Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Philadelphia Phillies' Struggles Prove Jimmy Rollins' Importance

Philadelphia Phillies' Jimmy Rollins participates in batting practice prior to game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodger in Philadelphia on October 19, 2009. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

So, let's do the math. Heading into tonight's game, the Phillies were 9-3 with him and 23-27 without him.

Additionally, the hometown team has outscored opponents 74-35 with him, but have been outscored 226-201 with him idle.

That's a 290 point differential in winning percentage.

Breaking it down a little further, that represents a 3.75 swing in run differential per game. With the player, the Phillies recorded 3.25 runs more than their opponent, but have scored .50 runs less than their opponent without him.

The numbers seem to serve testimony to the importance of Jimmy Rollins in the Phillies formula for success.

The Gold Glove shortstop has had a difficult time living up to expectations after his phenomenal 2007 MVP season. He set the bar at such a high level with a campaign that hit on all cylinders, magnificently displaying his five tool skills that perhaps his value to this Phillies ball club has been underestimated ever since.

That season, J-Roll did everything but sing "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch and handle the tarp during rain storms. Oh, yeah, he did that, too on one excessivley windy day in Colorado.

Because his batting average and OBP have been down the past two seasons, it might be easy for critics to overlook all the other ways Rollins contributes to the team's success.

When J-Roll is swinging the bat well his value to the team is highly apparent. A lead-off man capable of spraying line drives around the yard, racing to take extra bases, swiping bags at a near perfect success rate, and going yard 30 times in a season will surely jump start any offense.

When you layer on the fact that the same player grabs his glove to assume the most important position in the field and has been recognized as the best glove man in the business three years running— it becomes even easier to see why he is so sorely missed.

But, perhaps the Phillies recent slide points out that despite how talented Rollins is offensively and defensively, his greatest contribution might lie elsewhere. As much as players look up to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and now Roy Halladay, none of them provides the spark supplied by Rollins.

For much of his absence, the team has looked lifeless and listless. Levity throughout the ranks seems clearly AWOL without J-Roll's infectious smile. A suffocating tightness seems to envelope the team.

It is unclear when Rollins will be fit enough to return. Considering his premature return the first time around, the organization is rightfully taking a cautious approach.

What is clear, though, is that Rollins is the type of difference-maker who could jolt a moribund team. The Phillies and their fans can only hope that comes sooner rather than later.

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