Andrelton Simmons Wins The Tournament of Defensive Excellence

April 13, 2020
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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