As you may have read in the Daily News today, Jimmy Rollins is in a pretty lenghty slump.
How bad has it been?
Since the All-Star break, Rollins is hitting .214 with a .260 OBP. Entering Sunday, Rollins’ .576 OPS ranked 195th out of the 220 major leaguers with at least 75 plate appearances since the break.
But his slump began with the end of June: Rollins is hitting .219 with a .253 OBP since July 1. He also has more errors (nine) than triples and home runs combined (seven) this season.
“I have good talks with Jimmy,” new manager Ryne Sandberg said on Sunday. “He's a big piece of the puzzle. That will be my job from here on out, no doubt about it. That goes for everybody. Him in particular, he is a big piece. He's a good player. That's a challenge of mine. We'll stay after that.”
Sandberg had a lot more to say on the subject on Monday.
Q: Are you committed to Jimmy in the leadoff hole or will you move him around?
Sandberg: There’s a possibility of change there, just depending on day to day lineup, matchups, how thing are going. For me, he could bat first, second or third. When I look at Jimmy, he still has the ability to steal a base. I can see him being a little more aggressive in that area, using his speed. With that being said, if you’re batting in the first or second spot, your job is to get on base and to do that, it’s more about quality at-bats. With a guy with speed, it’s about staying on top of the baseball and concentrating on hard ground balls and line drive stroke. I think that’s something he can work at and get better. I think that can help him for the rest of his career, so that’s something that will be stressed.
Q: So you’ll call him out on it?
Sandberg: Yes. I’ve had conversations with him, but also I think it’s my role to let him know what I expect of him and what I think he can do and what I think the team can do. For me, that’s staying on top of the ball and utilizing speed.
Q: At 34, can he learn that ground ball, line-drive stroke?
Sandberg: We’ll see. That’ll be the challenge. I think that’ll be the betterment for himself and the team as we go forward. The other thing is that he gets a little bit pull happy at times. We’ve had conversations about the big hole that’s up the middle, how teams pitch him. A lot of teams, if they pitch him away, there is a big hole up the middle. So something like that, for him, will be a big deal.
Q: Jimmy's swing sometimes makes people think he believes he's a 20-25 home run guy...
Sandberg: I would like him not to focus on hitting home runs. Anytime that I hit a home run, it was an accident. It was a perfect swing that I caught out in front, square up and was just underneath just a little bit. What I think for Jimmy at the top of the lineup with his speed and his baserunning and as good as he is as a baserunner, he’s got to get on base. I don’t think him focusing on hitting 15 to 20 home runs in the right approach for him. If he wants to score 100 runs per year, I think that’s the proper approach — not hitting solo home runs. That’s any guy at the top of the order- that’s making the pitcher come to him and if you get your walks, battle in your at-bats and try to get on base. He has enough pop to hit the ball in the gaps and get his doubles, so I think for me and keeping a line drive stroke and improving the on-base percentage. That’s what the team needs.
Q: Do you think he's willing to change? So you see a willing student?
Sandberg: I do. I have great conversations with him and I think with the constant communications of what is expected and needed from him. Is it going to happen overnight? No. But as we go forward and we have 39 games left, I talked to the guys on the first day and told them that these games were for them on being evaluated, ending on a good note and making adjustments that need to be made. Now is a good time to try something.