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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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Spotlight on J.Roll 

What’s up with Jimmy Rollins? His 2006 campaign has been a real roller-coaster. He’s had tremendous highs, like last night’s clutch double to give the Phillies a 2-1 win in Chicago over and the Cubs and tremendous lows. At the beginning of the year his epic hitting streak came to rest at 38 games and he seemed to slump badly after that. The strain of chasing Joe DiMaggio, of getting a hit each week, gave J.Roll, in my opinion, bad habits. He became less patient at the plate, became more of a free-swinger. He struggled for the spring and started to regain his old form for June and July, before turning his game up a notch after the All-Star Break. Check out J.Roll’s GPA by month:

April: .241
May: .234
June: .266
July: .273
August: .306
Season: .268

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Gross Productive Average (GPA): (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.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Walks per plate appearance (BB/PA): BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.

Jimmy Rollins is an exceptional talent and we’ll be seeing him for a long, long time to come. At just 27, he’s in the middle of his sixth full MLB season. I’ve always been frustrated by him because he is maddeningly inconsistent. Lead-off hitters are supposed to do one thing in my opinion: get on base. Set the table. If I were building an MLB team my lead-off guy would be an OBP machine. I think the Red Sox decision to bat Kevin Youkilis, the Greek God of Walks, first is brilliant. Sure, Youkilis has little speed (five stolen bases in seven tries, mostly the product of failed hit-and-runs, I suspect) but he gets on base (.390 OBP) and sets the table for the rest of the team.

J.Roll isn’t like that. He’s sort of like Ricky Henderson. He’s got speed on the base paths:

Stolen Bases / Success Pct.
2001: 46 / 85%
2002: 31 / 71%
2003: 20 / 63%
2004: 30 / 77%
2005: 41 / 87%
2006: 29 / 88%
Career: 200 / 79%

And he’s got power at the plate:

2001: .145
2002: .135
2003: .124
2004: .166
2005: .142
2006: .189
Career: .147

That rare combination of speed and power makes J.Roll a terrific weapon at the top of the order. With one swing of the bat he could start a game with giving the Phillies a 1-0 lead. What is more depressing for a pitcher than surrendering a lead-off home run?

J.Roll’s problem is that he really doesn’t do a good job of getting on base, which is what a lead-off hitter’s #1 job ought to be. Phillies lead-off hitters – i.e. J.Roll – rank twelvth in the NL in OBP, and tenth in walks drawn. This has been a consistent problem throughout J.Roll’s career. His ability to set the table isn’t what it ought to be. He is far too reliant on his ability to put the ball into play and get a hit off of his bat. J.Roll’s career high in walks is just 57. The Sox’ Youkilis has 73 right now and has another forty games left to play. J.Roll just doesn’t work the count enough and get those bases on balls. His 3.7 pitches per plate appearance is one of the worst on the Phillies, and, astonishingly enough, an improvement over previous seasons: he averaged just 3.4 in 2004 and 2005. To his credit, he has reduced his strikeout problem considerably since 2003:

2001: 108
2002: 103
2003: 113
2004: 73
2005: 71
2006: 57

So the problem with J.Roll isn’t that he has a bad eye: he lowered his strikeouts and got better at making contact with the ball. He’s just foregone working count in favor of putting the ball into play. He’s got power at the plate and he makes good use of it. While the Phillies lead-off hitters rank at the bottom in terms of getting on base, meanwhile they rank third in the NL in slugging percentage and second in Home Runs per At-Bat.

At the moment everything is clicking for Jimmy Rollins. In the last month he’s gone 35-for-98 (.357) with six doubles, a triple and seven home runs, twenty-three RBIs and twelve walks. His August slugging percentage has been .653, which is terrific. He’s a streaky player and this month everything is coming up aces for him. This is an odd trend for J.Roll: he seems to really pick up the pace and turn things on at the end of the season. If that holds true than the Phillies have a real weapon in their arsenal in their push for the playoffs.

Let’s see how J.Roll does. Am I thrilled that J.Roll is the Phillies lead-off man? No. I’d prefer to see someone with skill at drawing walks occupying that position. But J.Roll is a solid shortstop and his power numbers do make a good argument for him staying with the Phillies. Plus the Phillies seem set on keeping J.Roll around for a long, long time. Keep it up J.Roll.

Wildcard Watch! Here are the current standings:

Wildcard Standings:
1. Cincinnati: 66-61
2. San Diego: 65-62 (1.0)
3. Philadelphia: 64-62 (1.5)
4. Arizona: 62-65 (4.0)
5. San Francisco: 62-65 (4.0)
6. Milwaukee: 61-65 (4.5)
7. Florida: 60-66 (5.5)
8. Houston: 60-67 (6.0)
9. Atlanta: 59-67 (6.5)
10. Colorado: 59-67 (6.5)

Thanks to the Reds 7-3 loss to the Houston Astros last night the Phillies were able to convert their 2-1 win over the Cubs into making up real ground in the wildcard race, closing to within a game and a half of the Reds. As I see it, the wildcard race is starting to shape up into a three-way contest between the Phils, Reds and Pads. It seems like Arizona, San Francisco, Florida and the rest are starting to fall off the pace a little. Today Cole Hamels goes against Zombrano to make it a four-game sweep. Not to be cocky, but when Cole Hamels pitches, it is money in the bank.

Mike, a good breakdown on j-roll's numbers. It begs the question - if he's shown the ability to improve his eye (as shown by your strikeouts), does he still have it in him to improv his contact hitting? I feel like cautiously saying yes - if he has provent that he has a good eye, its just a question of how he approaches certain pitches.
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