Should The Lead-Off Hitter Be Rollins or Victorino?

Coming off a year plagued with injuries, Jimmy Rollins has many reasons to rebound in 2011.  But should he bat lead-off or should the job pass to Shane Victorino?

In 2010, Victorino took the majority of the at-bats in the lead-off spot while Rollins nursed a sore calf.  In 348 at-bats in the lead-off spot, Victorino posted a .276 batting average.  Rollins, in 294 at-bats in the same spot, batted only.242.

110209.jpgAnd although Rollins was injured much of 2010, his 2009 numbers are not much better.  In 640 at-bats that season, Rollins batted just .245 as the lead-off hitter.

In fact, since his 2007 MVP year, there has been a steady decline in Rollins’ performance.  Whether that is due to age, injuries or a combination of both is not certain.  But with 2011 being a contract year for J-Roll, he should have plenty of motivation to get into better shape and improve.

Victorino is two years younger, but has also had his share of injuries.  Also, neither player is a typical lead-off hitter.  Both Rollins and Victorino are aggressive at the plate and routinely swing at first pitches.

This approach does seem to work for Victorino, who batted .352 when swinging at the first pitch in 2010.  Similarly, Rollins hit .333 in the same situation.

Both players have speed on their side, but Rollins may be more tentative than Victorino after dealing with so many leg issues in 2010.

And then there is the psychological battle to be fought.  For years, Rollins has been the engine that kicks this team’s offense into gear.  Without him at the top of the line-up, the offense seems to fizzle. 

But this magical momentum Rollins provides is more mental than physical.  In order to change the entire teams’ outlook on the situation, the Phillies would need to start off the year with Victorino in the top spot.

This is by no means an easy decision.  If Rollins has a comeback type of year, he should be in the lead-off position.  But there is no way to know how it will go until it actually happens.

And if they start the year with Rollins batting lead-off and he flops, the transition to switch Victorino into that spot will be more difficult. 

So who should it be?  Right now, a slight edge goes to Victorino.  But if Rollins catches fire in spring training, he could reclaim that edge.


Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*




  1. Phillies Outside

    I gotta go with J-Roll still on this one, it’s hard enough, psychologically, to be the lead off hitter, I think the pressure to be handed the job at the start of the season is even harder, J-Roll can take this in his stride, with his contract running through 2012 I think it would be too much of a hit to his morale to take away the one thing he has been guaranteed all these years, plus I think Victorino is happiest in the 6 or 7 spot, this is kind of like being the 2nd round lead off man as invariably he is leading off anyway from this spot in the order.
    Still, I wouldn’t like to be Manuel making the decision this year…


    Phillies Outside

  2. raysrenegade

    Maybe Charlie can take a page out of Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s playbook and use them both according to match-ups.
    Victorino and J-Rolls might each have superior numbers against certain pitchers and that could translate into a better OBP and a chance to secure an early run.
    It is one of those problems you like to have. You know each can do the job with no problem, but the problem is still how you utilize that great talent.
    I say flip a coin each game (Guess that is why I write instead of play).

    Rays Renegade

  3. bklyntrolleyblogger

    I hope both of them gets Athlete’s Foot and Duane Reade is closed.
    : P
    Just getting warmed up for another season. Hope you’ve been well.

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