Stat of the Week: Andrelton Simmons wins Tournament of Defensive Excellence

By Mark Simon

After a week of intense competition in Twitter polls,
Andrelton Simmons won the SIS
Tournament of Defensive Excellence, as the best defensive player of the 21st
century.
He survived our 32 player field, beating Mark Buehrle, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Andruw Jones, and
then Matt Chapman in head-to-head voting matchups.

Simmons was set to pass Adrian Beltre as the all-time
leader in Defensive Runs Saved this season. He’s at 193, nine off the lead, in
nearly 10,000 fewer innings than Beltre played. Defensive Runs Saved dates back
to 2003, but even if we go back to 2000, Simmons is the leader in
Baseball-Reference.com’s Defensive Wins Above Replacement, ahead of Beltre and Yadier
Molina.

We should have known in 2012 that we would be talking
about Simmons as one of the game’s great defenders. That season he saved 19 runs
defensively … in only 49 games. That was the second-highest total for a shortstop in MLB. He
led all shortstops in Runs Saved in four of the next six seasons and finished second in the other two. Last season, Simmons played only 102 games at
shortstop due to an ankle injury, but still finished a highly-respectable
fifth. His six-year run of Fielding Bible Award wins was snapped.

Simmons has the single-season record for Runs Saved at any position with
40 in 2017. If you want to learn more about how that happened,
click here. It
was basically the result of being equally amazing on balls hit in the
shortstop-third base hole and against balls hit up the middle. That’s
really hard to do.

The signature for Simmons has been fielding balls hit to his right.
Over the last seven seasons, he’s 98 plays above average against them.
His rate of getting outs on balls hit to his right was 65% compared to the MLB
average of 57%. More specifically, year-in and year-out, what Simmons brings is
consistency. He’s been at least 10 plays above average on balls hit to his right
in six of the last seven seasons.

Simmons’ rate of double play conversions is also
consistent. Since 2012, he’s saved 20 runs when considering his double play
rate and volume. The closest shortstop to that is Alexei Ramirez at 11 Runs
Saved.

Lastly, since 2012 Simmons has saved 16 runs from Good Fielding Plays and Defensive Misplays. These are based on the observations of our Video Scouts who have about 30 types of Good Plays and about 60 types of Misplays to choose from when there is a specific type of consequence on a play—recording an unexpected out or denying a baserunner advancement on Good Fielding Plays, and the loss of an out or allowing baserunner advancement on Defensive Misplays.

There are three types of Good Fielding Plays in which Simmons’ performance has far exceeded expectations. Simmons has 29 assists to throw out
baserunners in non-relay situations against an expected total of 15. He has 34
“Quick double play pivots” against an expected total of 14, and 20 instances of
“Started a double play quickly” against an expected total of 15. Those three types of Good Fielding Plays account
for a good chunk of those 16 Runs Saved.

Simmons has been the best player at arguably the hardest
position to play in baseball pretty much since the first time he played in a
game for the Braves. Maybe 25 years from now, someone will have come along to
pass Simmons, but for now, he’s the voters’ choice for best defensive player of the 21st century.

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