LOS ANGELES -- More than 100 at-bats into his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, three-time All-Star Jimmy Rollins is batting .165, a number only four qualified batters in the major leagues trail. Yet the team’s concern level isn’t as high as people might think and their willingness to make a change is probably much further away than people might assume.
Rollins has been hitting into some of the hardest luck in the game. Just within the past few days, he has bunted for a hit only to see the umpire rule incorrectly that the first baseman beat him to the bag and he has hit a line drive for what could have been an easy sacrifice fly. It turned into an out when Joc Pederson misread it and was doubled off first by Giancarlo Stanton.
“Anything that could go wrong has happened to him,” Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire said. “The work that he’s putting in is fantastic and he has the track record of a 14-year veteran. It’s just a matter of time.”
Rollins’ batting average on balls in play, .184, is the third lowest in baseball. One of the people hitting into even worse luck is Rollins’ longtime double play partner, Chase Utley, who is batting .111 on balls put in play and is batting a league-worst .129.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly thought Rollins was struggling to make good contact for a while early in the season, but lately has simply been a victim of awful luck.
“If he keeps hitting the ball hard, he’s going to get his hits,” Mattingly said.
One development that could make things nervous for Rollins if he continues to struggle is if the Dodgers’ top prospect, Corey Seager, were to get on a roll. Since being promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City, Seager, a shortstop who is also playing a little third base, is hitting .189 with just three extra-base hits.
The only trend that bodes ill for Rollins is a strikeout rate that has been ascending fairly steeply since 2010 and might indicate diminishing bat speed. He struck out in roughly 16 percent of his plate appearances last year and is striking out in 20 percent of them this year. In 2008, the year he won the MVP award, Rollins struck out 10.9 percent of the time. Rollins, 36, has somewhat offset that with a greater willingness to walk the past two seasons.