I thought about leading off this post with one of those “Guess who leads the Majors in WAR among shortstops” questions, but then realized that I put Jimmy Rollins name was in the headline, so that seemed to not be much of a challenge. But, yes, Jimmy Rollins currently leads all MLB shortstops in WAR, checking in at +4.9 for the season. He’s been the lynchpin to the Phillies second half comeback, but on the other hand, he was also one of the reasons that they had a big hole to dig out of to begin with, because Rollins is having one of the weirdest good seasons in recent history.
Here are his monthly splits:
Rollins was atrocious in the first month of the season, mostly because his strikeouts went way up (18.3% K%) and his power went way down (.035 ISO). The ability to hit for power while maintaining high contact rates have always been his calling card, so when both of those things go south at the same time, he’s a pretty awful hitter. Even with his usual solid defense at short, Rollins was a replacement level scrub in April.
His May was slightly better, but not by much. He got his strikeouts back in check, but there still wasn’t much power, and and again, Rollins was mediocre at best. Then came June.
After combining for just 10 extra base hits in the first two months of the season, Rollins hit 18 in the season’s third month, including six home runs and three triples. He slugged .580 in June and posted an 11.4% K%, his lowest mark of the season. The contact and power reappeared, and for the month, he was one of the best players in baseball, posting +1.7 WAR in the process.
While the skills stuck around, the same process didn’t lead to great results in July and August, as his BABIP crashed and took his offensive production down with it. The power helped him produce more than he had early in the season, but he wasn’t anything special, posting +1 WAR total between those two months. Had he carried over some of his June production into July, the Phillies may have traded him to a contender in need of an upgrade at the position, but given his age and the $30+ million left on his contract, there wasn’t a huge market for his services.
That looks like it’s pretty fortunate for the Phillies, because his September has been even better than his June. He’s already his seven home runs this month, and he’s slugging a ridiculous .681 over the team’s last 17 games. At +1.5 WAR, he’s been baseball’s best position player this month – yes, even better than the legendary Miguel Cabrera.
Rollins has played 40 games in June and September, which accounts for just 30% of his season total. In those two months, he’s accumulated +3.2 WAR, which is 65% of his total for the year. And, while some normal variation in performance over these kinds of arbitrary endpoints is expected, you don’t see these kinds of awful-bad-great-bad-okay-amazing kinds of swings too often.
Overall, the total package for the Phillies has been quite valuable, and there’s a pretty good case to be made that he’s been baseball’s best overall shortstop this year. It’s been a roller coaster of a ride, however, beginning with a few months where Rollins looked like a shell of his former self. However, for the last four months, he’s been showing better power than he has at any point since his MVP season of 2007, and even with the increase in strikeouts, Rollins is still a very productive player. While he turns 34 in November and is probably headed for some decline in the next few years, it certainly isn’t here yet. As long as he keeps driving the ball and playing quality defense at a premium position, he’ll continue to be among the league’s best players.