What can we say about Andrelton Simmons? The most important question goes to his offense. But, that will follow. First, his defense.
‘Rissa has given us a wonderful journey through what almost seems like a fictional world. Just as we mere mortals do not understand how Samson killed 1000 Philistines or how Hercules shifted a river to clean a stable, we do not understand Andrelton.
So, I will compare Andrelton to other spectacular defenders known to me. My watching baseball began when the Braves were in Milwaukee in 1965 and had broadcasts into the Southeast to get ready for the new team in 1966. Dizzy Dean was the color announcer and it was really fun to listen to Ol’ Diz. Then, “Games of the Week” on NBC with Joe Garagiola, Sr. and Tony Kubek and then the Braves on TBS and Cubs on WGN, and on and on. So, the legends of the “pre Cliff” past will not be part of this.
Arm strength (for non pitchers) is most needed at 3 positions: catcher, shortstop, and right field. Then come 3rd base and center field. Then 2nd base. Then left field.
Comparing to shortstops, there are 2 who I remember with spectacular arms. Shawon Dunston and Rafael Furcal. As compared to Furcal, Andrelton can get more on the ball with less windup. Otherwise, “80” arms for both on the scale. The other “80” arm I have seen was Dunston. Nobody else could do what they did, until Andrelton. CLEARLY, Andrelton had a vastly superior arm to the “offense shortstops” (Nomar, A-Rod, Jeter, Ripken) and to the other “defense shortstops (Ozzie, Omar Vizquel, Mark Belanger).
First, Andrelton utilizes his arm strength to position himself deeper than any shortstop I have ever seen play on grass. Occasionally, guys on turf would play that deep because the ball got to them so much faster. That means that theoretically, he has more left and right range. In practice, over the long run, only Ozzie seemed close in this. Andrelton covers more ground than anybody I have ever seen. You have to get to the ball, or you don’t catch it. Range sets an outer limit. This guy’s limit is beyond compare. The professionals say 75, but to me, he is an “80” here as well.
THE GRACE AND MOVEMENT.
Here is where anybody who saw Ozzie Smith over and over could be mesmerized. Diving while rolling horizontally. Throwing and flipping from bizarre positions and bizarre angles. Seeing insane hops and reacting to them quickly and without panic or jerkiness, just a smooth movement. But, Ozzie never tossed a ball behind his back to get it to his throwing arm. “80” times two, Ozzie and Andrelton, but ONLY times two.
Here is where Vizquel, Belanger, and Jeter get in the discussion. Seemingly always making the play when they were in decent position. Early last year, Andrelton slipped a little on that. By mid season that slippage was gone. If we average his consistency over his career, he probably falls a little short. So, a “75.”
The greatest defensive players I have ever seen (while there defense was still spectacular, which knocks out Willie Mays) are, in order: Andrelton, Ozzie, Andruw Jones, Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Dave Parker, and Johnny Bench. These were guys that over and over did things you couldn’t believe, but none of them was the equal of Andrelton Simmons.
NO, WHAT ABOUT THE OFFENSE?
If Andrelton Simmons were the offensive player he was in the second half of 2013 OR in the early part of 2012, then we say “Inner Circle Hall of Famer.” But, there are 2014 and the last half of 2012 and the first half of 2013. So, if Andrelton’s offense is the average of its previous manifestations, a player you still want, a guy that will make the Hall because of otherworldly defense, but not that utterly transcendent player.
The guy sees the ball and doesn’t miss it much. That is good. He swings at things that are 8 to 10 inches out of the strike zone quite often. That is bad. He has a powerful stroke and has good power for a shortstop, but does he “sell out” for power and kill the rest of his offense?
Since this is “where do we go from here,” we need to try to take this mess and “project.” Fantasy Pros has 8 projections with a low of OPS 694 to a high of 772. With a very slight advantage in the age curve, a new hitting coach, and maybe a little recognition of just how bad the overswinging has been, I will say this is the year that establishes Andrelton at a range of 700 to 750 OPS for the next 5 or 6 years. A little better walk rate, power not quite like 2013, a little better batting average. Almost good enough offense to be “inner circle”, but not quite there. Someday he will enter the Hall of Fame as the recognized greatest defensive player in MLB history, with a slightly better contextual offensive profile than Ozzie.