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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Spotlight: Jimmy Rollins 

What's wrong with Jimmy? When the 2005 season started I had high hopes for Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies leadoff man and shortstop, to have a big year. He had dramatically improved during the 2004 campaign by cutting his strikeouts and developing a savvier eye at the plate. Sadly that hasn't happened in 2005 thus far:

.318 OBP / .380 SLG / .112 ISO / .238 GPA*

Pretty meager stats, especially for a lead-off guy charged with getting on base and setting the table for the rest of the lineup. When Jimmy began playing for the Phillies I had high hopes he'd be a big-time threat like Rickey Henderson, a tough out capable of wounding you with a home run or a steal in equal measure. Last year, for example, Rollins had 69 extrabase hits (14 of them home runs) and thirty stolen bases. Few teams have leadoff hitters with SLG's over .400 (Rollins: .455)

Rollins seemed to turn his game up a notch in 2004. Look at the rise in OBP and decline in strikeouts:

Strikeouts / OBP:
2001: 108 / .323
2002: 103 / .306
2003: 113 / .320
2004: 73 / .348

The improved bat control led to more productivity:

Runs Created*
2001: 96
2002: 71
2003: 76
2004: 108

* I'm using the formula from Bill James 2005 Handbook here.

Win Shares:
2001: 20
2002: 16
2003: 19
2004: 25
2005: 3 (thus far)

The problem is that Rollins has reverted from his patience in 2004 to his old free-swinging ways. Rollins averages 3.28 pitches per plate appearance, the worst amongst all Phillies regulars. Although, in the interest of total honesty, Rollins wasn't that choosey in 2004.

Another problem for Rollins has been simple bad luck: Rollins is running far behind his projected stats. According to Hardball Times new PrOps stat Rollins is unlucky: his 0.635 OPS (OBP + SLG = OPS) is running 0.110 behind his projected OPS. i.e., Rollins may be really unlucky compared to 2004. In 2004 Rollins had a .304 BA when balls were put into play. This year he's hitting just .250 in the same situation. Maybe he'll start hitting again.

Or maybe the problem is deeper than that: Jimmy Rollins 2004 campaign was something of an exception for him. It was a career high in Win Shares, career high in OBP, career high in slugging percentage. Maybe 2004 was simply Rollins career year and his .325 career OBP is more representative of his abilities. Bill James projected Rollins at .335 OBP and .429 SLG for 2005, not that much off what he's doing currently.

Defensively Rollins has been a disappointment as well: his .838 Zone Rating is 9th amongst 14 regular NL SS. He's tenth amongst the NL SS's in Range Factor. These are both declines from 2004. This is no small problem because Shortstops are your key defensive players (after your catcher): they see the most of the balls put into play. Rollins struggles defensively partly explain why the Phillies have slipped defensively in 2005: the third best team in the league in Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER) in 2004, they are eighth this year. The slip in the quality of defense has been problematic for the Phillies: the pitching staff needs all of the help they can get.

I feel bad for Jimmy: he's a free agent for 2006 and I figured that he'd have a terrific year and be one of the big free agents on the market this fall. Probably not going to happen now. Let's just hope that Rollins can rediscover his skills, because this team can't make things happen with a leadoff hitter creating just 26 runs in 50 games.

* Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I talk about:
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
BB / PA (Walks per plate appearance): (BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg)
Zone Rating (ZR): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.
Range Factor (RF): (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.
Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER): (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.

I do think Jimmy has started the turn around - I'd been asking the same question back on May 15th, and since then, his obp had moved back to a more respectable .358 or so, and he'd cut down on the strikeouts impressively - 3 in the last two and a half weeks. Jason Weitzel wondered if maybe endy chavez showing up was helping move Jimmy along - I'm not so sure, but he's definitely worked at improving his performance in the last while.
I've often thought the success of the Phillies is directly related to the success of their leadoff hitters, and during this stretch, Jimmy is doing the job - 4-6 last night with a triple.

It's just an interesting theory about Chavez making Jimmy sweat, but he has played better since the trade.

As for his defense - I've read those stats too and I'm a little baffled his zone rating is so low. It looks like same ol Jimmy on the field ...
This is why I missed your blog while you were moving. A good and well-reasoned analysis of a key player and why the Phils have struggled, despite hot starts by Burrell and Abreau.

Although it has been shown that lineup order makes less difference than people think (less than a win a year, I believe), I can't help but think that maybe Lofton might be a better option than Rollins in the leadoff spot. And this from a guy who is not blind to Lofton's faults, to say the least.
I disagree pawnking. I think Jimmy is turning the corner, and I expect a more solid performance from him in the months to come. The k's frightened the life out of me when I sat down and looked at his numbers in mid-May, but he has cut them down whilst increasing his walks and hits. The hole he dug for himself in april was pretty deep though. And I can't find a place online which will allow you to compile stats for a particular stretch (say 15th-30th may!), so anytime I want to track his impovement, there's a lot of labourious cutting and pasting.
I admit that this post was stronger when I wrote it than this morning following his 4-for-6 last night. Still, despite the recent improvement in Jimmy's stats, the general situation with him is that he's reverted to his pre-2004 form: he just doesn't get on base enough: .320 OBP ... his OBP was as slow as .272 in mid-May ... .272!

I liked he fact that Jimmy worked on his bat to decrease his K's last year, but he just isn't setting the table the way he ought too.

And when Jimmy does get hits, they are almost all run-of-the-mill singles. Jimmy's had just 14 extra-base hits this season. 7 doubles won't cut it from a guy who had 40+ last year. What makes Jimmy special is his speed and power at the plate. That compensates for his slightly-lower-than-it-should-be-OBP. If he's not clubbing home runs and doubles, he's a mundane player.

I'm encouraged by his recent play. Let's see if it keeps up.
I read a little article on the Padres, which touched a little but on Philadelphia's problems (not very Rollins related, I apologize). http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/some-graphs-about-the-padres/
Also, see:

As you can see, the Phils lead the league in at bats with RISP. WOW! The Phils are also in the middle of the pack as far as BA/RISP, at a little over .260. As you may know, the Phils also lead the league in OBP.

And so we come to ISO. As your article pointed out a few days ago, the Phils are currently last in ISO, leading to an average run producing team. Will this trend continue? Will Thome have the kind of summer we're used to? Will Utley play more? Will Rollins start clubbing the ball better? Will Liberthal hit to his lifetime average? If some or most of these things happen (espicially Thome), we can look for the Phils to lead the league in scordng during the summer months, and start to play like the team we know they are.
I agree, Pawn. Thome is the key.
Mike, I agree that jimmy's decrease in doubles is a bit of a surprise. I thought his speed pretty much guaranteed more of 'em, but when I looked at the figures a bit back, I was shocked at how few extra base hits he was managing.
Here are some Rollins stats as time has gone by this season (cumulative):

As of April 15:
Nothing wrong with those numbers, for a leadoff hitter. A somewhat smaller SLG is offset by a somwhat larger OBP than average.

As of April 30:
Stead as she goes with SLG, but what a drop in OBP!

As of May 15:
Rollins continues to struggle with getting on base in the first half of May.

As of May 31:
Ok, as we can tell, as bad as Rollins was getting on base from Mid-April to Mid-May, that's how good he was at the same from Mid May to current.

Looking farther into his power outage, Rolling hit only 1 double and one triple in April, which was disguised by his 3 HRs. In May he hit 6 doubles and 1 triple.
If we extrapolate his May totals to June-September, we get an additional 28 Extra Base Hits, for a total of 37 for the year, not including HRs. This is not good.

However, given his job is getting on base, and he adds value by being a base stealer, he can have a little less power. Over the last 14 games (including June 1st), Rollins has 23 hits, and 6 Walks, for a nifty OBP of .420. If he continues that, he'll be, if not an elete lead off guy, at least an asset to the organization.
Boy, Rollins is all well and good, but I'm am officially on the Chase Utley bandwagon. It wasn't really the granny yesterday, but moreso the double in today's game.

He just looks so good at the plate it's hard to see him not putting up an OPS well into the 800's.
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