Andrelton Simmons came around at the right time in baseball history. With defensive prowess scrutinized - and therefore, admired - more than ever, Simmons has played historically well in the field at shortstop. And he was at it again this week with a play that might have won the game for his team.
Amidst a tight playoff race, the Atlanta Braves found themselves clinging to a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning. But the New York Mets put the tying run on third base and Travis d'Arnaud placed a ball just about perfectly in between the third baseman and shortstop spot.
The only thing is, almost perfectly isn't enough when Andrelton Simmons roams the middle of the diamond. Simmons went extraordinarily deep into the "five and a half" hole to backhand the ball that was only hit mildly hard. All in one motion, he jumped, rotated and threw in the air to get d'Arnaud at first. In the play-by-play data, it just says that "T. d'Arnaud grounded out the shortstop." But it was so much more than how a normal baseball fan might envision such a play.
The misrepresentation that a box score can give inspired analytical minds to come up with metrics to measure defensive ability. And Simmons consistently leads most of them.
Analytics data shows value
According to baseball-reference's defensive runs saved above average (Rdrs), Simmons has already saved 82 runs at shortstop in just 324 career games. The value that Simmons brings with him to the field waives any lack of pop he may show on offense. But that type of information would not have been available 50, 25 or even 10 years ago.
Immediately after Simmons' gem to protect the lead, the Braves' play-by-play raved about his "platinum glove" and "golden arm." Between the scarcity of his mistakes (he's made just 10 errors all year this year, compared to 14 in a Gold Glove campaign last year) and his ability to save runs with above average plays, Simmons appears to be a perennial Gold Glove candidate in the National League.
Every run matters
He certainly made the type of play last night that will remain in voters' heads all the way up until it's time to determine a winner.
The Braves held on to beat the Mets and keep pace with a couple teams ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. With 29 games left in its season, Atlanta lurks just 1.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants for the final playoff spot. And every run matters - whether it's produced on offense or taken away on defense.