I agree, the rotation tool is very unfriendly to use. If the user could move away from the center, before starting the rotation, or CHOOSE the center of rotation, it might be more intuitive and accurate.
I pay for VS on an "as-needed" basis because in spite of its glaring short-comings, it does certain things well and is, overall, much easier to use than After Effects.
I keep hoping to see a greatly improved version each time I come back.
Yes, you can key in degrees of rotation in the element properties. You can add minus values to rotate anti-clockwise.