Scott Rolen is going to make the Hall of Fame. Will 2022 be the year for eight-time Gold Glover?
Scott Rolen hit with consistent power and played superb defense at the hot corner.
Defensively – both by traditional statistics and advanced measurement – he was one of the best third basemen of his generation, winning eight Gold Glove Awards. Offensively, he ranks in the top 15 among third basemen in home runs (316), RBI (1,287) and slugging percentage (.490).
A second-round pick by the Phillies in 1993, he made an immediate impact when he reached the majors, unanimously winning the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1997. The following season, he established himself as a legitimate star with a .290/.391/.532 slash line, 31 home runs and 110 RBI, earning his first Gold Glove.
The seven-time All-Star went on to play for the St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds before injuries took a toll and he retired in 2012.
Rolen, who is in the Cardinals Hall of Fame, was an integral part of the club that won the World Series in 2006. He had a clutch performance and slashed .421/.476/.737, going 8-for-19 with three doubles, one home run, two RBI and five runs scored in five games against the Detroit Tigers.
During his 17-year career he finished with a slash line of .281/.364/.490 in 2,038 games, ranking fifth in the majors during that span in doubles (517), 11th in extra-base hits (876) and 17th in runs scored (1,211).
The case for
Rolen’s combination of defensive wizardry and overall offense made him one of the most complete players in the game during his prime.
He could flat out play the corner position. His eight Gold Glove Awards trail only Brooks Robinson (16), Mike Schmidt (10) and Nolan Arenado (9) among third basemen in MLB history. He is also one of 15 infielders ever to win at least eight Gold Glove Awards.
During Rolen's peak years from 1997-2004, he was one of the more powerful sluggers at the plate. He had at least 25 home runs and 100 RBI in five seasons. Only nine players in the majors had more such seasons during that span.
His WAR (46.3) during those eight years was higher than any player in the majors aside from Barry Bonds (71.2) and Alex Rodriguez (62.4), but they were later linked to performance-enhancing drugs. It was also higher than Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell (44.1), Chipper Jones (43.6), Larry Walker (43.4), Derek Jeter (41.7) and Vladimir Guerrero (40.3) over the that span.
And an eight-year sample size is not a small one.
Among the 17 third basemen in the Hall of Fame, his career WAR (70.1) would rank ninth, just behind Ron Santo (70.5) and ahead of Home Run Baker (62.8). The average WAR for Hall of Fame third basemen is 59.8.
The case against
Rolen was often injured over the parts of 17 seasons and mostly the latter part of his career. From 1997-2003, he played 150+ games five times, but never again after those seasons. From 2005-2012, ages 30-37, he averaged just 105 games, diminishing his overall case.
Offensively, he was a very consistent hitter, but never led the league in any major statistical category. In 2004, he came close and finished second in the NL with 124 RBI, but that came in the best offensive season of his career.
He also retired with 2,077 career hits, which is a low number by Hall of Fame standards. There hasn't been a position player elected with fewer than that total since Johnny Bench in 1989 – and he's considered one of the greatest catchers all time.
Rolen has gained some serious ground over the past few years on the ballot. And as of Jan. 11, he sits just 4% shy of the 75% of the vote needed to be inducted.
In 2020, he more than doubled his support with an 18.1% increase, and followed that up with a 17.6% increase last year. He is on pace for another large jump this year.
- 2018: 10.2%
- 2019: 17.2%
- 2020: 35.3%
- 2021: 52.9%
- Currently: 71.1%
Rolen will be a Hall of Famer, it's only a matter of time. He will benefit from a ballot that should become less crowded, with controversial names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa set to come off the ballot this year. And given the momentum he's seen the past two years and continues to see, he will become the 18th third baseman to be enshrined in Cooperstown.