Is Andrelton Simmons The Best Shortstop In Baseball?
Andrelton Simmons took over as the Atlanta Braves starting shortstop in July of 2012. Since then he has quickly earned a reputation as the best defensive shortstop in baseball. Jose Iglesias might challenge that reputation in years to come, but I’ll take Simmons. You don’t need a fielding metric to tell you that Simmons is a great defender, but I’ll make note of the numbers anyways. The fielding metric DRS credits him with a whopping 61 Runs Saved in his 203 game career. His 42 Defensive Runs Saved in 2013 is a record since DRS started tracking the statistic in 2002. The next closest shortstop is Clint Barmes with 13. If Simmons hit like a pitcher, he could still hold down a starting spot.
But Simmons doesn’t hit like a pitcher. Even with a .244 BABIP that is 30-40 points lower than his batted ball profile would suggest it should be, his 86 OPS+ is a hair above the MLB average for shortstops. Despite playing half his games at spacious Turner Field, Simmons’ 17 homeruns are the 4th most among shortstops. He also has the lowest strikeout rate among shortstops. Given that Simmons is by far the best defensive shortstop and also a serviceable hitter, is he the best shortstop in baseball?
Baseball-Reference credits Simmons with 6.7 WAR, 8th among all position players. The next closest shortstops are Troy Tulowitzki at 5.4 and Jean Segura with 4.0. The last shortstop to reach 6.7 WAR was Tulowitzki in 2010. I could end the argument there, and call Simmons the best, but where’s the fun in that?
Despite the lofty bWAR ranking, Andrelton Simmons isn’t the best shortstop in baseball. Though Simmons is surely the best defensive shortstop in baseball, DRS’ run values are a little too aggressive for my taste, and his 5.5 defensive WAR is inflated. Fangraphs version of WAR, which is a little more conservative with their defensive calculations, credits Simmons with 4.4 WAR, behind Tulowitzki and Ian Desmond.
In my opinion, the title of best shortstop in baseball belongs to Tulowitzki. Even after adjusting for the effects of Coors Field, his offensive numbers are among the best in the game. Additionally, he plays very strong defense. DRS credits him with 75 runs saved in his 867 game career. However, if Simmons improves his offensive game slightly, people will start to recognize him not only as the best shortstop in baseball, but as one of the best players overall.