Phillies legend Jimmy Rollins is once again on the ballot for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rollins received 37 votes in his first year of eligibility last year, counting for 9.4% of the vote. A player needs 75% of the vote to gain entrance to the Hall. Rollins will have to sweat it out and continue to stay on the ballot, but he has an argument.
The highlights of Rollins’ career are certainly HOF worthy. MVP, World Champion, and holding the all-time hits record for a franchise that has existed since 1883 all carry some weight. But, if you dig into Rollins’ career numbers, his case improves.
Rollins finished his career with 2,455 hits, 231 home runs, 115 triples, and 470 stolen bases. He and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor are the only middle infielders in MLB history with at least 2,000 hits, 200 home runs, 100 triples, and 400 stolen bases. Rollins accomplished the feat in 408 less games and 1,927 fewer plate appearances than Molitor and four less seasons.
Historic MVP season
In Rollins’ MVP year of 2007, he finished with 30 home runs, 20 triples, and 41 stolen bases. He is just the fifth player in MLB history and the only shortstop to finish a season with at least 20 in each category. His 30 home runs are the second most of those five players, with Willie Mays leading the way with 35 in 1957. Rollins never being linked to performance enhancing drugs despite playing during the latter steroid era also boosts his chances.
Underrated (?) Defense
Another aspect of Rollins’ game that improves his case is his defense. In 17 years playing shortstop, Rollins accumulated 51 defensive runs saved with an average of 3 per 1,200 innings. He also posted a career .983 fielding percentage and was awarded with four gold gloves. For comparison, Derek Jeter, who often stole much of the limelight among shortstops of this era, had -165 DRS in his career and averaged -14 despite winning five Gold Gloves.
The biggest mark against Rollins’ case is that many will view his career numbers as a textbook case of “compiling.” That is, he played in the league for such a long time it’s only natural that he accumulated his career marks. His career batting line of .264/.324/.418 is not very impressive. Analytics are also not Rollins’ friend, as he finished with just 49.6 fWAR and averaged 3.4 bWAR a season.
Rollins has a case for the Hall of Fame, but most of the things that make up that case are no longer seen as benchmarks for the evolving voters. Total career numbers in a long career no longer carry the weight they did say 15 or 20 years ago. Averages and values are much more definitive factors than totals. Rollins may have had first-ballot potential in a bygone era of voting. Now, he will have to sweat it out and wait for most likely the full length of his eligibility.