Is Jimmy Rollins a Hall of Famer?

June 28th, 2014 by Kyle Lutz | Filed under Baseball, General, Phillies.


Now that Jimmy Rollins has the Phillies’ all-time hits record under his belt and out of the way, what’s next to accomplish individually for him?

We all know he’s no longer in the prime of his career, but how big will his downward slope (continue to) be? Many other questions are pressing regarding Rollins. Will he remain with the team this year after the July 31st  non-waiver trade deadline? He’d have to waive his no-trade clause of course for that to happen; an idea he brought up four-days ago as “never honestly thinking about it.” Rollins discussed the topic with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

(Matt Slocum/AP)

“Even if somewhere else was the perfect spot, this is what I know. You weigh that against the instant gratification of winning right now. You leave, and there’s no guarantee you’re going to win anyways. You pack up to leave for a different organization, a different city, and it feels temporary. I can tell you that I have never honestly thought about waiving my no-trade clause.”

Speculation about where his whereabouts will be in a month from now aside, now I’ll discuss whether or not he’s a legitimate hall of famer or not.

2007 NL MVP
-Phillies’ all-time leader in hits (2247)
Three-time All-Star (2001-02, 2005)
-World-Series champion (2008)
Four-time Gold-Glove winner (2007-2009, 2012)
-MLB single-season record holder for at-bats with 716 (2007)
Silver-Slugger Award (2007)
-National League stolen-base champ (2001)

Career stats

Average/OBP/Slugging %/OPS- .268/.328/.424/.752
Hits- 2247
Runs- 1284
Home runs- 207
RBIs- 861
Doubles- 469
Triples- 109
Stolen bases- 
438 (only 94 times has he been caught stealing; an impressive stolen-base percentage of 82)
Strikeouts- 1099

Here are his career averages per 162 games, for each category above, except batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage + slugging percentage, which are already averages.

Hits- 180
Runs- 103
Home runs- 17
RBIs- 69
Doubles- 38
Triples- 9
Walks- 58
Stolen bases- 35 (to just 8 caught-stealing/162)
Strikeouts- 88

Plain and simple, Rollins was a fairly-prototypical lead-off man; not drawing a whole lot of walks, but making up for it with his speed, strong arm, and athleticism. He has had the ability to stay healthy throughout much of his career as well. Not including this year or 2000 when he was a bench player, in 13 big-league seasons in between then, he’s played in 92% of his team’s games (1938/2106). The fact that he’s been so healthy throughout his career certainly plays a huge part in his success. But how good of a player is he?

To me, Rollins at best is a 20 home-run, 35-40 stolen-base player and an average hitter. Most lead-off hitters are known for their speed like Rollins is, but most of them also possess the ability to get on base often, to put their team in the best position to win by doing the little things. Plate discipline has never been part of Rollins’ game, as he constantly swings at bad pitches and doesn’t take enough pitches to give himself as much of a chance to score as he should.

Of course, he was a second-round pick by the Phillies in the 1996 MLB-amateur draft out of high school, so he’s lived up to his draft position since his career began. To determine whether or not he’s a hall of famer, let’s compare his career to that of two very-similar players from the same time period: Edgar Renteria and Ray Durham. All three were/are infielders who played 14+ big-league seasons and had numerous All-Star game trips throughout their careers.

(Matt Slocum/AP)

Renteria was a shortstop primarily, like Rollins, who hit .286/.343/.398/.741 in 16 years with seven-different teams. He made five All-Star game trips (1998, 2000, 2003-04, 2006) and in his career, per 162 games, he averaged 90 runs, 175 hits, 69 RBIs, 22 stolen bases, 54 walks, and 89 strikeouts. Some of his 162-game averages are eerily similar to Rollins. Here’s a side by side comparison of some of their similar averages: hits- Rollins (180) vs. Renteria (175), RBIs- both averaged 69, walks- Rollins (58) vs. Renteria (54), and strikeouts- Rollins (88) vs. Renteria (89).

Overall, in comparison, Renteria was a superior hitter, but Rollins was faster and had more pop (he also averaged, per 162 games, 284 total bases to Renteria’s 244). Regularly do hall of fame voters compare similar players like these two, in addition to just weighing each player’s individual stats and accomplishments.

Next, I’ll compare Rollins’ career averages, again per 162 games, to Durham’s. Each individual category comes before the player’s name, with their figure per category in parenthesis.

Runs- Rollins (103), Durham (102)
Average- Rollins (.268), Durham (.277)
Hits- Rollins (180), Durham (168)
Doubles/triples- Rollins (38/9), Durham (36/6)
Homers/RBIs- Rollins (17/69), Durham (16/72)
Walks- Rollins (58), Durham (67)
Stolen bases- Rollins (35), Durham (22)
Strikeouts- Rollins (88), Durham (99)
Total bases- Rollins (284), Durham (265)
OBP/SLG/OPS- Rollins (.328/.424/.752), Durham (.352/.436/.788)

If you compare who outdid the other player in each of the 14 categories above, Rollins won (8/14). The problem is, for Rollins’ case, that Durham — by all measures —  isn’t a hall of fame caliber player. It’s a problem for Rollins that Durham isn’t because of the fact that the two are so similar statistically and overall as players. For their careers, both have hit just .250 in the postseason, which doesn’t help Rollins’ case either.

(AP Photo)

Taking a look at baseball reference’s hall of fame measures, Rollins’ so far in his career has a 14 on the black-ink test. The black-ink test is defined as how many times that player led the league in a variety of important stats, per baseball statistician/author Bill James. That ranks J-Roll 170th all-time. His career’s almost over, due to his age, and yet he barely has half the credentials of a hall of fame-worthy player. The average hall of famer has gotten a 27, 13 greater points, on the black-ink test.

The next hall of fame test is the gray-ink one, which is defined as “essentially the same thing as the black-ink test, but it counts the occurrences in which a player was within the top 10 in all league-leading statistical categories.” How did Rollins fare on his second hall of fame test? 82/144 (his score/average hall of famer’s score). It’s safe to say that, unless he pulls something amazing out of his ass, Rollins won’t eclipse a gray-ink score of 144 before his career’s over. Rollins’ score of 82 ranks him 295th all-time in that category.

The third test we’re measuring Rollins by is what’s called the hall of fame monitor, coined by Bill James; not surprisingly. It’s defined as “attempts to assess how likely (not how deserving) an active player is to make the Hall of Fame. It’s rough scale is 100 means a good possibility and 130 is a virtual cinch. It isn’t hard and fast, but it does a pretty good job. Here are the batting rules.” Jimmy’s hall of fame monitor score of is one of the few positives for his case, which is four-points higher at 104 than the league average of 100 in that category. His score of 104 ranks him 151st all-time.

Up next is the hall of fame standards test, defined as “a measurement of the overall quality of a player’s career, as opposed to singular brilliance (peak value).” Rollins scored a 37 there. When you compare that figure to the average hall of famer’s score in that category, he comes up just shy, as the average hall of fame score on that test is a 50; 13-points greater. He’s just 201st all-time, among batters, in that category.

Finally, in his final hall of fame measurement, among all shortstops all-time in JAWS’ (Jaffe WAR Score system; WAR is wins above replacement) he ranks 33rd. In comparison, Renteria is ranked 63rd in the same category; a huge difference. JAWS is defined as a “means to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness. A player’s JAWS is their career WAR averaged with their 7-year peak WAR.” In comparison, Ray Durham ranks 55th all-time in JAWS among his position, in second base.

Breaking down their JAWS’ measurements, Rollins’ line is as followed: career WAR (43.6), seven-year peak WAR (31), and JAWS (37.3). The average hall of fame shortstop, out of 21 of them, has a line of: career WAR (66.7), seven-year peak WAR (42.8), and JAWS (54.7). Jimmy’s 0/3 in the JAWS’ measurements listed above, in terms of succeeding an average shortstop hall of famer’s stats in each category. Neither Durham or Renteria passed any of the JAWS’ tests. And when you add up the latter two’s four hall of fame tests’ scores and compare them to Rollins’, it’s not even close. In the four hall of fame statistical tests; black-ink, gray-ink, hall of fame monitor, and hall of fame standards tests; Durham has a combined score of 138, to Renteria’s 169, and Rollins’ 237.

Renteria last played in 2011 with Cincinnati, so he’s still got two-more years to go until he’s on the ballot and eligible. On the other hand, after last playing in 2008 with San Francisco and Milwaukee, in his first year on the ballot Ray Durham was shut out and didn’t receive a single hall of fame vote.  Depending on when he retires and who hall of fame voters down the line decide to compare his career to among players of the same position, Rollins could be a close miss — as far as being enshrined in Cooperstown (the site of the baseball hall of fame) — or a close yes. He could potentially make it in towards the end of his candidacy, or be denied all together.

To me, if his career batting average and on-base percentage were significantly higher, Rollins would be a solid candidate. But they aren’t. The fact of the matter is, unless HOF voters are lenient with his case, a player with a career average/OBP line of .268/.328 (that is, if he were to retire today) — that didn’t make up for his lack of getting on base by doing other things — won’t make it in. Sure, Mike Schmidt hit just .267 for his career, but he made up for it in other areas; his OBP being 113-points higher than his average at .380, and hitting a ton of home runs. And a lot of times, per year, Rollins’ more-impressive stats were due to his ability to stay healthy and in the lineup.

Furthermore, since he won NL-MVP honors in 2007, Rollins has hit just .256 in the span of six and a half seasons. Sure, prior to that, he was hitting only a career .277, but he’s proven that he can’t hit once he’s over 30; he’s 35 now. Since turning 30-years old after the World-Series win of 2008, he’s hit for an average of just .253. Uncharacteristically, Rollins — since age 30 — has been less aggressive on the base paths as well. In 1251 games played from ages 21-29, per 162 games, he averaged: 38.2 stolen bases, 46.1 attempts, and had a stolen-base percentage of 82.9. However, since then, he’s averaged 29.9 stolen bases and 36.7 attempts/162 games; a stolen-base percentage of 81.2.

HOF Verdict: Not a hall of famer

…But thanks anyway for all the memories and successful predictions over the years Jimmy. And helping us win one as well in ’08.

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