Coming off a four-game hitless streak and crucial defensive lapse in last night's closer-than-it-looked 7-1 loss to Tampa Bay, Jimmy Rollins will ride the pine this evening in St. Pete according to Todd Zolecki's reporting. That's the good news; the bad news is that Eric Bruntlett replaces him at shortstop. Actually, I wouldn't have minded seeing Rollins stay in the lineup, but further down in it. As of today, he's on pace to set a modern standard for futility out of the leadoff spot.
Through 277 at-bats leading off, Rollins has posted a triple-slash line of .195/.237/.289, for an OPS of .526. That's the worst by far among all batters with at least 200 plate appearances leading off; the next most futile leadoff man who's done it that often is Willy Taveras of the Reds, with a .571 OPS. In the ten seasons for which ESPN has splits, the only other hitters with at least 200 plate appearances in the #1 spot to post an OPS under .600 in that role were Taveras (.592), Juan Pierre (.591) and Michael Bourn (.565), all last year. Adding insult to injury is that Rollins' 277 at-bats leading off this season are tied with Ichiro for the fourth-most of any leadoff man in baseball, behind only Marco Scutaro, Brian Roberts, and Ian Kinsler.
Will Rollins emerge from his struggles? At 30 years old, he seems an unlikely decline candidate, and certainly this isn't the first rough stretch he's endured in his career. But Jayson Stark reports that at least some around the game have their doubts:
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Rumblings: "I believe in Jimmy. I still think he'll be OK." But one scout we surveyed wasn't so sure, saying: "I've got to write a report on this guy, and I don't know what to write. I mean, this guy looks really bad. You want to say we'll look up in August and he'll be right there. But right now it's June, and he's not showing any signs. So I keep asking myself, 'Is this what he is now?' He's definitely better than he's playing right now -- but how much better?"
Here's hoping that the night off helps the former MVP clear his head and get back on track--and that he either returns to form atop the otherwise-potent Phils lineup, or finds a comfortable spot somewhere else in it.