In any sport, when a player is scouted and then eventually drafted, you notice that they have flaws in their game, but you take the bad because of their “upside”. If a player strikes out a ton, but he is giving you a bunch of Home Runs, you say “Ok he will make better contact when he sees more pitches and he knows how the league is trying to pitch to him.” If a player is a great batter and not a good defender, you stick him at one of the corner outfield spots so he finds a comfortable position to he keep his bat in the lineup.
Now when you’re talking about “upside” you should not be expecting any when you are talking about a 35 year old shortstop who made his debut in September of 2000. By this point, we have to know exactly what to expect out of Jimmy Rollins, a .250-.260 hitter who will pop up a lot and will not run out those pop ups or groundouts.
He is coming off his absolute worst year as a pro, a season in which he played 160 games but could only contribute 6 Homers and 39 RBI’s.
There is one aspect of his game that cannot be replaced, and that is his defense. A gold glover his whole career who has probably lost a step, which is expected at his age. If he contributes nothing on offense this year, he will at least save a bunch of runs on the defensive side of the ball.
Rollins used to be the guy that started it all off. The phrase was “As Jimmy goes, the team goes”. Maybe that’s still the case, maybe his struggles are the reason that the team has been declining every year since 09′, the offense particularly.
Another thing that he has been during his entire career is durable. With the exception of the one injury-riddled season in 10′ (just 88 games played), he has been pretty reliable, with the least amount of games played being the 137 he suited up for during the World Series season in 2008. The problem isn’t being on the field, he just hasn’t produced like he has in the past when he is on the field.
Let’s take a look at some of his numbers since the Philadelphia Phillies became a good team, starting in 2005. Now we know how good his MVP season was in 07′, .290 avg, 30 homers (insane for a leadoff guy) and 94 RBI’s. Let’s take 2010 out of the equation, considering he only played in 88 games. He had hit Double-digit homers every season until that awful season last year. He’s had seasons in which he had drove in 83 runs (06′), 77 runs (09′) and 68 runs (12′). Those are impressive numbers for a career leadoff hitter.
He doesn’t strike out a ton, the last time he struck out over 100 times was the 2003 season, when he was in only his third full season.
I’m not saying J-Roll is absolutely finished, but I just don’t know how much he is worth to this team anymore. He’s not the game changer he used to be, just another aging shortstop on an aging team, who is coming off their worst season in about 10 years.
Any optimism we have about him bouncing back from the 6 homer, 39 RBI clunker has kind of gone away with a .174 avg during Spring Training, but then again he had a .188 avg during Spring Training before his 07′ MVP season so there’s your silver lining. Also while we’re posting this, Rollins hit a grand slam. Let’s hope he can keep this rolling.
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