Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Who's Number One? Victorino vs. Rollins

Jimmy Rollins
As you know, I am from the Philadelphia area which can at times put you in the voice-of-reason chair when it comes to discussing locally the sport you know, you still play, you watch, and the one you have loved with a passion for your entire life. Don't take this the wrong way, I LOVE Philadelphia, the city, the history, the people, the restaurants, and I certainly love its sports fan base--of course, minus the 1% who get "tased" on the playing field or decide to throw up on a little girl and her father. Hey, I know the rules of football, how the game is played, etc., etc. However, I will never pretend to know enough about the current ongoings of the Eagles, the NFL, NCAA Football, NBA, or even Cricket simply because I don't follow these sports.
Brain Power!

So, I won't ever throw out blanket statements about any particular sport or player(s) without having good back-up as life has shown me quick research combined with a watch-and-learn philosophy has never made me look like a complete ass in the event that I'd ever choose to open my mouth about subjects I know nothing (or not enough) about. Am I implying that I know the game of baseball better than anyone? No, certainly not...but what I am saying is that I'll do my best to get down to the bottom of any debate about the game and offer an informed opinion because it IS my favorite sport to follow (hockey #2). I just don't prefer to say something like "Shane Victorino is better than Jimmy Rollins at leadoff" without really knowing if he is or isn't. I can't help myself, I just need to know and I do like the fans to know, as well. I love a nice, prepared fan--or at least one who's made some effort. One can't say the sky is red unless he/she can do their best to show you. Case in point, I think I've learned more about the Eagles from several members of their loyal fan base while sitting on a bar stool on a Sunday afternoon. Most do know what they're talking about, probably because they simply paid attention, Googled, listened to Ray Didinger or Reuben Frank, or read the news. Fair enough? I think so....because after some quick research done today, I may have proven myself wrong!! Or did I? I do know I was partially surprised at what I thought I knew.

Shane Victorino
This brings us to a frequently debated topic in baseball heaven, which I believe has firmly entrenched itself in the City of Brotherly Love over the past 3-4 seasons. MLB fans from places like Boston, St. Louis, and The Bronx will claim otherwise, but they must remember the address is never permanent--it's just our turn. However, even in heaven, there's room for debate as many within 50 miles of 19148 think that Shane Victorino is a better option in the batting order at lead-off than is Jimmy Rollins. Philly.com's Sam Donnellon toys with the idea of having Chase Utley lead off, but to me, this simply reduces an already power-depleted lineup without the services of Ryan Howard for who knows how long in 2012. Believe me, the Phillies will NEED Utley in the 3 (or sometimes 2) spot to move runners.  Today's post will do its best to counter or concede the notions of Victorino > Rollins at #1 as the numbers might not support this idea--or do they? Listen, I GET it about the greater love affair for Shane as opposed to J-Roll: he's more blue-collar, plays with more of a chip on his shoulder, and seems to represent the Philly attitude better than Jimmy. But, you can't let that confuse your perception en route to the truth regardless of the outcome. You gotta do the research, which took me about 10 minutes. The below career stats were plucked from www.baseball-reference.com and www.sportsillustrated.cnn.com:

Item #1: When batting in the leadoff position in the lineup


.275.333.448  .781


.253.324.421  .745

Now, take the above stats and compare below to: 

Item # 2: When leading off any inning


Leading off any inning:    .259.300.412.712


Leading off any inning:    .274.332.425.756

Trust Chollie
Man, I love this game. Because it's so impossibly strange. Is it accurate to say that Shane Victorino is very good leading off any inning, but not when carrying the burden of being dubbed "the leadoff guy"?? Baseball is like any sport where the mental can often outweigh the physical and it seems Shane is clearly fine to set the table on the field--just so long as you don't pencil him in to hold the title of the table-setter, the number 1 crown  just might lay a little too heavy. Granted Victorino doesn't have as much experience or plate appearances at #1, but in the interest of debate the averages & percentages were the only stats I could compare. As for Jimmy, maybe it's just that he's not all too happy out of his familiar home at leadoff. His overall stats when batting first seem to support that he's better there than Victorino, but it also seems to be that you can count on Shane more when leading off any inning. Yep, my brain just exploded.

I think maybe we can fairly say that Rollins is more comfortable in the leadoff role than Victorino. And until last season's performance by Victorino, neither player (with the God-given sprinter's speed they both possess) were even close to the OBP they should reach every year. In order to show fairly where each man is better positioned in the lineup, you need to take a look at their numbers batting 6th (since neither is really a true 5-spot batter):





This is really all that matters
Shane's power numbers in the 6-spot have shown he swings a much better bat to drive in runs with the above OBP/SLG/OPS line, which is what's expected of that spot in the order. I'd certainly feel safe to say that I'd rather watch Jimmy remain where he's most comfortable batting in the leadoff position, while that opinion might not be popular. They have always been a formidable duo at 1-2, but I think you may see more often a lineup in 2012 with Rollins-Utley-Pence or Rollins-Polanco-Utley at the top of the order given Shane's success @ #6. Of course, so much will depend on the health of the Phillies, like any club. Normally the prototypical #2, Polanco will ultimatley determine the consistency of the Phillies lineup in 2012. If he bounces back from a sub-par season last year where he was decimated by injuries (elbow, back, sports hernia), the familiar Rollins-Polanco-Utley should be a common fixture in 2012. If Polanco breaks down again, Shane may find himself returning to the #2 spot.

Oh and hey....just for fun, a common claim that Jimmy "...hurts us by swinging at the first pitch, 0-1, 1-0, etc." is debunked below:

Statistics with Rollins swinging early in the count:

First Pitch: .340
1-0:             .320.319.498.817
2-0:             .318.317.539.856
0-1:             .291.292.448.740
1-1:             .304.306.455.761

Surely he's not your typical leadoff man, but the numbers show that he's certainly not hurting the Phillies by being as impatient as a child at the mall with Mom doing her clothes shopping. Again, given his speed his OBP should be way higher leading off, but his average does say that his ability to spot a good pitch early to drive is fairly reliable.

Welcome back, Jimmy. This is one man who is glad you never left us.


  1. By the way, attractive layout, and I like the Bugs Bunny reference. That was one of my favorite episodes when I was a kid.

  2. FYI, I don't see it listed on your blog list but in case you haven't come across it, I think The Good Phight is a good blog, mixing sabermetrics with a heaping side of snark. http://www.thegoodphight.com/

    I post there occasionally.

  3. @Schmenkman, I chose to remove ou rcomments aas I have corected the statistical issues from earlier.

  4. But clearly have not removed my inability to type today...