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February 9, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Donnybrook - Jimmy Rollins

by Mike Petriello and Bill Baer

We just started this series on Monday, so you're forgiven if you missed the first. But the plan is to have a pair of our fantasy authors answer varying questions, in order to give you multiple angles on relevant topics. Today's question: "Is Jimmy Rollins finished?"

Mike Petriello: "Finished" is something of a relative term. Is Jimmy Rollins the player he once was?  It's hard to look at three consecutive years of declining OPS (culminating in last year's .694) from a shortstop who's on the wrong side of 30 and think that he's getting back to his 2007 MVP form anytime soon. Even more troubling, his 2010 was interrupted by multiple injuries to his right leg, which combined to cost him 84 days of the season, and when he was able to play over the second half of the year, his OBP was just .302. This is one of those situations where I don't look at the career-low BABIP as a factor of luck, but an indicator that a traditionally speedy player is no longer able to beat out the hits he once could. While there's an argument to be made that he can still recover from those leg injuries and regain some of that value, let's not forget that he was coming off a healthier 2009 in which he had 725 plate appearances and still only got on base at a clip of .296.

The crop of shortstops is generally so barren that it's worth considering that even a diminished Rollins may still be worth your time, but the numbers just don't support it. Among shortstops with over 500 PA in 2009-10, he comes in 18th in OPS. Looking at just 2010 shortstops (with 350 PA), the results are largely the same: he's 19th. That means that even if you're in a 12- or 14-team league, there's almost certainly a comparable or better alternative that would probably come more cheaply, since Rollins still carries name value. Rollins isn’t finished in MLB, but his time has probably passed as a top-flight fantasy option.

Bill Baer: After two disappointing seasons, the most recent marred by calf and thigh strains, many are ready to count Jimmy Rollins out. The 32-year-old is not expected to reclaim his place near the top of Major League Baseball's list of the best shortstops. In 2009, Rollins posted a 719 OPS, his lowest since 2003. He only attempted to steal 39 times, his lowest total since '04. Last year, Rollins could only muster a 694 OPS and 18 stolen base attempts after missing nearly half of the regular season.

The common factor in 2009-10 is his BABIP. With a career average .290, it was only .251 in '09 and .246 last season. As the table below illustrates, the difference in '09 was line drives, and in '10 it was ground balls.

Jimmy Rollins BABIP


















In '09, 19 percent of Rollins' batted balls were line drives, 40 percent were grounders, and 41 percent were fly balls. In '10, those numbers changed to 17 percent, 46 percent, and 37 percent respectively. As of right now, we have no reason to believe that hitters have a great amount of control over their line drive BABIP. Current research has shown it to be very prone to fluctuation. Personally, I am fine with writing off Rollins' '09 season as a fluke.

Injuries, I think, explain his poor performance last year and his extremely low .137 BABIP on ground balls. His strains were in his left calf and his right thigh. The legs are an important part of generating power in a swing, and Rollins simply did not have much power throughout the season (.131 ISO, his lowest since 2003). Even if he is not hitting home runs, he can still hit harder ground balls and harder line drives, both of which would be harder for defenders to field and convert into outs.

Despite the injuries last year, Rollins was about as good as the average National League shortstop. His triple-slash line was .243/.320/.374 compared to the average .266/.325/.388. He will have had nearly four months to recuperate and should go into the 2011 season 100 percent healthy. With even a moderate bounce-back year, Rollins should find himself among the league's top shortstops (still light years behind Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki, of course).

Mike Petriello is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here
Bill Baer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bill's other articles. You can contact Bill by clicking here

Related Content:  Jimmy Rollins

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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EXCELLENT article, nicely framing the two faces of BABIP.

Feb 09, 2011 08:16 AM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

Those lower body injuries have impacted Rollins' defense, and I'm not convinced he'll regain all of his speed or power from that portion of his body (he is older now, after all). But I don't think he's "finished" as a fantasy shortstop--he's just not worth the kind of money or draft rounds we're used to seeing him go in anymore.

Feb 09, 2011 09:28 AM
rating: 0

If Rollins actually REALIZES that he won't regain his speed or power, it may actually help him... He needs to approach hitting like the 5'8", 180lb dude he actually is, as opposed to the 6'3", 240lb dude he wishes he was. The last couple years have been a lot of weak grounders and 330-foot stares at the right field porch. Back up the middle, Jimmy! I'm beggin ya!

P.S. Uncle Cholly will tell you the same thing.

Feb 11, 2011 08:33 AM
rating: 0
Marc Normandin

The J-Roll versus Jimmy Rollins bout of 2011.

Feb 11, 2011 09:59 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Rob McQuown
BP staff

Rollins swiped 165 bases between 2005-2008. For those of us in dinosaur leagues that still put a premium on steals, how many do you expect? My knee jerk reaction would be about 30, but I haven't researched the specifics of his lower-body injuries, and what they will do to his speed. [as Marc points out, they appear to be likely to have some impact]

I think some insights into this would help, and also how the Phillies will treat him if he's slower - knowing they try hard to avoid CS - seems to enter into the equation. Do you see much risk of his stolen base output cratering badly in 2011 (compared to his history, not compared to 2010 only)?

Feb 09, 2011 22:25 PM
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

I think his low stolen base totals the last two years are related to his low on-base percentage (partially bad luck, IMO). From 2001-08, his OBP was .333; the last two seasons, it has only been .304. Over 700 PA, the .029 difference amounts to about 20 times on base.

If he has a bounce-back year offensively, I think you will see an increase in his stolen base attempts as well. I would expect 40-ish if he gets his OBP into the .330 range, near his career average. Don't forget, he had a nice improvement in the walks department.

There have been no reports that Rollins' lower-half injuries still linger, but I will definitely keep a close watch during spring training.

Feb 10, 2011 02:22 AM
Marc Normandin

What kind of effect do you think losing Davey Lopes will have on their stolen bases in general?

Feb 10, 2011 06:32 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Bill Baer
BP staff

I couldn't tell you. I don't think anyone else can, either. Seems like most people feel that there are diminishing returns on a coach. He comes in with different ideas and philosophies than his predecessor, shares them with the players, and after a while, there isn't much else he can impart.

But there is something to be said for the incredible amount of success they have had under his tutelage, so maybe he has a keen eye at first base and picks out things that most other first base coaches wouldn't.

For someone that hasn't had much exposure to Lopes -- say, Domonic Brown -- I might expect a lower-than-normal success rate, but for someone like Rollins, I wouldn't expect much fluctuation.

Feb 10, 2011 14:40 PM

His value is a bit of a mystery, he's not someone I ever feel comfortable drafting, but I wouldn't write him off as only medicore just yet. In a league where SB's are only one of many categories, I'd rather have Stephen Drew. Is Rollins a better pick than Starlin Castro?

Feb 14, 2011 09:53 AM
rating: 0
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