Dropping Jimmy Rollins Out of the Leadoff Spot is the Right Move

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Dropping Jimmy Rollins Out of the Leadoff Spot is the Right Move
(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Prior to the first game of their series with the Dodgers on Tuesday night, I had seen enough of Jimmy Rollins as the Phillies' leadoff hitter.

After watching him struggle to get on base all season, it was a relief to see him hitting fifth in the lineup. I applaud Charlie Manuel for making the switch, but hope it will not be a temporary move.

I have nothing against Rollins; he's a very good player. He did, after all, win the NL MVP award in 2007 and was a key member of the 2008 World Series championship squad, something that will give him eternal love from Philadelphia fans.

But these things do not give him a pass on his poor performance at the plate this season, and they certainly do not give him the right to decide where he hits in the lineup.

Rollins announced before the game that it did not really matter what the lineup card said.

"I'm a leadoff hitter," he said. "That's what I do."

That might be what he does, but the problem is how well he does it. And this season, it has not been very well. Entering the game against the Dodgers, he was hitting only .195 and his .218 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter was the worst in baseball.

The idea that he is one of the elite players in the league is also a generalization that needs to stop. His MVP season should be thrown out the window at this point as an anomaly.

The 139 runs, 30 home runs, and 20 triples are totals that he never approached before that season and is never going to be near again. Expectations for his future production have to be lower than this.

He has also never been the ideal leadoff hitter. He has yet to finish a season with an on-base percentage over .350, not even in 2007 when he hit .296. He might have speed, and the switch-hitting ability gives Manuel a lot of flexibility at the top of the lineup, but this lack of ability to get on base is what is concerning for a leadoff hitter.

Whether it's not running out a pop-up or struggles at the plate, Rollins also seems to need a little nip in the bud every now and then to get going. Look what happened after he was moved to fifth: he broke out of an 0-for-13 slump.

Shane Victorino did a great job leading off against the Dodgers, but I feel the best option at the top of the lineup is Jayson Werth.

He shouldn't be expected to repeat Tuesday's four stolen-base performance, and he probably won't be stealing home again any time soon, but he has the speed that you look for in a leadoff hitter.

He has also been getting on base this season. Entering Tuesday, he was batting .287 with a .392 on-base percentage. He also led the team in runs (25) while hitting in the five or six hole most games. The strikeouts are a concern (23 in 28 games), but that would be helped by a different approach at the plate in the leadoff role.

Rollins hitting in the fifth spot also makes sense. Having someone with speed hitting ahead of the red-hot Raul Ibanez certainly is not a bad thing, as Rollins showed when he scored from first base on the game-winning double by Ibanez.

Is Jimmy Rollins the Phillies' biggest concern? Absolutely not. The starting pitching has to get better before the Phillies can start thinking about a third-straight division crown. But there is not much that can be done to fix that problem.

Other than Chan Ho Park, there is no one in the rotation that is going to be taken out any time soon. The Phillies just need to hope that problem corrects itself.

The Rollins issue, on the other hand, is something that can be fixed.

And while the Phillies' offense is towards the top in the NL in runs scored, they can use every run they can get while the rotation and Brad Lidge struggle to find themselves.

If Rollins is a leader of this team, he should do whatever it takes for them to put the best possible team on the field. What that means now is accepting this new role hitting lower in the lineup.

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