9 Signs Jimmy Rollins Still Has More Success Left in the Tank

Marilee Gallagher@mgallagher17Contributor IIJanuary 11, 2012

9 Signs Jimmy Rollins Still Has More Success Left in the Tank

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    It is hard to believe that it has been over ten years since the Philadelphia Phillies found their starting shortstop in hotshot prospect Jimmy Rollins. From Reading to Scranton and then up to the Phillies in 2000, Rollins has continually shown his worth and his talent with the club that drafted him.

    Rollins, now 33, is hoping to continue to wow Phillies fans with his bat and glove. He may not be the all star and MVP he was only five years ago, but he can still play and he can still succeed at the major league level.

    In 2012 Rollins will be in the first year of a new three year deal with the Phillies. The vesting option for a fourth year seems achievable if he can stay healthy and it looks that the Phillies and Rollins will look to him having a good season if they hope to reach another World Series. With only three guaranteed years to prove he can still play, Rollins is primed to show the Phillies in 2012 and beyond why signing him was a good investment.

He Has Something to Prove

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    When Jimmy made his major league debut in 2000, it was simple. All he had to do was prove that he could be a major league player and with the Phillies offense sputtering it didn't seem that the rookie would have a tough job proving his worth.

    In 2012, Rollins will once again have to prove to the team that drafted him that he is and still can be a major league caliber shortstop. More than that however, he will also be out to prove that he is worth the $33M the Phillies have committed to pay him over the next three years. He will want to prove to Amaro and the rest of the Phillies organization that signing him was a good move for the club.

    For Rollins it will also be about proving that he can still play baseball at the level he has his entire career. Originally seeking a five year deal, Rollins received much less. Staying in Philly was less of a hometown discount then it was of taking the best deal on the table. A guy like Rollins clearly will go into 2012 out to prove to all of the teams that turned him down based on age or declining stats, that he still has great value to offer a major league contending team.

He Is Still a Gold Glove Shortstop

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    Jimmy Rollins, much like the Phillies number one shortstop prospect Freddy Galvis, was never an offensive stalwart. His average in the minors was better than Galvis' but just like his protege, Rollins value came mainly in his incredible defense.

    Never fielding below 97% in his career, Jimmy Rollins' name has always been synonymous with stellar defensive plays. Not only has he won multiple gold gloves at the shortstop position, he has also shown excellent range, a plus arm and a fearless attitude toward making plays. Not shown in the stats, Rollins has also wowed Phillies fans with incredible diving plays and his near perfection of Derek Jeter's legendary shortstop move.

    Even with his offense seeing a drop in the past five years, Rollins defensive abilities have not seen a decline at all. In fact in 2011, the three-time gold glove winner, posted his second career best in fielding percentage with 98.8%, showing he is still at the top of his game defensively.

He Is Looking at a Healthy 2012

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    There are three words that Jimmy Rollins should tell himself before every game: just stay healthy.

    Part of Rollins' recent decline has been attributed to the injuries he has suffered since his MVP season in 2007. 2007 marked the only season in his career in which Rollins played in all 162 games but after this season, games and innings began to drop. In 2008, he played in a then career low 132 games before reaching 155 again in 2009. Then in 2010, injuries kept him out for half of the season as he only played in 87 games and posted career lows in almost every offensive category.

    In 2012, Jimmy will be going into the season completely healthy. He had no offseason surgeries and by playing in 148 games in 2011, it looked that he was finally regaining the health that had plagued him in the past few seasons. It sounds simple but it really will be key to Rollins' season. If he stays healthy, it is likely he will be able to put up numbers similar to his career averages and if he doesn't, the Phillies could find themselves bringing up Galvis practically putting an end to the Rollins era in Philadelphia.

He Still Has Good Speed

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    Just like his defense, one of the other things Rollins has managed to keep over the years is his speed and incredible knowledge of when to run on the basepaths.

    Jimmy Rollins is one of only a few Phillies that has the green light when it comes to stealing bases. Based off of a career 83% success rate, Rollins is pretty much free to stir up trouble on the basepaths as he sees fit. He knows when to run and with his speed still a factor in his game, Rollins getting on base gives the Phillies a very good opportunity to score runs.

    Now that isn't to say that Rollins hasn't lost a step or two as he has aged. Despite stealing 30 bases in 2011, he was caught eight times putting his success rate below 80% for just the third time in his career.

    Despite this, 80% is still pretty good and around the league average. His speed which enables him to still field incredibly well, steal bases, first to third and score runs is one of Rollins' biggest assets and the fact that he could still steal 30 bases good enough for 9th in the NL shows that he is still going to be able to help the Phillies produce runs in 2012. 

His Power Numbers Are Up

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    He may not be participating in home runs derbies anytime soon but last season's increase in power from 2010 is a good sign that Rollins can still hit at least 15 home runs a season.

    In 2011, J-Roll pounded 16 HRs, the fourth highest mark in his twelve year career. This doubled 2010's mark of eight and was only five fewer than 2009's 21 bombs. Although the increase from 2010 to 2011 can mostly be attributed to the increase of games played, it is a positive thing for Rollins to focus on as the 2012 season begins.

    Hitting for power has never been Rollins' main forte but over the years he has shown that he has the ability to hit home runs. If in 2012 he can continue to maintain the power he discovered and harnessed in 2006, J-Roll has a good chance to hit 20 HR if he plays a full or close to a full season of baseball.

    That said, Rollins could benefit from not considering himself a power hitter. Ever since reaching the 20 HR in a season mark, Rollins has begun to hit more pop-ups by trying to power the ball out every at-bat. Focusing more on situational hitting and not trying to hit home runs will help Rollins get his average and on base percentage up. The power is there but he just needs to let the home runs come when they may.

He Is Becoming a More Patient Hitter

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    At this point in his career one of the more important things Jimmy can lean on is the ability to work on walks. He is still electric when he gets on base, all he has to do now is ensure that he gets the chance on the basepaths more often. With his average not where it used to be, Rollins needs to work out walks with greater frequency than he has in his career.

    A positive sign for Rollins in 2012 is that he has been averaging more walks a season including tying a career high of 58 in 2011. Rollins has also increased his OBP. In 2011, his OBP of .338 was the third highest in his career and was above the league average of .321.

    Although none of these numbers depict Rollins as a star player, they do show that he can still perform above the MLB average level. As he works on improving his patience, more hits and an even greater OBP and average will come with it. His strikeout numbers were very low in 2011 which also show he still has a good eye for the ball and with that, a good chance to put together a solid 2012 campaign.

His Attitude Has Not Changed

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    One thing about Jimmy Rollins that he is sure to bring to the table in 2012 is his attitude and for the Phillies having this attitude back is certainly a good sign for the team and for Rollins.

    Rollins' attitude has not changed. Throughout his career he has always had the swagger and has been both the emotional team leader and the vocal leader as well. He has never been afraid to make bold declarations. I think we all remember the 2007 "team to beat" moniker he placed on and subsequently defended for the Phillies.

    This attitude enables Rollins to still have the potential for success in 2012 and beyond. Continuing to maintain the cockiness and overall personality that has made him a beloved figure in Philadelphia is going to be key to how well he fares during this three year contract. If the attitude comes in at full force in 2012, the on-the-field offense is sure to follow.

He Still Believes He Can Play

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    Going hand and hand with attitude is the mentality and this is another one of those intangibles that Rollins still has.

    It may not seem important but belief in yourself and your abilities matters for players especially those in Rollins' situation. He is in the back end of his career but he is maintaining that he still has good baseball left to play and that he isn't done in the major leagues just yet.

    The belief that he can still play is going to be huge for what Rollins' ends up doing on the field in 2012 and throughout his three contract years. His positive mentality gives him the best shot at success as he is still confident in his abilities. Although it won't directly contribute to his stats, believing he can play is the first step in Rollins' shot at living up to his brand new contract.

He Will Be Working with the Same Core of Players and Coaches

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    Jimmy won't be the only one benefiting from the double play tandem of Utley and Rollins in 2012. In fact his coming back to the Phillies, the place he has spent his whole career, gives the Phillies and Rollins the best shot for success.

    Staying with the same players, the same coaches and the same management that Rollins has become so familiar with is a good sign that he can have a good season in 2012. He will be back with players that know and respect him and coaches that have identified and can focus on his strengths. At this point in his career, no one knows Rollins as well as the Phillies do and all of this gives him the best opportunity to succeed.

    Being back in a familiar place does help Rollins but only if Manuel and the gang use him in a way that gives him the best chance for him to play well. Rollins and Manuel have to understand that Jimmy never was and never will be a leadoff hitter. He has a better shot of having a good season if that pressure is off of him and if he is placed lower down in the line-up to help the bottom half of the offense have power and speed. With Chase Utley likely hitting third and Hunter Pence the most obvious candidate to fill in at leadoff until Ryan Howard is off of the DL, Rollins could be in a great place in the line-up hitting fifth or sixth. In that spot, Rollins can hit for power and use his speed as a way to bolster production in the middle-bottom half of the line-up.


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