I couldn’t stay quiet. Not after the Phillies swept the Mets AGAIN – this time at Shea. But Coley’s steadfast endorsement of Jimmy Rollins for MVP absolutely wreaks of homer-ism This is not a reference to the idiocy of Homer Simpson, but rather, the disease that plagues 99.99% (yes, this includes me) of baseball fans - the inability to properly judge the players on the teams for which you root.
I believe that there are 12 hitters in the National League who have had MVP-calibre seasons individually – Chipper Jones, Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, David Wright, Carlos Lee, Eric Byrnes, Jose Reyes, Prince Fielder, and Carlos Beltran. Rollins does certainly come out looking pretty good even among this bunch:
In the above chart, “Rk” stands for rank, comparing among the dozen players how each of them fare within those categories. Rollins is Top-5 in four categories – Runs, Strikeouts, Total Bases, and Stolen Bases. But look at Matt Holliday. He’s Top-5 in seven. Or David Wright, who is Top-5 in six. So Rollins doesn’t have the most balanced numbers among them.
What Rollins is heads-and-shoulders above his competition in is the number of times he has crossed home plate. His 127 Runs Scored is best in the NL, leading Hanley Ramirez by 12. But how is it that Rollins has this distinction with the lowest OBP among the dozen players (.346)? I’m sure that his number of extra-base hits and stolen bases has a good deal to do with this. But I’m just as sure that having Ryan Howard and Chase Utley behind you doesn’t hurt either. Moreover, look at the column for “ABs”. Despite playing in only three more games than his nearest competitor, Jose Reyes, Rollins has 38 more at-bats which sounds like a lot to me.
In fact, I checked the list of players who had led the NL in Runs Scored over a full season and found something that would make a good trivia question: When is the last time that a player has led the NL in Runs Scored while having a lower OBP than Jimmy Rollins (.346)? The answer is Glenn Beckert of the Chicago Cubs, who accomplished the feat all the way back in 1968, scoring 98 times despite having an OBP of .326. Suffice to say, the general rule of thumb is that in order to score runs, you need to get on base. It’s very unusual for a player like Rollins to lead the league.
Which got me wondering, in what other categories has Rollins benefited from his number of at-bats? I know this isn’t exactly scientific, but for kicks, I projected the numbers for each of the 12 MVP candidates if they too had equaled Rollins’ 656 At-Bats:
Rollins doesn’t look very special in this light. He still keeps up with his peers, but he’s now only Top-5 in two categories. Now I know this chart assumes that each player performs just as they have throughout the season, but I think the point can still be made. While this certainly does not change how much Rollins has contributed on the field – let’s face it, the guy’s been tremendous – but this does help put things into perspective. He’s performed exceptionally well, but he has also received more opportunities to do so than anyone else.
Jimmy Rollins has played at an MVP-level for certain. But when you compare him to his peers, he’s just middle-of-the-pack. To be fair, there’s still two weeks of baseball to be played. With the race for NL MVP so tight, I can be convinced otherwise.