There is a real nice analysis of the year Jimmy Rollins had last year on Crashburn Alley by Bill Baer. The Fan is a real Fan of Mr. Baer but it seems here that the astute composer of baseball prose has fallen into the allure of a player that seems to have been over-hyped for years. Jimmy Rollins is a player of value and little can detract from the results the Phillies have enjoyed in recent years with Rollins ensconced as its shortstop. But Rollins has a knack due to his speed, his gaudy triples numbers, etc., to garner more respect than he probably deserves.
The purpose of Mr. Baer's post was to expose that Rollins wasn't as bad last year as his numbers indicated. Those numbers were abysmal. With a final line of .250/.296/.423 good for an 86 OPS+, those numbers are cringe-worthy. The final analysis comes down to Rollins having a hard luck year with BABIP or batting average for balls in play. Sure, that's a valid point. But if you assume that Rollins should have had a BABIP of his career average of .293, and then subtracting out his IFFB rate (infield fly ball) which increased dramatically, you can assign him 20 more hits for 2009.
Even if you give Rollins 20 more hits, that would bring his line up to .280/.324/.447. Sure, Mr. Baer proved his point that Rollins was better, but he still wasn't good enough to lead off for the Phillies. Even with better luck, a .324 OBP doesn't get the job done for a lead off batter.
Jimmy Rollins has a career line of .274/.329/.439. He's never had a higher OBP for a season than .344. Luis Castillo, forever in the doghouse with writers and New York fans, has a career line of .292/.369/.354. Rollins has more pop, but who would you rather have leading off? And yet Rollins seems to be high on everyone's list as a great player. For those of you who would argue that his fielding gives him great value, the Fan wouldn't disagree...up until last year. For the first time in his career, Rollins had a negative UZR in 2009.
Want another example? Juan Pierre is ridiculed as a player that teams always seem to overpay for. He is a favorite ping pong ball for writers to bat around. While this Fan is no fan of Juan Pierre, the guy has a career line of: .301/.348/.372. Again, Rollins has much more pop, but which one gets on base more?
Rollins seems to get a pass on all of this. He is the face of his franchise. He made bold predictions which came true for the Phillies in their remarkable run. But Rollins' contribution has been overrated in this Fan's eyes and it doesn't seem like most major analysts view him with passivity. Rollins would be an eighth person in a batting order on most teams, certainly on American League teams. Or he should be. According to his numbers, not just last year, but for his career, Rollins is more of a drag to the line up as a lead off batter than he is an aid.