One of the most intriguing names on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this time around is Jimmy Rollins. It's difficult to see him getting close to enshrinement right now and there's a distinct chance Rollins falls off the ballot by virtue of receiving less than five percent of the vote in his first try. It's also possible he hangs around. Let's take a look at his case.
Though Rollins has some good numbers, right off the top we should point out his case is a lot stronger on "feel" than on numbers.
From 2007-11, the Phillies won five straight division titles, two pennants and a World Series championship. Rollins, along with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, was part of the backbone of those teams. He was the leadoff man and it's fair to slap the "heart and soul" label on him. He was as important as anyone to a team that was one of the best in baseball for a half decade. He had a signature postseason moment, too, with this two-out walk-off double in Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS against the Dodgers:
In terms of black ink, Rollins led his league in triples four times, runs once and steals once. He won the 2007 MVP with an absurdly-full stat line: 212 hits, 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 homers, 94 RBI, 139 runs and 41 stolen bases.
In all, Rollins racked up 2,455 hits, 511 doubles, 115 triples, 231 homers, 936 RBI, 1,421 runs and 470 stolen bases. He was a three-time All-Star, won a Silver Slugger and won four Gold Gloves. His top four statistical similars are Barry Larkin (Hall of Famer), Alan Trammell (Hall of Famer), Lou Whitaker (should be a Hall of Famer) and Roberto Alomar (Hall of Famer).
For those who like to put stock in such things, Rollins was a switch hitter. He's ninth among switch hitters in career total bases, fifth in doubles and sixth in extra-base hits.
On the flip-side, Rollins is 32nd among shortstops in JAWS. He is ahead of Hall of Famers Travis Jackson, Phil Rizzuto and Rabbit Maranville, but he trails the likes of Nomar Garciaparra, Miguel Tejada and Troy Tulowitzki. He's far short of the average Hall of Fame shortstop in WAR, JAWS and WAR7 (his best seven years). If you look at the counting stats listed above, the best Rollins can do is 46th all-time in stolen bases, 56th in doubles, 84th in extra-base hits and 88th in runs scored.
In terms of rate stats, Rollins is a career .264/.324/.418 (95 OPS+) hitter. He never hit .300 (he hit .296 in his MVP season for a career high, excluding his 14-game debut run in 2000).
There's certainly something to be said for Rollins' durability. As noted, he was the heart and soul of those great Phillies teams. He could also be counted on daily. He played at least 154 games in 10 of 13 years from 2001-13. He led the league in plate appearances three times and at-bats four times. Of course, with all those plate appearances and not a great OBP, Rollins led his league in outs made four times. He's 43rd in history in outs made.
Still, Rollins' numbers show a shortfall when it comes to his Hall of Fame case. There's little arguing it, really.
The Hall of Fame, however, isn't the Hall of Stats or the Hall of WAR. Cases can be about much more than a player's stat line and in the case of Rollins, his story feels a lot more compelling than the numbers state. He wouldn't make my cut on this ballot, but I reserve the right to add him in future seasons, should he hang around on the ballot. Those of us who got to watch the prime of Jimmy Rollins' career know that he was a lot bigger deal than a 95 OPS+.