Jimmy Rollins makes strong case for the Hall of Fame
by Scott Butler 5/19/13

Jimmy Rollins scored his 1,200th run on Friday, making him the fourth player since 1921 to score at least 1,200 runs with 400 or more steals. Impressive numbers, indeed, and. . . Hall of Fame worthy??

Jimmy appeared well on his way to a place in Cooperstown after an MVP 2007 season in which he hit .296 with 30 home runs, 20 triples, 41 stolen bases, and 139 runs scored. But Rollins has not come close to replicating that season ever since and from 2009-2013 he is batting .254 with a .315 OBP.

Hard to think Hall of Fame for a player with clear deficiencies in his offensive game, but remember that Rollins plays a predominantly defensive position (we'll get into that later) and in comparison to all-time shortstops, the numbers are there.

Jimmy Rollins vs. all-time shortstops

Here is how Rollins' numbers stack up among shortstops all-time.

Jimmy Rollins Career Ranking Among SS
Category Career Total Rank
Batting Average .270 42nd
Doubles 433 14th
Triples 106 14th
Home Runs 196 9th
Runs 1,200 20th
RBI 810 32nd
Slugging Pct. .431 13th
OPS .758 23rd
Stolen Bases 407 11th

Although these figures may not scream Hall of Fame on their own, Rollins is in the top 15 all-time in five different categories and is likely to move up the ranks in many of them. Also, keep in mind that he is in the company of 129 years of Major League shortstops.

One way to measure how that fits in with the Hall of Fame is to realize how many shortstops are already in the Hall of Fame. With 23 HOF shortstops, you can figure that any category in which he ranks in the top 23 deserves consideration. Rollins ranks in the top 23 in 7 offensive categories and averages a combined ranking of 19.8.

You can also look at this another way and compare him directly to the current HOF shortstops. Here is how Rollins measures up to the existing Hall of Famers at SS.

Jimmy Rollins Ranking Among HOF SS
Category Career Total Rank
Batting Average .270 17th
Doubles 433 9th
Triples 106 9th
Home Runs 196 6th
Runs 1,200 14th
RBI 810 17th
Slugging Pct. .431 8th
OPS .758 14th
Stolen Bases 407 6th

Rollins averages a ranking of 11.1 in the nine categories listed, which puts him in the middle of the pack among Hall of Fame shortstops. With those numbers, I can't imagine any HOF voter not putting J-Roll in.

You could have great discussions about Jimmy's merits offensively, but there is no question that his glove belongs in the Hall of Fame. Jimmy Rollins' .983 fielding percentage is the second best all time to Omar Vizquel (.984) and the best in National League history. To understand the value defense plays for shortstops, look no further than Ozzie Smith.

Jimmy Rollins vs. Ozzie Smith

Ozzie Smith, AKA The Wizard of Oz, was by no means known for his bat. Smith had a career .262 batting average with 28 home runs, 793 RBI, and 580 steals. But he was a terrific shortstop and probably better overall defensively than Rollins. It was his defense, not his offense, that earned him a ticket into the Hall of Fame.

Here is how Ozzie Smith compares to Jimmy Rollins defensively:

  Seasons G Inn Chances Ch/G Putouts Assists Errors DP FLD%
Smith 19 2,511 21,785.2 12,905 5.1 4,249 8,375 281 1,590 .978
Rollins 14 1,814 15,936.1 7,610 4.2 2,478 5,002 130 1,038 .983

What the numbers essentially say is that Ozzie had much better range than Jimmy. The fact that Smith had nearly one more chance per game means that he was able to get to balls that Rollins could not, which is probably a reason his fielding percentage is worse.

That should not take anything away from Jimmy's game. Smith might have gotten to more balls and made more acrobatic plays, but he still made almost 7 more errors per season than Rollins. So Rollins wins offensively and Smith wins defensively - either way the both should be Hall of Famers.

Hall of Famer Jimmy Rollins

One other criteria some Hall of Fame voters use is the impact a player made during his career. Rollins obviously won an MVP, appeared in four all-star games, won four gold gloves, ranked third or better in runs scored four times, led the league in triples four times, and also has a World Series ring. Rollins' resume speaks for itself.

So the next time you boo Jimmy Rollins for not running a ball out or popping up, just remember you might be booing a Hall of Famer.

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