April 21, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (right) throws to first base against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Beauty of Andrelton Simmons

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While I was perusing the internet I was delighted to see that Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is getting his due on the big websites. Lots of people are going crazy about the kid–which is no surprise given the web gems he shows us day in and day out. This time I was reading an article on Fangraphs, by Eno Sarris:

And he’s made that mark by making all the plays that he is ‘supposed’ to make. According to Baseball Info Solutions’ Plus/Minus data, Simmons has only failed to make a play that 80% or more shortstops make one time in 170 opportunities. You can see the leaderboard here in Mark Simon’s excellent article from last week. Simmons raised an eye at that stat, but he was definitive about his job as a shortstop: “I feel like as a shortstop I have to make all the plays. Not just try to make all the plays. It’s my job to make all the plays.”

If you were going to build a prototype shortstop, he might have the brilliance of anOzzie Smith and the steadiness of an Omar Vizquel. After all, Ozzie was the wizard, but he also ended up ninth all time in errors by a shortstop. Vizquel made 100 fewer errors. When you hear Simmons say “I — have — to make the routine plays, I feel like that’s my job,” you can hear a little Vizquel in him. But he does superlative things with the glove, too.

This is why General Manager Frank Wren laughed and hung up the phone when anyone said, “well, how about that Simmons kid?” as if they were crazy. Last year, people agreed that Simmons was probably the best defensive shortstop in the game, and if he wasn’t the best, he was definitely right behind Brendan Ryan. Already this season, it’s become pretty obvious that Simmons is the top dog. Not only does he make the spectacular play, he makes the routine play as well (ALL of the routine plays actually) and in 146 chances, Simmons has yet to make an error. That’s pretty impressive.

If Simmons was a nightmare with the bat, he would still be a huge asset to the team. A shortstop who can field this well is a great luxury to have, and fortunately, Frank Wren knows it. However, Simmons could be turning into a solid hitter as well. With the help of Justin Upton, he is beginning to wait on the ball a bit longer–allowing him to drive the ball with more power when he does make contact, as well as adjust to breaking balls–which seems to have made a decent impact.

On the year Simmons is hitting .250/.294/.386 with four home runs and six doubles. However, in May, he is hitting .267/.283/.489 with two of his homers and four of his doubles. His average didn’t improve a great deal, and his on-base percentage went down, but his slugging percentage rose by a huge margin. If he can continue to swing the bat like that while improving his discipline at the plate (just a 6.3 BB% compared to 10.5 K%), he could become one of baseball’s best players–if he isn’t there already.

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