The good news for the Phillies is that Jimmy Rollins is back on the field. The bad news is that he has on-based .304 over his last 1,107 plate appearances and isn’t hitting for any power. Slowed by injuries, he’s slugging .366 for the season with two extra-base hits in his last 61 times to the plate. This article suggests he won’t be at 100 percent until next Spring.
His return is an issue for the Phils and the issue is complicated because 1) Shane Victorino was a monster out of the leadoff spot during Rollins’s recent absence and is hitting 276/345/466 while batting first for the season and 2) Wilson Valdez, who replaced Rollins at short defensively when Rollins was out most recently, is playing very well both offensively and defensively, hitting 333/413/431 over 59 plate appearances in his last 15 games.
It’s surely less of a factor, but Rollins also hasn’t played particularly well in the post-season the last three years, posting a 231/297/366 line over 149 playoff plate appearances.
While fans might disagree about what Charlie Manuel and the Phils should do with Rollins, what they almost surely will do is start him at shortstop and bat him at the top of the order. Manuel is pretty good about remembering that it wasn’t too long ago that Rollins was the MVP of the league.
But. For the eight Phillie regulars and Wilson Valdez, here’s the percentages of plate appearances this season in which they have singled, walked or been hit by a pitch:
|Player||% of PA
single, walk or HBP
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but there’s not a whole lot there that suggests that either Rollins or Victorino is the guy that should be leading off for the Phillies. Compared to the other guys on the list, Rollins isn’t likely to reach base on a single, walk or hit by pitch and Victorino is even less likely.
Rollins hasn’t been likely to deliver an extra-base hit this year, either. Here’s the percentage of plate appearances in which the nine players have had any kind of extra-base hit, a double or a triple or a home run this year:
2B or 3B
If the reason Rollins shouldn’t be leading off is because he’s struggled offensively overall for a while now, the reason that Victorino isn’t an ideal fit might have as much to do with what he does well as it does with how infrequently he singles, walks or is hit by a pitch. For the year he has been more likely to homer in a given plate appearance than Ibanez and more likely to hit a double or a triple than Utley. Where all Utley’s doubles have gone is a question for another day — over the last two seasons he has hit doubles less than half as regularly as he did from 2005 through 2008.
With Victorino and Polanco at the top of the order hitting one and two, it’s hard for me to see why you wouldn’t be better off with Victorino hitting behind Polanco. Polanco has been much more likely to reach base on a single, walk or hit by pitch while Victorino has been more likely to deliver a double or a triple and nearly three times as likely to hit the ball out of the yard. Polanco’s power has been absent for a long, long time now. After slugging .473 over his first 160 plate appearances for the season, he has hit 291/339/356 over his last 435 plate appearances with just 22 extra-base hits. Of those extra-base hits, 19 have been doubles.
Again, I don’t think it’s likely you’re going to see Polanco or Victorino and especially not Valdez hitting leadoff for the Phils any time soon. Rollins is the guy for the Phillies, and when he’s healthy enough to play I think you’ll see him in the lineup and hitting first. So let’s hope he hits.