As we continue our series on Hall of Fame ballot previews with the MLB shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, today we look at Jimmy Rollins. Rollins won an MVP award in 2007 and a World Series with the Phillies in 2008. He also won four Gold Glove awards at shortstop during his career.
To view the full series, click here.
The Phillies took Rollins with a second-round pick out of high school where he set ten school records including batting average (.484) and stolen bases (99). In his senior season of 1996, he was selected for the All-USA High School team by USA Today, was a first-team All-American for Baseball America, and was rated the top high school infielder in northern California. In 1997 at single-A, he hit .270 but stole 46 bases and shined defensively at shortstop. The following year, Rollins was in high-A ball but only hit .244 with 23 stolen bases. Still, his impressive defense helped him start ’99 at double-A where he hit .273, showed an increase in power, and stole 24 bases, though he was also caught stealing 13 times. That earned him the #95 spot on Baseball America’s pre-2000 prospect rankings as a 21-year-old. That year in triple-A, he hit .274 with 12 homers, 11 triples, 28 doubles and 24 stolen bases before making his big league debut on September 17th. Since he hadn’t exceeded rookie limits, he was still eligible for prospect rankings and BA had him #31 heading into 2001.
In 2001, Rollins would finish third in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Albert Pujols and Roy Oswalt after hitting .274 with 14 homers, 29 doubles and leading the NL with 12 triples and 46 stolen bases. He also made his first All-Star appearance that year while posting a 93 OPS+. From 2001-’05, Rollins hit .273 and averaged 37 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs and 34 stolen bases. That was good for a 93 OPS+ and 17.0 WAR. He earned three All-Star appearances in that time, but wouldn’t earn another the rest of his career.
It’s very strange that Rollins wasn’t named to another All-Star game, as he had his most productive offensive seasons from 2006-’08, winning an MVP award in 2007 and a World Series in 2008. In 2007, he became one of just four players in MLB history to have at least 20 doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases in the same season, joining Frank Schulte, who achieved the feat in 1911, Willie Mays, 1957, and Curtis Granderson, who also put together the all-around offensive season in 2007. Rollins also led the NL with 139 runs and won a Gold Glove at shortstop while the Phillies made the playoffs for the first time since 1993. He was named MVP in a close race with Colorado’s Matt Holiday.
In 2008, Rollins slashed .277/.349/.437 with 47 stolen bases while winning his second of three consecutive Gold Glove Awards. The Phillies made the playoffs, and while Rollins didn’t produce well in the playoffs, the Phillies won their second World Series in franchise history. From 2004-’08, Rollins averaged 5.1 WAR per year, topping out at 6.1 in his MVP season in 2007 when he set career highs in hits, triples, home runs, runs, RBI, batting average, slugging, OPS and OPS+.
From 2009-’14, his last year in Philadelphia, Rollins was back to the 93 OPS+ he had from 2001-’05. But as he got into his 30s, he was stealing fewer bases, was making less of an impact in the field (despite a 2012 Gold Glove), and was producing less value. The Phillies then traded him to the Dodgers in December of 2014 for a package centered around Zach Eflin.
In 2015, he posted career lows in batting average (.224), OBP (.285), stolen bases (12), and OPS+ (79). He played 41 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2016 before retiring that offseason at age 37.
Rollins’ career totals:
.264/.324/.418, 2455 hits, 231 home runs, 511 doubles, 115 triples, 470 stolen bases, 1421 runs, 936 RBI, 95 OPS+, 47.6 WAR
So, is this guy a Hall of Famer or not?
A three-time All-Star, one-time Silver Slugger, four-time Gold Glover doesn’t seem like a Hall of Famer. He deserved a few more All-Star selections that would have helped in that department, but he still had a low WAR total for a Hall of Famer. JAWS has him as the 30th-best shortstop, with his 47.6 WAR only slightly higher than the average Hall of Fame shortstop’s 43.1 seven-year peak. His 40.1 JAWS is far behind the average Hall of Fame shortstop’s 55.3. His Hall of Fame Monitor score of 121 and Hall of Fame Standards score of 42 could make sense for a Hall of Famer, and comparing him to Omar Vizquel, who received 52.6% of the vote on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot, also leads to an interesting case. Rollins had a 95 career OPS+ to just 82 for Vizquel. Vizquel was better in the field, with 129 runs fielding compared to 43 for Rollins, but Rollins had 67 runs baserunning compared to -1 for Vizquel, as Rollins was 470/575 on stolen base attempts in his career (81.7%) compared to 404/571 (70.8%) for Vizquel. Vizquel’s longer career gave him more runs from the positional adjustment for WAR and more runs above replacement, but Rollins had 47.6 WAR to 45.6 for Vizquel. If you look at wins above average, Rollins had 18.0 to just 5.3 for Vizquel.
Among Rollins’ 10 most similar batters as determined by Baseball-Reference’s similarity scores, six are in the Hall of Fame, and Lou Whitaker is the only one of his top four not in the Hall. His will definitely be an interesting candidacy to watch. He would be a below-average Hall of Famer, but not every shortstop can be Cal Ripken Jr, Derek Jeter or Honus Wagner. If Phil Rizzuto and Rabbit Marranville belong in the Hall of Fame, maybe Jimmy Rollins does too.
Up next: Jake Peavy.