Phillies-Yankees matchup: Shortstop

Phillies-Yankees matchup: Shortstop

Heading into the World Series between the Yankees and Phillies, beginning Wednesday on FOX, MLB.com looks at the position-by-position matchups and dissects which team has the advantage.

Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
.250 BA, 21 HR, 77 RBIs

After what Rollins did in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, do you think anyone in Philadelphia remembers that the shortstop was hitting just .205 on July 1? Or do you think they have any recollection that he finished the season with his fewest stolen bases (31) and highest number of unsuccessful attempts (eight) since 2004? How about that his season on-base percentage fell below .300 for the first time in his career?

Don't count on it.

Rollins came through with the biggest hit of the NLCS when his two-out, two-run double off Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton in Game 4 swung what was poised to be a 2-2 series tie to a 3-1 lead for the Phillies. And the rest, of course, was history. That walk-off hit may have been Rollins' only substantial contribution in the playoffs so far, but it was a reminder that though the leadoff hitter may have had a down season, he still has to be considered a threat.

Only two years removed from his MVP season, Rollins did finish the '09 campaign by hitting .289 from July 2 on, which at least brought his offensive totals up to respectable levels. And despite how bad Rollins may have struggled at the plate, he did, however, find a way to come through when his team needed him most. He hit .270 with runners in scoring position and .275 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Rollins has not been active on the bases this postseason, though that largely could be a product of the fact that he simply hasn't been on base all that much. In his six career playoff series, Rollins has been a consistent producer in just one. He hit .227 in the World Series a year ago.

Derek Jeter, Yankees
.334, 18 HR, 66 RBIs

More often than not, Jeter is money in the postseason. He's played into October every year he's been with the Yankees except one, and he enters the World Series with a .308 career average and a Major League record 164 hits in 132 postseason games. He's played more games and scored more runs (94) than any other player in postseason history.

With three home runs this postseason, Jeter has 20 playoff long balls in his career and 54 RBIs. This will be the seventh World Series appearance for Jeter, who has hit .302 in the previous six.

He's called Mr. November, which was born following his home run in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, and is a testament to what he has done for New York in the games that have mattered most. In other words, the captain of the team is also the most reliable when it comes to big-time situations.

It would be easy to sit around and list all the offensive feats of Jeter's postseason career, but that would be doing a disservice to Jeter's defensive prowess and instincts, even though defense is not often thought to be one of his stronger suits. Jeter's best known postseason play is clearly the "flip" he made in a Yankees win over the A's in the 2001 American League Division Series. Not much more needs to be said about that one.

But Jeter has made two more defensive gems this October. He alertly took a relay throw from the outfield and caught the Angels' Bobby Abreu off second base with his throw back to the bag on a critical play in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series. In the ALDS, it was Jeter's instincts that helped the Yankees erase the Twins' Nick Punto, who at the time represented the potential tying run, from third base. That play collectively took the air out of an already-reeling Minnesota team.

Unless Reggie Jackson were able to come back in peak form, it's hard to pick any other player you'd rather have on a postseason roster than Jeter. He seemingly always finds a way to come through.


Experts' picks

Note: Hitter evaluations based on a 100-point scale, factoring in power, contact hitting, speed, fielding, experience, recent performances and moxie. Click on each expert to see all of their selections for the 2009 World Series.

World Series Shortstop Matchup
Panelist Jimmy Rollins Derek JeterExpert analysis
Mike Siano
MLB.com
8193Take away the walk-off and you start wondering if that really is Jimmy Rollins out there. This comparison isn't close, though Rollins is only two years removed from an MVP. Jeter isn't the most talented player on the field but he continues to look like the best. He defines clutch.
Cory Schwartz
MLB.com
7898Jeter is the game's premiere postseason player and will likely add to his highlight reel at some point in the series. Rollins posted a brutal .296 OBP this season and hasn't improved it during the postseason; his struggles may undermine Philly's chances of matching the Yanks offensively.
Lyle Spencer
MLB.com
9092Jeter's incredible composure and leadership give him the slight nod.
Jim Duquette
MLB.com
90100Rollins is the energy and fire at the top of the lineup, but his inconsistency at the plate makes him hard to predict. Jeter's steady, consistent play at the highest level makes him the heartbeat of the Yankees.
Ken Gurnick
MLB.com
9090Other than Sabathia-Lee, this will be the most fascinating matchup in the series.
Mitch Williams
MLB Network
9594Rollins is the best defensive shortstop in baseball, while Jeter hits for a better average.
Joe Sheehan
Baseball Prospectus
9594Jeter's defense this year was the best of his career, and he combined it with one of his best offensive performances. Rollins' postseason heroics have hidden that his inability to reach base damages the Phillies' offense. They need him.
Hal Bodley
MLB.com
8894No one does it better in important games than the Yankees captain. Rollins is the NL Gold Glove shortstop, but Jeter is better offensively. Should be one of the most interesting matchups in the Series.


Final tally: Jeter 94.4, Rollins 88.4

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.