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Entries in Jimmy Rollins (2)


Rollins Returns to Philly

It was bound to happen. Jimmy Rollins re-upped with the Phillies for three years and $33 million, with an "easily attainable" $11 million option that figures to keep the switch-hitting shortstop, originally acquired in the second round of the 1996 draft, in town through 2015. Rollins entered the offseason saying he wanted five years, but the 33-year-old's bargaining power was limited when it became clear that San Francisco and Detroit weren't serious suitors and Milwaukee decided to settle for Alex Gonzalez. The Phillies, meanwhile, ensure they don't have to turn to Freddy Galvis in 2012 or further gut the farm system to get someone like Alexei Ramirez or Asdrubal Cabrera.

While he no longer possesses the power displayed during his mid-to-late twenties peak, Rollins rebounded from two substandard years at the plate in 2009 and 2010 (a combined 86 OPS+ in 1,119 plate appearances) to post a 101 OPS+ in 625 PA in 2011. League-average offense from a guy who still covers plenty of ground at the diamond's premium defensive position is quite valuable: Rollins was worth 3.7 Wins Above Replacement, which ranked eighth among shortstops.

Rollins' offensive uptick was the product of a higher batting average on balls in play. His BABIP was just .251 from 2009-2010, fourth-lowest among all MLB hitters who got at least 1,000 PA over that period. In 2011, that BABIP improved to .275. Whether the result of better luck or perhaps better health (Rollins was bothered by calf and hamstring injuries for much of 2010), Rollins got more hits on pitches thrown above the letters from both sides of the plate and off the outside corner when swinging left-handed. Check out Rollins' in-play average by pitch location in 2009-2010, compared to 2011:

 Rollins' in-play average by pitch location, 2009-2010

Rollins' in-play average by pitch location, 2011

That improvement on outside pitches thrown from right-handed pitchers was especially key, considering that's where they like to pitch Rollins:

Right-handed pitchers' location to Rollins, 2011

Rollins' legs are a source of concern -- he's not young, and he served a DL stint for a pulled groin this past year on top of the calf and hamstring issues in 2010. But those ailments don't appear to have cut severely into his range (he has been +6 runs better per 150 defensive games than an average SS over the past three years, per Ultimate Zone Rating) or his base running (30 steals and a 79% success rate in 2011).

A decline-phase Rollins is still a pretty decent player, and the win-now Phillies weren't in a position to give the reins to Galvis, sign a mediocre option like Ronny Cedeno or Ryan Theriot or give up what farm talent remains in a trade. He might not be a huge bargain, but re-upping Rollins was the best course of action for Philly.


Jimmy Rollins' Regression

In his recent blog post, Buster Olney cites some of the topics of interest in each spring training camp this year. For the Phillies, he notes Jimmy Rollins’ "three season regression." Indeed, Rollins has yet to duplicate his 2007 MVP season numbers in which he hit .296/.344/.531 with a league leading 20 triples and a career high 30 home runs.

One of the problems contributing to Rollins’ troubles has been a noticeable decline in his ability to hit from the left side.

Jimmy Rollins vs. RHP

Rollins generates most of his power on pitches inside when batting left handed. Over the past 3 years, that power has faded.

Jimmy Rollins

Compare the graphic above to his overall in play rates over the same time.

Jimmy Rollins

Rollins puts more balls in play on outside pitches, an area he normally does not produce extra base hits.

It doesn’t help that Rollins prefers to swing at pitches outside either.

Jimmy Rollins Swinging

So as a LHB, Rollins is swinging more at outside pitches which is dragging down his overall numbers. In the selected zone above, Rollins put up a .295 wOBA despite making contact 91.5% of the time. Until he can prove that he can do some damage on pitches outside, right-handed pitchers will have little incentive to pitch him anywhere else.