From the Editor's Vault...: November 23, 2007
Answering the Mail: Richard Lally, our Editor-in-Chief, on Jimmy Rollins and the Los Angeles Angels Hot Stove Moves
By selling high, the Angels should come out ahead on the Cabrera-Garland deal. It is unlikely that Cabrera will ever hit as well as he did in 2007; nothing in the shortstop's history suggests that he can maintain that level of productivity and, at 33 years old, he's about to enter his decline phase.
Cabrera is above-average defensively, but, at 5'9, he doesn't have the long legs to eat up ground, so his defensive coverage could drop precipitously once he looses a tick off his reaction time. History tells us that taller shortstops tend to retain their defensive prowess longer.
Garland isn't the pitcher he was in 2005, but he's a reliable number 3 or 4, who can eat up innings and he should benefit from pitching in front of the usually strong Angels bullpen. Garland "changes the pace" somewhat and brings a different look to the Angels' rotation as the only finesse pitcher in a line of power arms. His arrival may also may free the Angels to include Ervin Santana or Jared Weaver in a deal for Miguel Cabrera.
Hunter represents a significant upgrade over Gary Matthews, Jr. Even if Hunter's production falls off from his 2007 numbers - another likely event since he is 32 - he should contribute an extra 2 or 3 wins over Matthews' typical performance.
However, I must admit to being amused when I read the Associated Press story detailing the transaction. A line in the opening paragraph opined that the Angels signed Hunter to "protect Vladimir Guerrero in the lineup." If that's what the team expects, it may be disappointed. Studies have demonstrated that the notion that hitters "protect" other hitters in a lineup is highly overstated. Even if the theory proved out, Hunter's not the sort of hitter who protects anyone. While pitchers certainly respect him, this is not exactly David Ortiz sauntering to the plate behind Manny Ramirez. Hunter is a career .271 hitter with slightly above average power and a below-average OBP. He is susceptible to striking out, even though he doesn't consistently work pitchers deep into the count. He has many holes in his swing, weaknesses that pitchers can exploit.
Let me put this another way: If you were a pitcher and Vlad Guerrero came up in a critical situation with a runner on second and first base open, would you throw him meatballs because you were afraid to face Torii Hunter, particularly when you know that Guerrero's strike zone starts at the tip of his big toe and ends about six inches above his forehead? Not likely, is it? The Angels would have been better off gambling on a comeback by the younger, historically more productive Andruw Jones.
Hey Richard, I really like the Baseball Library Awards and noticed that most of them reflected the real postseasons awards, except that Jimmy Rollins nosed out Doc Holliday for MVP. What's your take on that? PhilliesSmashRB
That's funny. I thought our awards were the real awards, oh well...I didn't have Jimmy Rollins on my ballot because I was troubled by his .344 on-base percentage. That's below average for a National League leadoff hitter, and it strikes me that if you're going to be MVP, you should at least be better than average at your primary job, which for a leadoff hitter is getting on base.
I'm still researching this but, near as I can figure, Rollins is only the second player to win an MVP after a season in which he led his league in making outs. Cincinnati Reds first baseman Frank McCormick was the first to accomplish the "feat" back in 1940 (he also led the league in hitting into double-plays) McCormick's award was a mistake. Two pitchers on his own teams, Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer, were more valuable to the Reds than McCormick, and at least 10 National League hitters, including John Mize, Mel Ott, Arky Vaughan, Dolph Camilli, Enos Slaughter and Stan Hack, enjoyed more productive seasons.
McCormick won because he led the National League pennant winner in RBI, a counting stat which historically has held great sway over MVP electors. Rollins received a inordinate attention for driving in 94 runs from the leadoff spot, which is a nice number, if you're taken with counting stats. But it's not quite as impressive as it looks.
Yes, Rollins drove in a truckload of runs for a leadoff hitter, but that was mainly because he had more opportunities than other leadoff hitters. The Phils put many men are base in front of him. However, he also left a lot of them on. Consider:
With runners in scoring position with 2 men out (88 at-bats), Rollins hit .239. (his teammate, Chase Utley, as it happens, hit .362 in those situations).
With runners in scoring position (158 at-bats), Rollins hit .279 - 17 points below his 2007 batting average.
From the 7th inning on, with his team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck, Rollins hit .255.
Not exactly Clutch Cargo.
In September, when his team was fighting for the division, Rollins still slugged (.546), but his OBP was .333 - the lowest OBP month of his entire season.You could make a solid case for not including Rollins among your Top 10 candidates for MVP. Chipper Jones, Pujols, Holiday, Utley, Wright, Hanley Ramirez, Prince Fielder, Troy Trowlitzki (when you factor in his formidable glove), Ryan Howard and even Carlos Beltran, when you consider that Rollins plays in a hitter's haven and Beltran doesn't, probably were more valuable.
You might even convince me that Ryan Braun was more valuable, even though his defense at third base reminded many wary onlookers of Dick Stuart on his worst days at first base. If you're not familiar with Mr. Stuart's handiwork, suffice to say that the Ancient Mariner, "...who stoppeth one in three...," posted a higher career fielding percentage and demonstrated considerably more range.