No Love for J-Roll

Angelo Cataldi had an article in the free daily The Metro today. Link -- the main part of the article was on Brian Dawkins, but one of the other two pieces there is on Rollins. It's a short blurb, but it's very efficiently packed with insults, vitriol, and innuendo:

During his 19-game audition as a middle-of-the-order guy, he managed no home runs and three RBIs, with an embarrassing .216 average. In other words, for three weeks he was a No. 8 hitter batting five slots too high.

Mr. Cataldi’s hatred for Jimmy Rollins has gone off the deep end this time. Or maybe it’s just a role he plays to "stir things up", as he says. Who knows or really cares. The bottom line is that it’s just wrong.

First, of course it was not an audition. That implies he was trying to win the job, when in fact he was filling in because they had another hitter who could bat leadoff and nowhere else (Pierre), and Rollins was willing to move to 3rd because that’s where he was needed.

Also, Mr. Cataldi doesn’t seem to understand the basic concept of position scarcity. Some positions are more difficult -- shortstop, catcher, to a lesser extent second base and CF -– the more difficult the position, the fewer good hitters there are at that position. How many major league teams rely on their shortstop to bat in the middle of the order? Three. Out of 30. The others are Colorado (the great Troy Tulowitzki), and the equally desperate for offense Chicago Cubs (Starlin Castro).

So Rollins has been in a horrible slump. He’s been in worse slumps before, and he will be again. And it’s unfortunate that it happened at the same time that Pence, Victorino, Polanco, Mayberry, Thome, and on and on were also slumping. Are articles on each of these players coming soon? I am guessing No.

Of course, his many loyalists will find excuses for this failure. They will say he has been a lead-off hitter his entire career, though Rollins has never embraced the patience required of that role.

and the money quote:

Well, here's the brutal truth. Rollins is one of the most selfish players in Philly history. He plays not for the team, but for himself. Remember when Charlie Manuel sat him down and stressed the need to work counts more, to draw more walks? Rollins has walked five times in 88 at-bats.

As for Rollins’ patience and the leadoff role, the classic leadoff hitter is very hard to find. Rollins has actually been getting progressively more patient, and over the past two years, he walked 9.6% of the time. The average leadoff hitter walked 7.8%. In fact, for the past two years, he has WALKED MORE THAN ANY NL TEAM’S LEADOFF HITTERS.

And this year, while his walks are down somewhat in the early going, that’s not surprising in a slump. His pitches per plate appearance are actually slightly over his career average at 3.69, and he has swung at the first pitch only 24% of the time, far below the league average. (And Pierre, while he’s gotten his share of bloop hits, has only 3 walks in 70 plate appearances.)

Regarding re-signing him, first of all, if the idea is to get more patient, only TWO major league shortstops walked more than Rollins the past two years (Ramirez and Escobar). Rollins remains a very good shortstop and will no doubt earn his contract. In fact, so far this year he’s doing a much better job of earning his pay than Mr. Cataldi did with this cynical and ignorant piece.

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