In 2008, Jimmy Rollins decided he no longer wanted to be a power threat. He wanted to be a leadoff hitter instead.
Originally, this post was designed to pose this question: Is Jimmy Rollins, nearing the age of 30, slowing down? I wondered this as I watched J-Roll go 1-for-11 against Atlanta, showing little pop in his bat, continuing what has generally been considered a disappointing encore to his brilliant season a year ago.
In reviewing J-Roll's '08 follow-up, 'disappointing' may not be the right word. Instead, call it a very 'different' season for the reigning MVP. Because of injury and less production throughout the lineup, he’s seen 162-less plate appearances than 2007, when he finished with a ridiculous 778. He has 19 less home runs than ’07. His OPS (.780) represents a significant drop from last year’s career-high .875.
While some signs like his massive drop in power suggest he’s slowing down, many others reveal the opposite. Aside from an excellent defensive season, he’s already tied his career high in stolen bases with 46, matching the mark set during his rookie year. He’s been successful in 93.9 percent of his attempts, which is stellar. And while his triples are down, he’s roped 36 doubles, just two less than a year ago.
Then there’s this little nugget: His K/BB ratio is an outstanding 55/55. No other season comes close. With two more walks, he will match his career high and he could finish with the highest on-base percentage of his career. He’s sitting at .346 now. His career high of .348 was set in 2004.
It’s strange, but it’s like Jimmy spent his entire career ignoring some of the rules of a leadoff hitter, never quite fitting the mold and behaving, to some degree, like a power hitter. Then when he develops into a legitimate power threat, as he did in 2007, he does a total 180 and converts into the quintessential table setter.
One could argue that 2008 has been Jimmy Rollins’ best approach at performing the duties asked of a leadoff man. That was, after all, his original purpose.