Amid numerous articles that Charlie Manuel is intent on keeping Jimmy Rollins in the leadoff spot in 2013, the sense I get from most of the Phils’ beat writers and bloggers is that J-Roll had a nice “bounce-back” season in 2012.
When you look at his final numbers, they were pretty good (.250/.316/.427, OPS+ 100, 23 HRs, 33 2Bs, 102 runs, 30 SBs).
And when taking his defense into account and comparing him with other MLB shortstops, Rollins’ season looks even better (6th in hits, 3rd in HRs, 1st in runs scored, 6th in RBIs, 3rd in stolen bases, 8th in wOBA, 3rd in fWar at 4.9).
Certainly, Rollins earned the money he made in the first year of his three-year, $33 million contract. On that point, I will not argue.
But when you break down the numbers month-by-month, you see a season plagued with inconsistency and flat-out bad offensive baseball.
As a lead-off hitter, Jimmy’s strength has never been his on-base percentage. No one is expecting a .350 OBP out of Rollins.
But for major portions of 2012, especially early in the year, Rollins was virtually an automatic out at the top of the lineup, something that killed the Phils throughout much of the early part of the season.
Rollins’ numbers for March/April, May, July and August were pretty bad, with his season-ending numbers largely carried by terrific offensive surges in June and September/October (and to a lesser degree in August when his home run numbers spiked).
In four out of the six months of the 2012 season, Rollins posted an OPS+ of 58, 76, 78 and 92. He posted an OBP of .302 or lower in four out of six months. And he posted batting averages of .235, .241, .208 and .213 in those same four months.
While Rollins’ defense was still above average during his down offensive times (for which he should get full credit), I would argue his fWAR of 4.9 was inflated by two ridiculously productive months in June and September/October, when he hit 14 of his 23 home runs.
The Good Phight did an excellent job breaking down Rollins’ season last year, and noted Rollins’ second-half power surge put him in some fine company:
Rollins’ power spike in the second half of the season was truly remarkable, with Rollins tying for ninth in the National League with 15 second half home runs, ahead of such noted sluggers as Jason Heyward, Matt Holliday, David Wright, and Matt Kemp. His 23 home runs on the season led the Phillies by a substantial margin, and his .177 ISO was his highest since his MVP season of 2007.
However, I feel they missed an important detail when they lumped his last four months together, rather than taking each month and looking at it on its own. However, they did nail this point:
Rollins’ trend of low BABIPs (.262 in 2012) also continued, due in no small part to his tendency for hitting infield pop-ups; his 19.0% infield fly rate was the highest/worst in baseball in 2012, nearly double his 10.1% rate in 2011. If Rollins’ detractors are correct, and he really is trying to “hit every ball out of the park” and subsequently hitting a tremendous amount of pop-ups, it may actually have showed up in the numbers in 2012.
This is not to say the Phils shouldn’t have re-signed Jimmy Rollins. For the money they paid and the length of the contract, Rollins’ deal is pretty fair. And, when Rollins is playing well, the Phillies usually win a lot of baseball games.
However, despite the seeming lack of options, the Phillies would be wise to figure out a way to get Jimmy out of the leadoff spot as soon as possible. Last year, they would have been served much better hitting Juan Pierre leadoff, where his .351 OBP and 37 stolen bases would have played better at the top of the lineup.
Perhaps Ben Revere will emerge as that guy in 2013. The Phils’ long-term plans are certainly for him to be Jimmy’s successor at the top of the lineup. Whether it happens this year or next, that certainly seems to be the long-term goal.
Still, Rollins, despite his faults, has more than enough positives to be a solid middle-of-the-order hitter. His skills simply aren’t suited to batting leadoff anymore. And he is still an above-average hitter for a shortstop, even with an expected decline over the next few years.
And his defense should remain among the best in baseball during the life of his contract. That is no small thing.
Listen, I’m not a Jimmy hater. I like Jimmy Rollins and I think he brings a lot of positives to the Phillies.
But let’s not pretend like last year was a totally awesome Jimmy Rollins season. J-Roll had two really good months in 2012. The rest was a mixed bag of awful and mediocre.
Here’s hoping for a more consistent Jimmy Rollins in 2013.