The Intrigue of Andrelton Simmons

December 4, 2020
 

The Intrigue of Andrelton Simmons

December 3, 2020

 

 

By MARK SIMON

 

While we were awaiting the 2020 baseball season to begin, we took a fan vote to determine the best defensive player of the 21st century. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was the winner.

Simmons will enter the 2021 season within reach of a defensive milestone. He’s saved 191 runs, 11 shy of third baseman Adrián Beltré for the most since SIS began tracking Defensive Runs Saved in 2003.

If we compare Simmons against those at his position, it's no contest. Simmons has saved 72 more runs than the shortstop with the next-highest total (Adam Everett, 119). He’s won six Fielding Bible Awards at the position. No other shortstop has won more than three (the award was first given to players in 2006). In short, Simmons has established himself as a generational defensive player.

But as Simmons enters free agency after five seasons with the Angels, there’s a hitch in his story. Injuries the last two seasons limited him to 98 games at shortstop in 2019 and only 30 in 2020 (he opted out of the last five games of the season). He saved 12 runs in 2019, but cost his team two runs in 2020, the first time in his career that he’s saved fewer than a dozen runs in a season.

To illustrate the difference between the great Simmons and the bad one, consider this: In 2020, Simmons made three plays on ground balls with an out probability of 34% or less. He failed to make the play on eight ground balls with an out probability of 66% or higher.

In 2018 and 2019 combined, he had a near-even split between the two (38 vs 40).

The -2 Runs Saved in 2020 presents an interesting thought exercise for teams. Simmons’ track record as a superior infielder is unmatched in this year’s free agent class. But does that 30-game stretch give a team pause as it consults with scouts who can evaluate how Simmons looked in those games?

Simmons wasn't the only player in his age-30 season to have a down year. Another who did was Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, whose .222 batting average and .755 OPS was his lowest since 2011, his debut season. Much like a hitter can have uncharacteristic numbers for good or for bad in a small sample, a fielder can too.

Lastly does a team think twice about pursuing Simmons knowing that the following year's free agent market is shortstop-rich with the possibility of Javier Báez, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager and Trevor Story all being available?

Such is the intrigue of Simmons' situation.

Most Defensive Runs Saved Since 2003

Player DRS
Adrián Beltré 202
Andrelton Simmons 191
Yadier Molina 170
Jason Heyward 144
Albert Pujols 143

To read more about the defensive skills of the players in this year's free agent class, check out the Sports Info Solutions blog.

 
 

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