimmy Rollins: Help or Hinderance?

Monday afternoon, Jimmy Rollins was re-introduced as the starting short stop for the Phillies after signing a 3 year contract worth 33 million dollars. The deal also contains a 4th year vesting option valued at 11 million dollars. If the option does not vest, the Phillies hold an 8 million dollar club option and Rollins holds a 5 million dollar player option. Is Jimmy really worth the money? Could the Phillies just as easily saved 10.5 million dollars for 2012 by going with in-house option Freddy Galvis? Let’s dive into some comparisons and see if we can clear up the debate.

To some, Jimmy Rollins is known for his defense, for his charismatic personality, for his leadership, for the intangibles he brings to the clubhouse. Some have said that Jimmy Rollins is to the Phillies what Derek Jeter is to the New York Yankees. I think that last part is pretty bold statement considering that Jeter has led the Yankees to multiple world championships while Jimmy has only led the Phillies to one. Jeter has led by example, hitting below .290 in just one of his seventeen seasons in the Bronx. Rollins on the other hand, has hit over .290 just once in his twelve seasons in South Philly.

Some say that Jimmy is still a top 5 short stop in baseball. I guess that is a debatable position to take depending on your information. According to fangraphs.com, Jimmy Rollins (9th) is barely inside the top 10 in regards to Wins Above Replacement (WAR). So for the purpose of this article, we’ll use the top 3 short stops in 2011 as determined by WAR, plus the players that bookend Rollins as well:

To the people who consider Jimmy Rollins a catalyst or spark plug, Tulowitski, Reyes, and Peralta all had a better slash line, (batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage) OPS+, and RC+ than Rollins did in 2011. In fact, both Aybar (8th) and Cabrera (10th) had better numbers outside of only on base percentage than Rollins.

I found it interesting that Rollins had the lowest RC+ score. RC+ values how much a players is involved with creating runs, whether it be batting one in or scoring one yourself. Arguably, only Jimmy’s high level of defense keeps him in the top 10 of all short stops based on WAR ratings. The only area where I see Rollins as an elite player offensively is his pitch recognition. Rollins struck out 9.4% of the time, which is only second to Jose Reyes (7.0%) in 2011 among the top 10 short stops.

Defensively, there are no real individual stats can define how good a player is. UZR and UZR 150 take into a lot of defensive variables. A lot of people say that Rollins’ defense is still top 5 as well. While I will definitely agree that Rollins makes a lot of dazzling plays in the field, his UZR numbers place him 7th. While that is on the verge of splitting hairs from 5th to 7th, the disparity between Rollins’ 2.9 UZR in 2011 to the 6th place Elvis Andrus’ 7.0 UZR in 2011 is pretty large.

A defensive stat that I like is the one in the first column, F20%. It basically takes into account the percentage of fielded balls that translated into outs. Now, it  should  be a considerably high percentage for all major league short stops, but it is slightly lower than your elite level defenders as  defined by our use of UZR. Rollins’ F20% stat lines up more with your second tier defensive players.

So by our use of WAR, UZR, F20%, and RC+, we can easily determine that while Rollins is clearly a top 10 short stop. He is, however, not a top 5 offensively or defensively. A very likely variable on why that number has decreased is age. Rollins is in the “golden years” of his baseball career. He’ll likely go year to year, if he does not retire, after the completion of his current deal. Speaking of his current deal, let’s wrap our discussion by seeing how the Phillies faired in the deal.

While some of the pundits seem to think that the Phillies got a great deal for Rollins, I kind of think that it was definitely an overpay. Rollins is a declining player, that is slowly falling out of the top 10 of major league short stops, yet he is being paid like he is a top three short stop. It really looks like the Phillies are paying Rollins for previous success, which is never a smart business decision. Is it possible that the Phillies increased the AAV to make up for the shortness of the deal? Keep in mind that Rollins was adamant about getting a five year deal at the end of the season.

In my estimation, this deal is definitely in the category that hinders this team moving forward. With the Phillies payroll climbing, where is the money to sign Cole Hamels and Hunter Pence to long-term deals? With the majority of the Phillies top prospects approaching the AA level, are we being primed to see a changing of the guard? What happens to Freddy Galvis now that Rollins has at least 3 more years in red pinstripes? In a perfect world, Rollins would agree to move to third base after the 2012 season and Galvis can take over at short stop. Knowing the type of player that Rollins is, I highly doubt that happens.

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One Response to “Phillies Focus: Jimmy Rollins”

  1. ChrisLeo33 says:

    Great article Mike, I agree with you that it seems like overpay for Rollins. Also the stats comparisons were very enlightening.