Monday, December 29, 2014

The morning after: Rollins is on base

WASHINGTON -- And now we rest.

The morning after: Rollins is on base

Rollins went 2-for-4 and reached base four times on Opening Day against the Nationals. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Rollins went 2-for-4 and reached base four times on Opening Day against the Nationals. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

WASHINGTON -- And now we rest.

It's April, so that means off days in baseball to account for possible bad weather. Monday's first-pitch temperature was 78. Today it is supposed to reach the high 80s here in D.C. So much for that.

So the Phillies rest today, knowing Monday was just about as perfect of an opening to their quest for three consecutive National League pennants as possible. Roy Halladay was spectacular. Placido Polanco eschewed all the criticism from outside the organization about his signing and fulfilled the prophecies everyone around the Phillies predicted.

But I was most impressed with Jimmy Rollins.

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Here is the 31-year-old shortstop whose best days are probably behind him. He came to camp with 2010 goals like stealing 50 bases, scoring 150 runs, hitting .300 and notching 200 hits. Lofty, at best.

On opening day, Rollins went 2-for-4 and reached base four times. He walked twice (one was intentional before a Polanco grand slam in the seventh).

Consider this: Jimmy Rollins walked two times in a game exactly four times in 2009. Four.

Three of those four two-walk games came in the first 12 games after Rollins' four-game mental break at the end of June last season. Over those 12 games, he hit .340 with a .456 on-base percentage. He walked two more times (10) than he struck out (eight).

We know this much to be true: Jimmy Rollins is not a prototypical leadoff hitter. Never has been. Never will be. Rollins' .292 on-base percentage in 2009 ranked second to last in the majors among players with at least 300 plate appearances as a leadoff hitter.

And this was one game, opening day against a flawed Nationals pitching staff. But as colleague Bob Brookover notes, Rollins didn't have a two-hit game until April 21 last season. He didn't have a two-walk game until May 12.

None of his preseason goals mentioned on-base percentage. Rollins won't say he needs to walk more or see more pitches because he says it's not the way he plays the game. He walked in 6.1 percent of his at-bats in 2009, well below the major-league average of 8.9 percent. And he's a leadoff hitter.

Here is the crazy part: Rollins still scored 100 runs with a .296 on-base percentage in 2009. In the MVP season of 2007, his on-base average was .344 and he scored 139 runs, a career high. Can he get back to that point? Likely not. But if Rollins' on-base percentage is closer to his career average of .329 than the .296 he put up in 2009, the Phillies lineup is that much better.

About this blog
Matt Gelb Inquirer Staff Writer
Bob Brookover Inquirer Columnist
Marc Narducci Inquirer Staff Writer
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