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Biggest Takeaways from This Week’s MLB Action

The final weekend of the first half of the season is upon us, baseball fans. Unlike many years, the sport didn’t coast into the All-Star break this time around. With big-time performances, major injuries and season-changing moves, the baseball world has been turned upside down as the vast majority of those immersed in the game take a few days off.

Here at Bleacher Report, we don’t ever take time off from baseball. After watching the games, analyzing the numbers and dissecting the rumors, the most important narratives from the week have emerged.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the last week of MLB action.

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Biggest Takeaways from This Week’s MLB Action

The marathon feel of Major League Baseball’s 162-game season can be broken down into easily digestible and debatable segments. As the 2014 campaign enters the stretch run of the first half of the season, let’s take a look back on the last week of action.

While making long-term evaluations or declarations based on one week of play can be a fool’s errand, each small sample does provide perspective on the season. As the months pass and each game becomes more important in a season full of pennant chases, day-by-day results take on extra meaning.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the last week of MLB action.

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Predicting the Biggest Buyers and Sellers at MLB’s Midway Point

The 2014 All-Star Game is still a few weeks away, but don’t let that distort your vision of the 2014 season. By the start of play on June 30, almost every team in baseball will have reached its midway point. With 81 games in the books, ample time has been provided to determine buyers and sellers in the upcoming trade market.

In theory, at least.

Due to factors such as the second wild card, revenue sharing, cable television dollars and regional sports networks, more teams are in the race than ever before. The days of only five or six teams truly having a chance to win the World Series are long over. With that, market factors shift.

Over the next five weeks, don’t expect more than a handful of true buyers and true sellers to emerge and complete deals. With teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins teetering on the edge of contention or acceptance of lost seasons, the landscape could shift quickly.

At this moment, only 10 teams are operating with clear goals in mind. With five buyers and five sellers clearly emerging, here are the teams to watch. 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of and FanGraphs and are accurate entering play on June 27. 

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Assessing Derek Jeter’s Farewell Season at the Midway Point

The 2014 season has reached its midway point, meaning Derek Jeter‘s farewell tour, age-40 season and goodbye to the game of baseball has reached the same juncture. When assessing Jeter’s play thus far, context is critical.

On the surface—looking only at the raw numbers and production from New York’s shortstop—Jeter is having his worst season in the big leagues. With an OPS+ of just 83, the former MVP candidate is hitting 17 percent below league average.

Defensively, the days of jump throws in the third base hole and instinctive genius across the diamond have disappeared, replaced by a shortstop with poor range and diminishing foot speed. While FanGraphs actually rates Jeter’s defense as a tick above average, the 20-year pro has made some rare mental mistakes in the field.

Yet for all the reasons that Jeter’s current talent level and production can be critiqued, two factors should override the numbers and offer perspective: age and health.

First and most important, Jeter is in the midst of his 40-year-old season. With his milestone birthday coming a few days ago, the future Cooperstown-bound star is in rare company among shortstops in baseball history.

As you can see by the following chart, Jeter’s production thus far in 2014 currently ranks fourth out of the five shortstops to garner at least 250 plate appearances in their respective age-40 seasons. With time to improve or decline further, Jeter could realistically surpass Honus Wagner in OPS+ at the same age or fall to the bottom of the list.

While the numbers can be instructive, think about the small amount of names on that chart. Jeter is just one of five shortstops ever to take the field this much at such an advanced age. That in itself is remarkable, a sentiment echoed by Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes, per Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today Sports.

“Do you know how difficult it is to play shortstop? It’s super hard,” Reyes said. “You have to be in on all the plays. And to be moving so much at 40? Wow, Jeter, many blessings. My respect to you.”

In Reyes’ tribute to Jeter, he referenced “moving so much,” a basic tenant of manning the shortstop position at the big league level. The fact that Jeter, after missing almost the entire 2013 season due to complications from leg injuries and surgery, has stayed healthy enough to play in 67 games is remarkable.

With diminishing skills and production, it’s easy to reference that Jeter’s impending retirement is the right call and that the Yankees will likely find a way to upgrade the position when the all-time great hitter departs, but those ideas cloud the reality of New York’s situation: If Jeter wasn’t playing right now, regardless of the numbers, the team would be in a worse spot.

As presently constituted, the Yankees don’t have a shortstop capable of outplaying Jeter. Sure, Brendan Ryan is a defensive wizard who could add to the team defense, but his career OPS of .619 is inept and too low to play on an everyday basis.

While the team is likely to be aggressive at the trade deadline, shopping for an upgrade at shortstop simply isn’t in the cards considering the needs for an impact starting pitcher and infielder with pop at second or third base.

Home runs, like the one hit in Toronto’s Rogers Centre earlier this week, are few and far between for a hitter currently posting a .327 slugging percentage, but there’s value to what Jeter has brought to the Yankees this year, especially when considering his age and the lack of viable replacements behind him on the depth chart.

John Harper of the New York Daily News recently wrote about Jeter’s importance to this particular Yankees team, highlighting what a breakout could mean for a mediocre offense.

Five years ago, he posted a 6.5 WAR and finished third in the AL MVP vote for the eventual World Series champions in New York, a magical run for the then-35-year-old shortstop. The blast from the past proved to be Jeter’s final special season, but the fact that he’s still going is something to behold.

If you had told general manager Brian Cashman that Jeter would still give the Yankees 100-plus games, around 1.0 WAR and be able to hold down the shortstop position five years later, it’s likely the longtime executive would have signed up for that deal on the spot.

With one half of his final season left to go, Jeter is a far cry from the player he once was, but the fact that he’s taking the field every day, providing some value and further cementing his status as a rare and special shortstop, is the most glaring takeaway from this farewell tour.


Statistics courtesy of, FanGraphs and ESPN unless otherwise noted and valid entering play on June 27.

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Will Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia Injuries Endanger Cardinals’ Strong Rotation?

Baseball’s best franchise is about to be tested.

When Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia hit the disabled list with shoulder injuries, the strength of the defending National League champions was challenged. If the team is going to overcome the potentially long-term losses, it will take gargantuan efforts from the remaining 60 percent of the staff and the next men up in the organization.

In the aftermath of Sunday’s victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak alerted the media about Wacha and Garcia, per Jenifer Langosch of

While the idea of the oft-injured Garcia heading back to the sidelines surprised few, the news surrounding Wacha was a bombshell and a major hit to St. Louis’ chances at a postseason berth.

As Mozeliak explained, there’s not a concrete timetable for the return of either starter, leading to worry inside the organization:

It’s concerning. We really don’t know what’s coming. You’re putting two pitchers on the DL today. I’m not in a position where I’ll know when they’re return or how they’ll return or the effectiveness of how they’ll return. It does leave us in a little bit of a gray area. Now, two weeks from now, a month from now, we may feel pretty good about where we are. But as I sit here today, I don’t know that answer.

For St. Louis, the answer lies in two separate but intertwined areas: the remaining rotation members and fill-in starters. 

Let’s start with the trio of Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller. As you can tell from the following chart, St. Louis’ starting rotation is a major reason the team entered play on June 23 having only allowed 256 runs on the season, good for best in the NL and second in all of baseball to the Oakland Athletics.

After a dominant effort—8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 SO, 0 BB—by Lynn against the Colorado Rockies, the numbers are even more impressive for the season.

With 77 games in the books, the Cardinals are on pace to allow just 538 runs for the entire year. To put that into perspective, the last time St. Louis pitching limited opposing offenses to that few runs in a full season was 1968, also known as the year of the pitcher.

While Wainwright and Lynn look poised to carry a rotation over the next few months, worry should accompany Miller’s upcoming starts. On the surface, a 3.56 ERA looks respectable for a 23-year-old starter, but, digging deeper, the numbers aren’t pretty.

With a FIP (fielding independent pitching) well over 4.00 and suspect command, Miller is flirting with disaster on a routine basis. In time, the former first-round pick may develop into an ace or a front-of-the-rotation pitcher. Right now, ERA is the only thing suggesting success thus far in 2014. 

Losing two starters and featuring a young, unproven third starter with spotty numbers isn’t enough to ruin postseason hopes for the Cardinals. Thanks to a deep, fertile prospect base and system-wide depth, the Cardinals have options at the back end of the rotation. 

For the time being, Carlos Martinez will continue to work out of the rotation. In his last start against Philadelphia, the 22-year-old righty earned the victory after tossing up the following line: 5 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 5 SO, 1 BB.

With a 99 mph fastball and the pedigree of a pitcher groomed to be a starter, Martinez could take off and make folks forget about Wacha, at least for a while. But despite his great stuff and his overwhelming fastball, left-handed batters own an .866 OPS against Martinez this season. If that isn’t corrected, success won’t follow.

In the other spot, Marco Gonzales, last June’s first-round pick, will be called up for a start, per broadcaster Dan McLaughlin. If Gonzales isn’t ready for prime time, Joe Kelly could be back shortly to reprise his role as an underrated starter.

“Joe Kelly, who we believe to relatively close in what we know, still has to check those boxes,” Mozeliak said in regard to rehab for starting pitchers.

Since bursting on the scene as a 21-year-old last summer, Wacha has been one of the best pitchers in the world and virtually irreplaceable. Among starters with at least 155.0 IP since the start of the 2013 season, Wacha‘s 2.79 ERA ranks 12th, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required). 

Among the starters below Wacha on that list: Chris Sale, Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer

Although Garcia doesn’t possess the same high-end ability, St. Louis lost rotation balance when the southpaw went down. From Wainwright to Lynn to Miller to Martinez to Kelly, the Cardinals rotation could feature five right-handed starters soon. If Gonzales is good enough to hold a spot, the rookie would replace Garcia as manager Mike Matheny’s lone lefty.

Over the next few months, the Cardinals rotation is poised to take a hit. Even if Wainwright and Lynn pitch at a high level, Miller’s uneven season is bound to disappoint, and the combination of Martinez, Kelly and Gonzales isn’t good enough to be trusted for excellence yet.

That being said, not many teams have capable fill-in arms that range from former top-30 prospect (Martinez), first-round pick (Gonzales) and seasoned big-game pitcher (Kelly). 

Before long, St. Louis likely won’t be among the top two or three or five best teams in runs allowed, but there’s enough talent and depth in this system to keep the Cardinals afloat for the next few months. 

Agree? Disagree? 

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comFanGraphs and ESPN unless otherwise noted.

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Biggest Takeaways from the First 12 Weeks of MLB Action

Time flies when you’re enjoying a competitive, well-played baseball season. As you peruse the standings, cast last-minute All-Star Game ballots and take in vital series, the 2014 campaign has officially reached the 12-week mark.

With 25 of 30 clubs within six games of postseason position, the next 15 weeks of regular-season action are shaping up to be a wire-to-wire race for coveted seats in October. With the big picture in mind, it’s instructive to react and opine on a weekly basis. If that’s what you’re looking for, this column is perfect for you.

When this column series began 10 weeks ago, rises from the Milwaukee Brewers, Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu dominated the early season takeaways. Before long, pitching dominance in Atlanta and Albert Pujols’ return to form headlined the week.

Eight weeks ago, Pujols’ 500th homer, Troy Tulowitzki’s special talent and Cliff Lee’s path to Cooperstown took center stage. Seven weeks ago, it was time for an appreciation of the Oakland Athletics’ AL West dominance, Francisco Rodriguez’s revival and Jayson Werth’s value.

The last month highlighted the Detroit Tigers’ road to October, the red-hot San Francisco Giants, Jose Bautista’s talent and the parity evident around the sport. 

Most recently, it covered Edwin Encarnacion’s power surge, a comprehensive take on two months of action, a reflection on Don Zimmer’s ultimate baseball life and a chronicle of Tim Hudson’s case for Cooperstown.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the first 12 weeks of the 2014 MLB season.

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Has Father Time Finally Caught Up to David Ortiz?

In Boston, David Ortiz‘s legacy is complete. Regardless of how the rest of his career plays out, one of the most beloved Red Sox of all time will always be remembered fondly at Fenway Park. That will remain true even if decline has set in for a possible future Cooperstown-bound star.

Heading into play on June 20, Ortiz’s numbers are down from previous seasons, especially when it comes to slugging percentage. With a .471 mark, the left-handed power hitter has been limited to just 26 extra-base hits. From 2004-2013, Ortiz averaged 72 extra-base hits per year, buoying his .546 career slugging percentage.

As the entire Red Sox team struggles to find offense and consistency in the aftermath of a special World Series championship season, Ortiz’s struggles have flown under the radar. With 16 home runs, 43 RBI and clutch hits—including game-winning or game-tying long balls against the Tigers and Twins in recent weeks—the most visible star in Boston isn’t receiving flak for a slow start.

In fact, Boston’s 34-39 record has caused team-wide frustration, possibly leading to players, like Ortiz, attempting to do too much at the plate. That was a recent theory from manager John Farrell, per Jackie MacMullan of

When we’re struggling, the competitor in these guys might force someone to say, ‘OK, I want to be the guy in this instance,’…Last year there was such continuity in the lineup that if [a hit] wasn’t there, it could pass on to the next guy. Because we have some inconsistency in our lineup, at times, I think maybe there’s some more self-induced pressure to be The One in the moment.

So, is Ortiz in decline or trying too hard? The answer is complicated and partially involves luck.

To be clear, Ortiz does look to be in decline. At the age of 38, that’s inevitable. With an increasing strikeout rate and declining isolated slugging percentage from last season, Boston’s most important hitter is simply not the same game-changing force he was across the 2013 campaign. 

That being said, this isn’t a sharp decline or alarming trend that the Red Sox must be worried about during every Ortiz at-bat this summer. The fall from all-time great slugger to very good hitter is a talking point, but not something to cause panic at Fenway Park.

Instead, Ortiz’s current issues stem in part from some bad luck on batted balls. Now, as the numbers are explained, it’s instructive to consider that Boston’s season-long struggle may be factoring in to these numbers. If Farrell is correct, a pressing Ortiz could be the cause for the woes and contributing to the poor luck.

The following chart shows Ortiz’s year-by-year slugging percentage marks and BABIP (batting average on balls in play) figures. As you can see, the second-worst slugging year Ortiz has ever experienced as a full-time player has coincided with a drop in BABIP. 

Outside of a miserable 2009 season, Ortiz has ranked in the top 12 of slugging percentage leaders every year of his Red Sox career. This year, he’s down to 16th. 

Last season, Ortiz walked 12.7 percent of the time. This year, that number is 13.3 percent. While his line-drive percentage is down slightly from last year (22.6 vs. 19.3 percent), those numbers suggest that Ortiz isn’t a remarkably different offensive player now than he was when the World Series concluded.

Yet, with a slugging percentage down almost 100 points (.564 to .471), it’s natural to look for a reason. 

BABIP rates can fluctuate, but league-average marks tend to sit around .290 or .300. At .240, Ortiz is well below that and a candidate for “bad luck” to be used as a legitimate reason for declining numbers this season. While declining line-drive rates and age are certainly part of the equation, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Right now, the Red Sox feel like a talented yet flawed team teetering on an edge. If another hot streak commences, a 6.5-game deficit in the AL East can be made up and Ortiz’s clutch bat could take over during a pennant chase.

However, it’s clear that Boston isn’t the same team it was last year. If struggles and losing baseball continues at Fenway Park, Ortiz won’t have the opportunity to mask a down year with season-changing walk-off hits.

It’s easy to understand that Ortiz’s game reached a late-career apex last season, but watching a slow decline is harder to dissect. For now, chalk this season up to poor luck and possibly too much pressure to carry a mediocre offense.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comFanGraphs and ESPN unless otherwise noted and valid entering play on June 20.

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Scorching Royals’ 8th Straight Win Has Tigers Hearing Footsteps

Here come the Kansas City Royals. After getting off to a troublesome 29-32 start, the AL Central contenders have caught fire by winning eight games in a row. The latest—an 11-8 victory over the Detroit Tigers—has put the defending division champions on notice.

By taking the first of a four-game set at Comerica Park, the Royals exited the night with the most wins (37) of any team in the AL Central. In the process, the hottest team in baseball continued to roll on the strength of solid starting pitching, a rising offense and team-wide confidence that permeates onto the the field. 

Let’s start with the pitching, led by James Shields at the top of the rotation. As Jason Vargas (7-2, 3.25 ERA) continues to be a better-than-advertised addition, and Yordano Ventura (70.1 IP, 3.20 ERA) and Danny Duffy (54.0 IP, 2.83 ERA) work through growing pains to showcase high-end talent, it is Shields’ right arm that has carried the Royals through two mediocre months. 

Without the durable force atop the rotation, Kansas City may have been buried before June arrived. Now, with a winning streak in tow, Shields’ recent efforts—12 IP, 3 ER, 11 SO—have been good enough for two personal victories.  

When the Royals traded for Shields prior to last season, sacrificing top prospect Wil Myers in the deal with the Rays, this was the type of rotation-carrying excellence expected and needed from the now 32-year-old righty. As his free-agent year continues, few starters in baseball have been more valuable in setting an example for an entire rotation to follow.

In Kansas City, success stems from pitching. From Shields’ fellow starting staff to a hard-throwing, overpowering bullpen, the Royals can pitch with any team in baseball. Offense, however, has eluded an organization that built a foundation on young position players.

From first baseman Eric Hosmer to catcher Salvador Perez to third baseman Mike Moustakas to left fielder Alex Gordon, Kansas City’s front office seemingly put together enough of a talent base to profile as an above-average offense. Entering play on June 2, that couldn’t have seemed more off base.

At 26-30, the Royals were underachieving in large part because of an offense that couldn’t average at least four runs a game, displayed an alarming lack of power and failed to generate enough to support a very good rotation. After Monday night’s 11-run outburst in Detroit, the tide has shifted. 

Over the last 13 games, Kansas City’s bats have generated 77 runs, good for 5.92 per contest. Although hard-pressed to find a .500 slugging percentage in manager Ned Yost’s everyday lineup, the Royals just pounded out 17 hits in a game Justin Verlander started. Even when factoring in Verlander’s struggles in 2014, that represents a significant change to Detroit and the entire AL Central.  

Finally, there’s the personality and demeanor of Yost. The Royals haven’t been to the postseason since their 1985 World Series title, but Yost led the team to their first winning season since 2003 last season. On the path to that 86-win season, the Royals suffered through an awful May (8-20), including the process of firing a hitting coach. When an identical scenario presented itself last month, Yost leaned on recent history to exude confidence from the dugout.

Last summer, the Royals won 64 games after May 31 and set the stage for big expectations in 2014.

Through 60 games this season, Yost’s club sat at 29-31 and was seemingly lost. Instead of panic, Yost reflected past experience and predicted the run his club is now on, per Jeffrey Flanagan of Fox Sports Kansas City.

“But we came back from the All-Star break and we took off. This club is going to take off again. No doubt about it,” Yost said.

There’s no doubt about how good this group has been since the start of last June. Even when factoring in the uneven beginning to 2014, the Royals have now posted a 101-78 record since June 1, 2013. That mark is good for a .564 winning percentage, a number that amounts to a 92-win season over 162 games.

To be fair, not everything is suddenly perfect in Kansas City. After nearly three full decades of empty Octobers, the Kauffman Stadium ticket operators shouldn’t send invoices out for playoff tickets at this juncture of the season. But, for the first time in a long time, the idea isn’t crazy.

When the Royals walked off the field on Monday night, only five teams—Toronto, Oakland, Milwaukee, St. Louis and San Francisco—owned higher win totals. Furthermore, AL wild-card contenders like the Yankees and Orioles both owned negative run differentials, well below Kansas City’s current plus-11 mark.

Over the next month, Kansas City will be tested. After three more in Detroit, a stretch of 16 of 22 games against winning teams will commence. With dates against the Dodgers, Angels, Mariners and Indians, Yost’s crew will be tested.

Finally, a four-game rematch against the Tigers puts a wrap on the first half of the season. If the Royals continue to display big-time pitching, emerging offense and Yost’s suddenly steady hand, the words “first place” and “Kansas City Royals” could become synonymous during the Midsummer Classic on July 15 at Target Field.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comFanGraphs and ESPN, unless otherwise noted. All contract figures courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Roster projections via MLB Depth Charts

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Jimmy Rollins’ All-Time Phillies Hit Record Leaves Lasting Legacy, HOF Debate

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is now the all-time hit king in franchise history, surpassing Mike Schmidt with career hit No. 2,235 on Saturday afternoon against Cubs starter Edwin Jackson. After 15 years of borderline Hall of Fame-caliber play, the best shortstop in the history of Philadelphia now has the number to cement his legacy.

Since arriving to Veterans Stadium as a dynamic, athletic and switch-hitting force in 2000, Rollins has been a model of consistency and durability as the Phillies franchise transformed from laughing stock to National League powerhouse. Along the way, Rollins racked up gaudy numbers, but was overshadowed at times by teammates like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.

Now, as the Phillies’ run of excellence has ended, Rollins is back to where he was when a sterling career began: a standout in a sea of poor baseball.

While stars like Utley and Cole Hamels still remind Philadelphia baseball fans of winning days, the roster isn’t good enough to compete. By next month, a roster purge could commence around the July 31 trade deadline.

Yet, in this moment, Rollins deserves the attention that has somehow alluded a player that will one day be enshrined in the Phillies Wall of Fame at Citizens Bank Park. Perhaps, a trip to another fame will also one day commence.  

As Jayson Stark of ESPN dutifully described, Rollins’ Hall of Fame case isn’t buoyed by becoming the all-time hit leader in Phillies history, but another credential certainly doesn’t hurt. With unique statistics—such as the 400 SB/200 HR Club—each marquee moment left in Rollins’ career doubles as another reason for Hall of Fame consideration.

Upon breaking the record held by the legendary Schmidt, Rollins vaulted atop the all-important hits category in franchise history. As you can see from the following chart, it’s not the only area that he’s excelled and re-written the record books over the past 15 seasons.

Schmidt, the gold standard for Philadelphia baseball players and possibly the best third baseman in the history of the sport, recently talked about Rollins’ career statistics and the idea of misinterpretation around a player with a batting average of just .268, per Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer

“We were kidding in the clubhouse that we have the same career batting average,” Schmidt said. “I think a lot of teams would like to have Jimmy Rollins as their shortstop.” 

Schmidt may have been talking about the present, but his assertion could work across the annals of baseball history. Time will tell if Rollins’ career deserves legitimate Cooperstown conversation, but there’s little denying that a special shortstop has been in Philadelphia for a long, long time.

The following chart shows where Rollins ranks among the most prolific shortstops ever, but it’s almost more remarkable to think about some of the names he’s ahead of on those respective lists, per Baseball-Reference (subscription required). 

With more home runs than Barry Larkin or Alan Trammell, Rollins brought power to Philadelphia’s lineup. By scoring more runs than Ozzie Smith or Joe Cronin, Rollins consistently did his duty as a leadoff hitter. In the midst of swiping more bases than Derek Jeter or Omar Vizquel, Rollins added a different dynamic to the offense. 

Of course, unlike many of the great shortstops in history, Rollins played at a time where Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez excelled. Upon breaking into the league, Cal Ripken Jr.—then a third baseman—still loomed over the position.

Perhaps in a different era, Rollins would have been a big fish in a small pond. In recent memory, however, his offensive exploits became mundane to contemporary baseball fans accustomed to productive shortstops.

Rollins’ legacy—both in Philadelphia and around the sport—has been subdued. This franchise hit chase, however, has rightly cast a spotlight on a player that teammates admire for work ethic and consistency.  

After a recent start against the San Diego Padres, A.J. Burnett spoke about Rollins’ path to the record and why his teammate deserves credit.

“You have to feel good for Jimmy during this chase,” Burnett said. “He’s been an incredible player for years and deserves credit for taking care of his body, staying consistent with his approach and aging well. It’s not easy to keep hitting or pitching at a high level as the years creep up. I’ll tell you what, I love playing with him.”

Closer Jonathan Papelbon, upon racking up his 300th career save, talked about how easy it is for individual numbers to get lost in the shuffle when a team is struggling to win games.

“Sometimes stats, like my saves or his hits, can get overlooked when the team isn’t performing as well as everyone hoped, but he deserves his moment,” Papelbon said. “To pass Mike Schmidt is amazing. I love watching him play and playing alongside him. Jimmy is special.”

As the years go on, Papelbon’s quote could become a prescient view on Rollins. Since 2000, words like “talented” and “brash” have been used frequently to describe the three-time NL All-Star and 2007 NL MVP, but rarely are fans or columnists willing to use the word “special” to describe this rare talent.

Now, after years of piling up games, plate appearances and hits, Rollins sits alone atop the Phillies franchise hit list. In time, future generations will look at Rollins and Schmidt alongside each other as the most prolific hit men in franchise history.

Beyond that? Memories of a special player will commence and the Cooperstown debate will rage on.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comFanGraphs and ESPN, unless otherwise noted. All contract figures courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Roster projections via MLB Depth Charts. Burnett and Papelbon quotes obtained first hand.

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Biggest Takeaways from the First 11 Weeks of MLB Action

As Father’s Day approaches, the 2014 Major League Baseball season is officially 11 weeks old, careening toward the All-Star break and never-ending questions surrounding contenders, pretenders and the state of the pennant races.

During a campaign of immense excitement, day-to-day and week-to-week results can get lost in the shuffle, replaced by season-long narratives and fans looking ahead to the months of great baseball still to come. If you need a dose of perspective on the season thus far, you’ve come to the right place.

Since the second week of play, Bleacher Report has been providing weekly analysis, with a combination of short-term reaction and long-term outlook.

When this column series began nine weeks ago, rises from the Milwaukee Brewers, Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu dominated the early-season takeaways. Before long, pitching dominance in Atlanta and Albert Pujols’ return to form headlined the week.

Seven weeks ago, Pujols’ 500th homer, Troy Tulowitzki’s special talent and Cliff Lee’s path to Cooperstown took center stage. Six weeks ago, it was time for an appreciation of the Oakland Athletics’ AL West dominance, Francisco Rodriguez’s revival and Jayson Werth’s value.

The last month highlighted the Detroit Tigers’ road to October, the red-hot San Francisco Giants, Jose Bautista’s talent and the parity evident around the sport.

Most recently, this column series has covered Edwin Encarnacion’s power surge, a comprehensive take on two months of action and a reflection on Don Zimmer’s ultimate baseball life. 

Here are the biggest takeaways from the first 11 weeks of the 2014 MLB season.

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