Philadelphia Phillies: 10 Reasons Rollins, Utley Will Return to Form in 2011

Ryan WolcottContributor IIJanuary 18, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies: 10 Reasons Rollins, Utley Will Return to Form in 2011

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    Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley make up a deadly combination in the middle of the infield. Both of these players are dynamic in the field and at the plate. However, both of these players are coming off of a season that does not show their best performances. That being said, Rollins and Utley have shown some signs of growth as players, and they will be back to their normal caliber, or perhaps better, for 2011 if they can both avoid the disabled list where both spent a great deal of time in 2010.

    Expect Rollins and Utley to have a bounce back year in 2011.

10. Both Rollins and Utley Are Proven Champions

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    Utley and Rollins both have something that is desired by all players in the major leagues, a World Series Champions ring. Both of these players are veterans and know how hard it is and how much work goes into earning a playoff run and sitting at the top once all is said and done.

    Both of these players spent a lot of time on the disabled list in 2010, and these are two very dedicated and proud players who will do their best to avoid missing any playing time in 2011. Rollins's numbers would show that he had a terrible season, but he only had about half of the number of at bats that he would have in a healthy season. Utley had his worst defensive postseason in 2010.

    Both of these players will dedicate themselves to avoid the having repeats this coming season. Both were champions and will dedicate their training and practice to work towards being a champion again. Both are also team leaders and know that they need to help lead their team to a championship season in 2011. They both know what is at stake this year, and they know that this could be the only year where their pitching rotation is as strong as it is.

9. Rollins in Need of a Contract Renewal

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    On an aging team, Rollins does not help the average age become much lower. Rollins is 32, and he is likely a lifelong Phillie. However, his contract expires this year. He needs to prove to the organization that he is worthy of a contract renewal, and, if he does not get a renewal from the Phillies, he needs to be attractive enough for another team to want to sign him for the 2012 season. Rollins knows that his professional career is on the line for this season, and he will play to insure his career is extended.

    If Rollins had another year where he spent a great deal of time on the disabled list, he would likely not get a contract extension from Philadelphia. If he does not have a healthy year, he will not get a heavy contract from Philadelphia or any other team since they will feel as if he is no longer fit enough to play as full season. Rollins knows that he needs to prove that his contract should be extended.

8. Rollins Becoming a Smarter Player

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    With just more than half the number of at bats that he had the previous year, Rollins showed many numbers that would match that. In 2010, he had a little more than half of his at bats, had about half as many hits, just more than half the stolen bases, and about half the number of hits and RBIs that he had in 2010. Jimmy Rollins' numbers showed that he is growing mentally as a baseball player. He stole 17 bases in 2010, and he was only caught once, making 2010 the season his stolen base percentage his best.

    In 2010, Rollins had 54% of the number of at bats that he has in 2009. He also struck out about 46% of the number of times that he did in 2009. With adjusting the numbers, if shows that he was 1% less likely to strike out in 2010. That one percent may not seem like a whole lot, but Rollins only struck out about 9% of the times that he stepped up to the plate. It is also an improvement of between 2-3% of the years before 2009 and about 9% percent better than it was in 2001-2003.

    What really demonstrates his growth in the mental game of baseball was the number of walks that he had in 2010. In 2009, Rollins had 44 walks, and he had 40 in 2010. In a season where he stepped to the plate half the number of times, he matched the number of walks he had the year before. Rollins in seeing the ball much better than he was in preceding years. Since he does not strike out a whole lot and can draw a walk, Rollins will be strong in the leadoff spot for 2011.

7. 2010 Was No Typical Season For Rollins

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    Rollins had his worst injury plagued season of his career in 2010. 2010 was the only season in the past four seasons where he did not receive any awards. The injuries he suffered in 2010 does not mean those injuries will recur in 2011. Rollins will work with a conditioning coach in order to prevent that from occurring. Once the Phillies were in the playoffs in 2010, Rollins came back to play, but he was not yet fully healed. He is a professional and will take advantage of the time he has off to tend to his injuries this offseason to make sure he is fully healthy this spring.

    Rollins will work this year to make sure he has another award winning season and hopefully help Philadelphia win the NL East for the fifth straight year and beyond. Having one bad season does not mean that the following seasons will follow in the bad season's form. Rollins will train to make sure that his 2010 season does not repeat itself in 2011.

6. RISP and OBP With RISP

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    For playing essentially half of a season in 2010, Rollins had averages that were about equal to his annual averages in other years. However, as previously mentioned, he showed improvements in the number of walks he could draw and the stikeouts he would have. In addition to those two improvements, Rollins also showed great improvements with his averages with runners in scoring positions.

    Rollins' career average with RISP is .290 with an OBP of .373 and a slugging percentage of .488. With two outs, those averages are .267, .392, and .455, respectively. There are actually very good numbers already, but his 2010 numbers were great improvements above his overall averages. His overall averages for those categories in 2010 were .329, .405, and .557, respectively. With two outs in 2010, 3,75, 4.79, and .700, respectively.

    The only other year that Rollins had where those numbers can compare to another was the 2008 season where those averages were .318, .449, and .514 and .295, .492, and .477 with two outs.

    To translate all of this, when there were two outs with runners in scoring position and Rollins was at the plate, he got on base almost 1 in every 2 times. Those are great numbers, and I expect Rollins to produce similar averages for 2011.

5. 2011 May Be The Best Chance For a Repeat World Series Chamionship

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    One of the most written about topics this offseason was the shocking signing of Cliff Lee by the Phillies, and rightfully so as the Phillies have the best rotation in the majors right now. Considering we saw a 2010 season where the 17th best offense in baseball can win a World Series, it is a given that a strong pitching rotation is needed, or at least helpful, to be successful in the playoffs.

    Rollins and Utley are both aware that 2011 may be the only season where the Phillies will have a starting pitching rotation that is this good. Cole Hamels' contract ends after 2011, and Roy Oswalt is eligible for a club option after 2011, so there is no guarantee that either will be a pitcher for the Phillies after this season. I do believe that Hamels will get a contract extension this season, locking him in for another three or four years, so we will be able to hold three of the four without a big struggle. I also believe that Oswalt's future has two options: a contract extension with Philadelphia or retirement.

    Whatever the outcome is with those two pitchers, neither of their futures' is guaranteed as a Phillie, and the Phillies, as a whole, will play all-in this season as if it was their last season as a true contender, even though that is likely not true.

4. Utley Improves or Becomes Trade Bait

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    Utley did not have the best season he has ever had in 2010. There have been a number of rumors about either trading Utley this offseason or moving him to the outfield to fill in the hole in right field left by Jayson Werth. Utley is aware of these rumors. He is a lifelong Phillie and does not want to be traded. He wants to be reassured that he has a future as a Phillies, after 2013 when his contract expires.

    He also will not be placed in right field, because, my prediction is that, Ben Francisco will outright win the starting spot for right field during spring training this year.

    Utley knows that his future as a Phillie is in the hands of his performance this season, and he will up his play to make sure that his place in Philadelphia is permanent.

3. Utley Had Good Numbers Even With Mssing Six Weeks

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    Utley spent six weeks on the disabled list this season, but he still had a season with good overall numbers. Considering he missed those six weeks, Utley still produced numbers that put his as seventh best with homeruns, ninth best with RBIs, and tenth best with stolen bases when compared to the rest of the league's second basemen.

    Utley had 13 stolen bases in 2010, which is only seven less than the second basemen with the second most steals. Chone Figgins had the most stolen bases as a second basemen, but Utley would not be able to touch the 42 bases that he stole last year. If Utley manages to avoid the DL in 2011, you will likely be able to see him raise up above the rest of the competition for best second basemen. He always scores towards the top with RBIs, homeruns, and stolen bases, and, if healthy, Utley will have a repeat of his dominance at the plate in 2011, as he does have one of the best plate visions on the Phillies. Utley was ranked 50th in the of the majors last year with the number of walks he had, even with the time he did not play last year. 2010 was also the only season in the past five seasons where Utley was not awarded the silver slugger award. Expect great things from Utley this season.

2. Utley a Solid Defensive Player

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    Utley has a career fielding percentage of .982 at second base. He will start over 150 games this season and make about ten errors, which is not bad. Utley has always been a great play maker at second base, and he has been able to make plays at second base that many other players could not do. Utley will be a dependable fielder in 2011, which is vitally important on a team that needs a strong defense behind their ace rotation.

1. Utley Clutch at The Plate

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    Utley is a clutch hitter with the ability to hit for power and contact, as well as draw a walk. Last season, Utley had a batting average of .333 with runners in scoring position and had an on base percentage of .461. With two outs, those numbers were .371 and .500, respectively. Utley knows how to produce runs and is one of the best at taking advantage of times when RISP.

Rollins and Utley Want To Be Champions Again

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    Rollins and Utley are coming off of atypical season in 2010. They are both dedicated players and seasoned veterans. They know what it takes to get to the top, and they also know how it feels to fall short. Rollins and Utley will return to their normal form in 2011 by strenuous training and conditioning, because these two players want what is best for each of themselves and the Philadelphia Phillies in general. They will work hard in their attempts to return to a championship season by being a strong offensive and defensive player.