Scott Rolen's struggles big issue for Reds

April, 19, 2012
4/19/12
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As the All-Star break approached back in 2010, Scott Rolen was -- if you'll forgive the pun -- absolutely rollin'. He was a sure-fire All-Star, and his name was being mentioned in MVP discussions as the Reds were flying high in the National League Central. With good reason, Rolen's resurgence was linked to Cincinnati's outstanding play that year.

Just prior to that season, Reds GM Walt Jocketty had signed Rolen to a contract extension that would carry him through 2012. Signing an aging, oft-injured player through his age-37 season raised a number of eyebrows, but Jocketty's decision looked pretty good when a rejuvenated Rolen entered the All-Star break hitting .290/.361/.548
with 17 home runs, 57 RBIs and a 145 OPS+. Sure, Rolen had lost a half-step defensively, but he was still very, very good.

[+] EnlargeScott Rolen
AP Photo/Al BehrmanIs 37-year-old Scott Rolen off to a slow start this season or has age caught up to the Reds slugger?
During the second half of 2010, however, Rolen looked noticeably the worse for wear. A sub-par second half culminated in a miserable performance in the National League Division Series. Rolen, looking tired, managed just one single and struck out eight times in 11 at-bats, as the Reds suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of Philadelphia.

After an injury-plagued 2011 that saw Rolen contribute just 0.6 WAR to the Reds' bottom line as he hit .242/.279/.397, Rolen came to spring camp with renewed optimism for a healthy, productive season. Unfortunately for Rolen and the Reds, the first couple of weeks have just been more of the same. Rolen
had two hits Wednesday night, and one of them was even an extra-base hit (a double). That prodigious output gave Rolen the following line for the 2012 season thus far: .171/.209/.244.

Obviously, we don't want to draw any sweeping conclusions based on 12 games worth of data. However, after watching him swing and miss at a
couple of mediocre fastballs Wednesday, I became curious. After the 11-1 drubbing in St. Louis, I decided to do some quick, back-of-the-envelope calculations. The results weren't pretty.

Since the 2010 All-Star break, Scott Rolen has played in 131 games. In those games, he's hitting .249/.303/.401, with 8 homers, 64 RBIs, 31 walks and 39 doubles.

Yikes.

Remember, this has been the primary cleanup hitter in Dusty Baker's lineup. Then again, that .704 OPS looks pretty good compared with his 2011 OPS of .676 (with an 82 OPS+).

Everyone in Cincinnati loves Scott Rolen. He's clearly one of the leaders on a young ballclub that's expected to compete, he's hilarious in an interview, he plays hard every night, and he still manages a pretty mean defensive game at third base. The guy has had a great career; probably a Hall of Fame career, frankly.

Let's be honest, though: Rolen has had one good half-season for the Reds. Since the 2010 All-Star break, he has been one of the worst hitting third basemen in the majors. Now he's 37 years old, appears to be having trouble getting around on any fastball quicker than Jamie Moyer's, and there is reason to wonder what the future has in store.

Is there any reason to believe that Rolen, at his age, with his injury history, is going to produce even average offense for the Reds this year? The Reds certainly hope so -- the club desperately needs his production, if he's going to hit in the middle of the lineup -- but I'm afraid there aren't many reasons to be optimistic.

Chad Dotson writes about the Reds at Redleg Nation. Follow him on Twitter.

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