Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

J-Roll's Glove... 

The most important defensive position on the field is either your shortstop or your catcher. The catcher handles your pitching staff, keeps runners from advancing and defends the plate. The shortstop is second because statistically he'll handle the most balls put into play.

The Phillies are blessed / cursed with a real enigma playing at short: Jimmy Rollins has been the Phillies incumbent starter at short since 2001. He has an intruiging combination of speed and power: 55 career home runs combined with 48 triples and 153 stolen bases. To many he struck observers as a young Ricky Henderson.

Triples / Home Runs / Steals
2001: 12 /14 / 46
2002: 10 / 11 / 31
2003: 6 / 8 / 20
2004: 12 / 14 / 30
2005: 7 / 8 / 23

Rollins problem, however, has been that he is a chronic disappointment as a leadoff hitter: his career OBP is a paltry .324 (.330 career OBP hitting #1). As a result Rollins has held on to his role as the Phillies leadoff hitter by a thread, actually losing it to Marlon Byrd for a while, before regaining it.

Rollins has also been something of a disappointment defensively. Despite his speed and hands Rollins hasn't exactly lit the world on fire with his glove. Check out this season's stats: Rollins is tenth among 15 NL SS's in Zone Rating (.846), and eleventh in Range Factor (4.28). Not good. Lest you think 2005 is an aberration, I'd note that Jimmy finished fourth in ZR in '04, and tenth of ten in Range Factor. Jimmy was eighth in both ZR and RF in 2003. In three seasons he's never done better than being in the top-half of one of six statistical marks.

I checked out Mike Humphries Defense Regression Analysis (DRA) and discovered that Jimmy had a +3 rating, i.e., having his glove in the field saved the Phillies 3 runs a year. DRA gives the Rollins defenders the strongest case for his abilities. (I note that DRA ranks Derek Jeter a -22 in DRA.) UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) gave Rollins a -11 rating for the same time period, a significant varience.

Bottom-line is that while DRA rates Jimmy as a positive rather than a negative, he still isn't a real top-flight defensive wiz. The problem with this is that the Phillies are trying to move in the direction of bringing groundball pitchers into the fold to combat Citizens reputation as a home-run-haven. Having defenders who can't get to every ball in the infield is poison for this team. The Phillies are blessed with tremendous fielders in David Bell and Chase Utley, but Rollins is something of a weak-point.

J-Roll is a tremendous talent, but I don't think he helps the Phillies much.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
SLG (Slugging Percentage): Power at the plate. (Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage)
Zone Rating (ZR): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made in their defensive zone. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.
Range Factor: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.

Defensive ratings of J-Roll notwithstanding, I'd rather have ground ball pitchers in CBP than flyball pitchers given the dimensions of the park and the current outfielders patrolling them.
So we're paying $40 million for a crappy leadoff hitter who also doesn't field as well as his peers? Sigh ...
Mike, like you I watch all the games, so I see J-Roll versus the rest of the NL shortstops. Is there a part of his game defensively you don't like ? I will give you he's not the best on slow hit grounders and he's not great at applying tag at second. Other than that, he can make the plays to his left, his right, turns the double play nicely, and has a strong and accurate arm. I don't discount the stats (although I think Zone factor is very subjective), but I don't recall many instances where J-Roll should have gotten to that ball and didn't. I don't see many better in the NL.
Is Zone Rating that subjective? Stats, Inc. gives the same zone to all shortstops, no?

I think what that stat helps guard against is your eye. Wow, some guy made a diving catch. Maybe it was b/c he was too slow getting to the ball.

Someone needs to give me a well-reasoned argument against Zone Rating.
TomG: I agree with you, but I wonder how much better the Phillies would be with a stronger defensive presence on the 6.

Anonymous: I have to go ahead and disagree with you on this one. I'm not impressed. The reason why I don't rely on observations as opposed to numbers is that numbers are more objective: as Geoffrey noted, sometimes a player needs to make a spectacular play to save himself from being out of position. I think that is the trap J-Roll falls into.
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