Looking to 2012: Scott Rolen


Want a somewhat logical explanation for the Reds 2011 season? How about the absence of Scott Rolen. Okay, it might not be the only reason, or as some may term it, an excuse, but the loss of Rolen significantly derailed the Reds efforts to perform a back-to-back. There’s so much more to Rolen that merely offensive stats.

Well, here’s what Rolen did last season, the Bill James projections and the career numbers…

Stats and projections


1. Leadership
Rolen isn’t the most vocal guy, but as the saying goes, when he talks, you listen. If he isn’t talking, you observe. If you don’t listen and you don’t observe, you will be missing out on valuable information either as a player or as a person. Absorb every bit of knowledge you can get from him because you will eventually use it.

Even though we saw Rolen, it’s different when you’re playing and when you’re not. You can’t see those mannerisms while he’s on the field. That, in itself, is extremely valuable.

2. Defense
To some, Rolen may be the best defensive third baseman of this generation. Eight Gold Gloves (including one on 2010) carries a substantial and significant reputation. We didn’t get to see it a whole lot last season as Rolen participated in only 65 games. A healthy shoulder should go a long way to a return of defensive mastery.

3. The season after…
The last time Rolen was forced to miss a major chunk of playing time, he bounced back in a big way. Granted, this is now six years ago, but you can clearly see the increase in offensive production between 2005 and 2006…

In 2005, Rolen suffered a sholder injury after colliding with Hee-Seop Choi (Choi’s claim to fame I suppose). After undergoing an MRI, the torn labrum was discovered. Rolen opted for surgery and returned in 2006 as the NL Comeback Player of the Year.

Good vibes…


1. Health
I know I was stating that Rolen’s return is paramount, but, what if…

What if the shoulder isn’t healed? That’s a scary scenario we witnessed last season. There wasn’t really that one guy that could step in. Well, I doubt there are any that can replace a Scott Rolen with all the intangibles he brings, but someone could have at least aided the offense, right? We hear that the shoulder is better than it has been since the ’05 injury.

2. Limited playing time
This was to be the gameplan for last season…by design. Rolen would receive more rest in order to be fresh for the end of the season and a playoff run. Didn’t happen. I suspect the same plan will be in place for 2012. Rolen should see at least 100 games. Now, about those other 62 games…

3. Loss of bat speed?
Could Father Time be catching up with Rolen? It appears so. Last season we witnessed opposing pitchers have little issue with giving Rolen a fastball. Even though 2011 represents a smaller sample than 2010, Rolen saw 4.8% more fastballs in 2011 compared to 2010. There could be a myriad of reasons for that, but believing Rolen cannot get around on the old #1 is most plausible.

If you look at Rolen’s pitches values on FanGraphs, my theory is justified as the fastball rated as Rolen’s worst pitch last season (-3.5).


The issues surrounding Rolen aren’t new for 2012. A reduction in playing time is once again the plan. Rolen will need to make the best of his time, and I have little doubt he will. A lot of that will depend on where in the order Rolen is slotted. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him batting fifth…and then we’ll see what happens from there.

The projections are fair in regards to Rolen. I think he can exceed them provided a return of bat speed and health. A completely healthy Rolen could demand more than the 109 games James projects. I don’t believe it will be more than 120 though. That might be pushing it, but only Rolen knows that for sure. A season predicated on his first half of 2010 would be a find…and possibly a return to the top of the NL Central for his team.

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