Jimmy Rollins’ case for the HOF: Analytics
Lastly, let’s look at Rollins from an analytical standpoint. This perspective arguably gives us the best insight into how good or bad a player really is. For Rollins, I want to focus on three key categories: baserunning, stolen bases, and defense.
Earlier, we established Rollins as an elite base stealer, but once you dig a little further, you begin to see how absurd he was. Stolen Base % (SB%) shows a player’s success rate when attempting to steal a base. With an 81.7 SB%, Rollins finished 10th all-time among players with at least 300 attempts, right below Jacoby Ellsbury (82.9 SB%) and right above Billy Hamilton (81.6 SB%).
Rollins was 2nd all-time among shortstops, behind only Barry Larkin with an SB% of 83.1. Jimmy Rollins was a great base stealer based on volume and efficiency, finishing above base-stealing titans like Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock. Next, let’s look at Rollins’ career as a baserunner.
BsR is a stat made by Fangraphs. It is an all-encompassing baserunning stat; it uses stolen bases and times caught stealing, as well as factors like extra bases taken on a play and how often a runner is thrown out and is put on a scale where 0 is always average and eight is excellent for a season. BsR is also set to league average, so it’s a great tool to compare past and present-day baserunners.
When you think of some of the best baserunners in baseball history, who do you think of? Rickey Henderson? Tim Raines? Lou Brock? Kenny Lofton? Ty Cobb? Well, according to BsR, you should also be thinking of Jimmy Rollins. Rollins currently ranks 8th all-time in BsR with a career grade of 82.7. The only seven players ahead of him are Rickey Henderson (144.4), Tim Raines (100.4), Ichiro (96.0), Max Carey (93.3), Juan Pierre (89.4), Carl Crawford (86.9), and Billy Hamilton (85.5) – no, not the guy who played for the Reds; we’re talking 1888-1901, Billy Hamilton.
Then there’s Jimmy Rollins, listed 8th best in baserunning ahead of guys like Kenny Lofton, Lou Brock, and Ty Cobb. It’s another testament to how truly special a baseball player Jimmy Rollins was.
To figure out how good Rollins’s defense was, we’ll look at two stats – DRS and TZ. TZ will be used for players before the 2003 season and DRS after the 2003 season since DRS was introduced in 2003.
Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) is a defensive statistic calculated by The Fielding Bible, an organization run by John Dewan, that rates individual players above or below average on defense. Much like UZR, players are measured in “runs” above or below average, and Baseball Info Solutions data is used as input. Since DRS is measured in runs, it can be compared easily with a player’s offensive contributions.
We will be looking at three different shortstops to compare with Rollins, all three of whom are in the Hall of Fame. Shortstop number one is Barry Larkin. We can use both TZ and DRS for Larkin, as his career ended in 2004. So, how’d he do? Larkin finished his career with a TZ rating of 36 and -12 DRS. (Keep in mind that DRS was only available for his last two seasons).
Next, let’s look at Robin Yount. Yount finished his career with a TZ rating of 25.
Lastly, we’ll look at Alan Trammell. Trammell finished his career with an impressive TZ rating of 80! (DRS is not available for Yount or Trammell, as their careers ended before 2003).
So, how does Jimmy Rollins compare to three Hall of Fame shortstops? Really well, actually! Rollins finished his career with 50 DRS, putting him ahead of both Larkin and Yount, but behind Trammell.
So, there you have it, my case for why Jimmy Rollins deserves to be enshrined with the legendary shortstops before him, many of whom he compares well!
The point of this article is to put Rollins in a different perspective, giving you stats and data and hopefully giving you something to think about moving forward.
We tend to think of Hall of Famers as these elite hitters who had 3000 hits or 600 home runs, baserunners who had 700 career stolen bases, or great defenders who racked up gold gloves and advanced defensive metrics, but when you look at Jimmy Rollins, you see a player who fits the mold.
He was a shortstop with 200 home runs, led a franchise in hits, had a better career SB% than Rickey Henderson, had a better BsR than Lou Brock, had better defensive metrics than Barry Larkin, and Rollins helped his team win a World Series!
When you think of Jimmy Rollins, you might think “Hall of Very Good” and move on; but I will always think of Cooperstown when I think of Jimmy Rollins.