On a recent broadcast of a game between the Atlanta Braves and the Phillies, the Braves’ announcers were making idle chatter during an at-bat when they made two superlative assessments of Jimmy Rollins.
First, they said he was possibly the greatest Phillie ever. Then they went on to say that he will end up in Cooperstown one day.
The first statement is absolutely ludicrous and I will not even bother wasting your time backing that statement up with stats. Mike Schmidt, Robin Roberts, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Jim Bunning and Steve Carlton come to mind immediately, and I’m pretty sure Chase Utley and Cole Hamels are bigger all-time great Phillies than Rollins on his own team.
But let’s look at J-Stroll, as I like to call him, as a candidate for the Hall of Fame, another claim I find laughable.
He’s closing in on 2,000 hits, and he has more than 1,100 runs and 400 doubles. He has batted .271 with 182 homers and 766 RBIs in his career.
With Rollins on the tail end of his effectiveness, these numbers are not particularly remarkable. For a guy known for defense, he has just three Gold Gloves in his career as well.
(Side note: Gold Gloves aren’t everything, as evidenced by the fact that Rollins’ teammate Placido Polanco has just three as well despite having the best fielding percentage in history at both second and third base. While we’re on the topic, with a .299 career average, more than 2,000 hits and just 60 fewer RBIs than Rollins, one can make the argument that Polly is a better candidate for the Hall than J-Roll, though neither has a good case.)
Rollins also has some interesting stats for a leadoff man, including 918 strikeouts compared to 603 walks.
Let that sink in for a second. That’s 1 ½ strikeouts for every walk. Wow. You’d be better off with Adam Dunn as your leadoff man. Seriously.
For reference, all-time great leadoff man Tim Raines (also NOT in the Hall somehow) had 966 strikeouts in his 24-year career, just a few more than Rollins has already accumulated in just over half the time. But Rock drew 1,330 walks for a .72 strikeouts/walk ratio, far lower than Rollins.
And let me repeat, Raines is not in the Hall of Fame, getting 48.7 percent of the vote last year.
While I realize Raines is an outfielder and not a shortstop, comparing him to Rollins as an effective leadoff man is an important one. Raines had 980 RBIs, batted .294 (OBP .385, nearly 60 points higher than J-Roll) and had 2,605 hits. Rollins will never approach these figures.
This year, Rollins is hitting .245 with an on-base percentage just a hair over .300. He leads the league in infield pop-ups (true stat) and has been a miserable leadoff man for the downtrodden Phillies.
Rollins has 390 steals, and he and Miami’s Jose Reyes (397) are about to crack the 400 barrier in steals.
Interestingly, only seven modern era shortstops have stolen as many as 400 bases. (Note: this list does NOT count guys who played the majority of their career in the 1800s when the rules for steals were different AND the game was a poor representation of what it is today, something we at Highway to Hall like to call “Sweater Ball.”)
Honus Wagner 723
Bert Campaneris 649
Maury Wills 586
Ozzie Smith 580
Luis Aparicio 506Donie Bush 406
Omar Vizquel 403
Of those seven, only Wagner, Smith and Aparicio are in Cooperstown, with Vizquel a possibility down the road. Still, getting to 500 steals would at least make this an arguable point in J-Roll’s favor, but he’s not going to make it.
Some would argue whether Vizquel is a legitimate Hall candidate, so let’s look at his numbers quickly as a brief context for Rollins’ alleged candidacy.
Vizquel has 11 Gold Gloves with a .272 average, .337 on-base percentage, 2,861 hits and 947 RBIs.
In short, Vizquel is a far better Hall of Fame candidate than Rollins, and he will still have his hands full getting in from what I have heard from experts.
Rollins had one monster MVP season in 2007 where he was the most individually dominant all-around player in baseball, and he deserved that award. But outside of that magical year where he basically carried the Phillies to the division title, he has been mediocre at best.
Outside of that amazing year, he has hit .268 with an average output of 13 homers and 55 RBIs per year.
BaseballReference.com says the most similar hitter to Rollins in history is Jay Bell. I say that, outside of one terrific year, that is an insult to Jay Bell.
The Phillies made one of the worst decisions in franchise history by signing Rollins to a $33 million contract last winter when no one was bidding on him. They basically gave him back pay for having a great MVP year and one big postseason hit off Jonathan Broxton, and now they’re stuck with an aging mediocre shortstop for two more years at $11 million per when they have plenty of holes to fill.
Add in that J-Roll’s fielding percentage this year is the lowest it’s ever been, and you’ve got a huge black hole of money there for a couple years.
So there’s no way Rollins is going to Cooperstown, and there’s even less chance of him ever becoming the greatest Phillie ever.
Heck, I’d settle for him running out a ground ball before we put him in the Hall.