Entering his thirteenth season as the Phillies starting shortstop, Jimmy Rollins is coming off a 2012 campaign with deep fluctuations in performance, but with one inescapable conclusion: He's still among the best shortstops in the game.
.250/.316/.427, 23 home runs, 102 runs scored, 699 plate appearances
2013: $11 million; 2014: $11 million; 2015: Option ($11 million / $8 million) (courtesy Cot's Contracts)
It would be difficult to classify Jimmy Rollins' 2012 season as great, or even very good, but after his three year contract extension signed last winter, and his slow start to the season, it is quite accurate to say that it looks like the Phillies have gotten and will continue to get their money's worth out of the greatest shortstop in franchise history.
Rollins, 34, had an interesting year off the field as well, with his wife giving birth to a daughter, his first child, on May 20. While there are too many variables at play to say anything definitive, Rollins' "before" and "after" baby numbers are pretty interesting:
April 5 through May 20: .229/.295/.283, one HR, 166 at bats
May 21 through September 30: .258/.324/.478, 22 HRs, 469 at bats
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.
There were some troubling matters, however. Rollins' strikeout rate spiked to 13.7%, up from 9.4% in 2011 and 8.1% in 2010, and the highest since his 16.4% rate in 2003. His walk rate also declined for the third straight season.
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.
Looking ahead to 2013
Thirty-four year old shortstops don't have a distinguished history in Major League Baseball, but Rollins has not shown such a decline in his "young player skills" (speed, defense) that I'm terribly worried that he'll fall off a cliff. Rollins has always been more of a power/extra base threat, with generally pedestrian to bad on-base percentage totals. That is not going to change. Critics assail Rollins for his shortcomings as a leadoff hitter without acknowledging his numerous other virtues. Rollins is not going to become the "ideal" leadoff hitter. What he is is an above average offensive shortstop who plays very good defense and runs the bases extremely well.
Plagued with injuries in 2010, Rollins has now played over 140 games in two consecutive seasons, and has stolen 30 bases in each season (at an 86% success rate in 2012). So while Rollins is not a young player anymore, he still plays like one, and should more than earn his money over the next two or three seasons, barring injury. His place in Phillies' history already secure, Rollins will spend the remaining years of his career making an unlikely run at Cooperstown.
2013 ZiPS projection:
.260/.323/.422, 17 home runs, 22 stolen bases, 586 plate appearances
2013 Bill James projection:
.253/.317/.411, 18 home runs, 25 stolen bases, 648 plate appearances
2013 PECOTA projection:
.248/.309/.382, 16 home runs, 29 stolen bases, 668 plate appearances