Think back to April of 2008 for a moment. The Phillies dropped two of three to the Washington Nationals in an awfully poor display of pitching and offense. Their new closer was on the disabled list, their former closer was starting (rather unsuccessfully, I might add), and they were about to embark on a typical April in Philadelphia, where expectations far exceed the the results.
To make things worse, Jimmy Rollins, the reigning MVP, team leader and mouth piece for all of Philadelphia, landed on the disabled list with a sprained ankle after he awkwardly slid into second base on an attempted pickoff play in a game against the New York Mets.
Rollins would try to play through the injury, and ended up on the disabled list over a week later. All told, he went on to miss about a month’s worth of games.
Flash forward to today, and he finds himself in a similar situation: An injury to his calf that requires a trip to the disabled list; one that could possibly take up to a month to completely heal.
To debate about which injury is worse would be inane and an act of futility. Point is, this type of injury significantly impedes Jimmy’s game: beating out infield singles, first-to-third on a bleeder, scoring from second on a bloop to right, and perhaps most importantly, the range on the field that is the backbone of one of the best defensive units in the National League.
So the health of Jimmy Rollins, even if it means missing a month, is tantamount to the success of this team in the long run.
Which brings me to my point: The Phillies are not going to miss Jimmy. Well, not too much.
And here’s why.
In 2008, the Phillies went 16-12 from the time that Jimmy hurt his ankle on April 8th to the time he came back on May 9th.
Over that span, the Phillies went 16-12.
They averaged 4.8 runs per game, just a hair less than the 4.9 runs per game when Rollins wasn’t on the DL.
They did that with a pitching staff that consisted of Adam Eaton and Kyle Kendrick.
They did that with Geoff Jenkins and So Taguchi receiving significant playing time.
In other words, the Phillies did a lot with a little. They battled and clawed their way to a winning record in the 28 games without the services of Young James, with a team that is considerably weaker than the current roster.
And as good as Rollins has been to start the season, his absence on the offensive side of things is going to be less traumatic than that of what he brings to the defense. With the way the that the 2-6 hitters are going, losing Rollins for an extended period of time shouldn’t impact things too much. We’ve seen what the team can do without him, and there is no reason to think that it won’t continue, at least for a little while.
It also gives Shane Victorino a chance to get himself back on track, as the seventh spot in the lineup is less conducive to hitting success than the lead off spot. At the top of the lineup, he is going to get better pitches to hit with the likes of Placido Polanco and Chase Utley hitting behind him. In his first action as the lead off hitter last night, he went 4-for-5 with a triple, a homer, and five RBIs. Say what you want about the strength of the Nationals pitching staff, but it could be just what Shane needs to get going.
That isn’t to say that the team isn’t going to miss Rollins over the next month. It’s more about managing in his absence and how they can react to the adversity of being behind the eight-ball. But thanks be to a 7-1 start, the best since the 1993 squad accomplished the same, this team has built up some competitive equity, such that they can almost afford to lose a player for a limited amount of time.
And we’ve all heard the adage of “as jimmy goes, so do the phillies.” That statement basically won him the MVP.
But for now, the Phillies are going to go. With or without him.
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