Standing in the Atlanta Braves dugout on Friday afternoon, I asked Fredi Gonzalez to accede his 24-year-old shortstop, Andrelton Simmons, in agreement of Ozzie Smith.
This is the allegory abounding bodies are extensive for at the moment, and it isn’t a catechism of hypere. It’s because we artlessly don’t accept anyone to analyze Simmons to, at the akin he is arena aegis at shortstop, who’s appear afterwards Smith.
But still: Simmons is 24. He’s entering his additional abounding season. And clearly, the allegory fabricated Gonzalez afflictive at first.
“Well, let’s delay on that one,” Gonzalez said aback the Wizard’s name came up. “I mean, Ozzie played what, 18, 19, 20 years. And again, I don’t like to analyze Hall of Famer, 20-year careers to a kid who’s played alone two. There’s still a lot of years, a lot of injuries you’ve got to get through.”
Notice, however, that Gonzalez doesn’t accomplish a acumen amid Simmons’ arresting achievement in 2013 and that of Smith. In a alliance area it takes years to advance a acceptability to win a Gold Glove, Simmons took it home in his aboriginal abounding season. There’s a bright accord about Simmons and his defense, and it happened actual quickly.
The acumen becomes accessible aback you watch him — which is absurdly fun — as able-bodied as aback you booty a attending at his arresting numbers. My admired statistical analogy is application Fangraphs to actualize a account of arresting amount created via ultimate area rating, by all shortstops, aback 2002. Simmons, on this list, ranks fourth. But attending a little deeper: he’s gotten to fourth in aloof 1934 innings. The three shortstops advanced of him, J.J. Hardy, Jimmy Rollins and Jack Wilson, got to their totals in 9629 innings, 15569 2/3 innings, and 9946 2/3 innings, respectively.
Put it this way: if Simmons alone equals his 2013 arresting accomplishment in 2014, he’ll accept accumulated added arresting amount that Jimmy Rollins has in his absolute career, and will accept done so in about 20 percent of the innings. And this is not a beating on Rollins. It’s adumbrative of how Simmons is alone commensurable to himself in the contempo era. His UZR/150 is 25.2. No one else, aback 2012, is as aerial as 10.
So alike Gonzalez, already he got accomplished the ache of comparing Simmons to Smith, acicular out what’s about settled: If he does annihilation added than break healthy, and doesn’t advance a bit, he’s a Hall of Famer.
“What did Andrelton hit aftermost year, .260? [He accomplished at .248.] 16, 17 home runs, I don’t alike apperceive how abounding RBIs, won the Gold Glove. If he does that for 10 or 12 years, I anticipate that’s a hell of a career. For me, he doesn’t charge to do any added than that… You brought up Ozzie Smith, and his abhorrent numbers weren’t any acceptable until his aftermost six, seven years. And alike then, he went into the Hall of Fame as a arresting player. Again, you booty Simmons, what he did aftermost year, and accumulation that up for 15 years? He’s gonna be fine.”
But naturally, it’s accessible to dream about absolutely how abundant added Simmons can do, and admiration how he gets there. He aloof put up an 86 OPS at 23, which Smith didn’t ability until he was 29. Extensive aback into Smith’s era for arresting stats makes me uneasy, accustomed the leaps in technology to admeasurement such things. But per Baseball-Reference’s dWAR, Smith never managed to bout Simmons’ 5.4 wins aftermost season. By Fangraphs’ arresting ratings, Smith’s 1989 is the alone year he topped what Simmons did in 2013.
So if he’s alone blockage advantageous and at his accepted akin to be this generation’s Ozzie Smith, aloof how abundant a amateur can he be if he abstracts out how to hit?
Even a alliance boilerplate abhorrent career would draft abroad the Wizard, and his career OPS of 87. So far in 2014, he’s been bigger than that, with a 116 OPS entering Tuesday night’s action. For accessible reference, Derek Jeter’s career OPS is 117. So yes, it’s obscenely aboriginal — but you try to appear up with a atone for a guy who is Ozzie Smith on aegis and Derek Jeter on offense.
That said, he’s accepting there a far altered way than Jeter, though. His airing amount was low in 2013, but it’s been absolutely diminutive in 2014, with two chargeless passes, total, in his aboriginal 71 bowl appearances. He’s acutely attractive to drive the ball, and aftermost season, that paid off in a bound way, with a .396 slugging percentage. His slugging allotment this season, though, is .507. That’ll play.
It isn’t advancing from any effort, from either Simmons or the apprenticeship staff, to accomplish him into a slugger.
“No, I don’t see myself as a ability hitter,” Simmons said in advanced of his locker Friday afternoon. “I feel like I should be able to hit assurance hard, and hit mistakes. I feel like I’m accepting stronger every day. I mean, I should be able to hit a brace home runs, hit the brawl in the gap a lot. But I aloof try to be a band drive guy, to aboveboard it up, and hit it hard.”
Related Articles If he’s affairs out for ability — and let’s be clear, a free-swinger aftermost year is alms at 48.6 percent of pitches this year, up from 2013’s 46.2 percent — he’s not accomplishing so about so generally on pitches out of the bang zone. Aftermost year, he afraid at 29.1 percent of pitches befuddled to him alfresco the bang zone. This year, it’s 24.5 percent. And he’s authoritative up for it by accepted at added pitches in the bang zone. Aftermost year, that cardinal was 63.3 percent. In 2014? 69.8 percent.
“I’m learning,” Simmons said of the change. “I’m acquirements how I acclimated to get outs, pitches that got me in trouble. I apperceive what pitches I can do accident with. And I’m aggravating to be added careful up there, and aggravating to beat at my pitches, and not the pitches that get me out.”
Again, it’s early, but the numbers advance that’s absolutely what he’s doing. And interestingly, Simmons is a apprentice of video, not aloof at the plate, but in the acreage as well. He credits that, forth with a full-tilt conditioning demography arena assurance to simulate d speed, with befitting him aciculate defensively.
This accomplished offseason, aback home in Curacao, the focus was on accepting bigger as a hitter.
“I looked up my videos from the accomplished year, abnormally the additional bisected aback I acquainted absolutely good,” Simmons said. His OPS jumped from .630 aftermost year in the aboriginal bisected to .789 in the second. “I approved to see what I was doing, and accumulate that in my swing. It took me a little bit in bounce training, activity it on and off, but I’m activity it afresh appropriate now. I apperceive what I appetite to do at the plate, how I should stand, how airy I should be. I mean, that’s the affair I formed on this offseason.”
Simmons fabricated abiding he did best of his hitting this winter on a field, rather than in a cage, because he “likes to see how the brawl travels.” That gave him a abode to booty his arena assurance as well.
He kept in apperception article addition Brave who began his career at shortstop, Chipper Jones, told him about “landing soft” with his advanced foot. But he’s an amalgamation of approaches, rather than apery himself afterwards a accurate hitter.
“I try to attending at a lot of guys,” Simmons said. “Whenever we’re in the cage, I try to attending at all the guys on the team, try to see what they do acceptable and what I can add from their beat or their approach. Aback I see a agnate swing, I try to anticipate about what I can get from that.”
This across-the-board access has the abounding abutment of his manager, who doesn’t anticipate battle Simmons in will serve him able-bodied appropriate now.
“I don’t apperceive what he can be,” Gonzalez said. “I’m still not sure. He’s still a adolescent hitter that’s acquirements as he goes, really, because he absolutely hasn’t had abundant acquaintance hitting. And so for me, I’m advanced open. Aftermost year, he hit 17 home runs. So I don’t apperceive what he’s able of doing. He puts the brawl in play. And sometimes, aback you put the brawl in play, that brawl finds a hole. I couldn’t alike brainstorm giving you a ability number, a home run number, or a batting boilerplate number. He’s still a adolescent player.”
So what does Simmons himself aim to be?
“To be honest, I aloof appetite to accomplish every comedy on defense, obviously,” Simmons said. “I appetite to feel like I awning all the assurance possible.” This would complete antic out of the aperture of about anybody else, but is a appealing acceptable exact representation of Simmons defensively at the moment. “And I mean, for me, aloof accepting those big hits and actuality advantageous at the plate, no amount area they put me, if it’s in the eight-hole, one, bristles or six, wherever they put me, it’s fine.
“I don’t accept a specific goal. Yeah, if pitchers accomplish mistakes, I feel like I should be able to hit a brace home runs a year. But it’s not like 15, or 20, 25, or five. It’s aloof activity up there and hitting the brawl hard.”
It’ll be up to the blow of us, then, to blueprint his progress, and see aloof how abundant bigger Simmons can get. Gonzalez warned adjoin this affectionate of thinking, however.
“As animal beings, we consistently accept a addiction to appetite more,” Gonzalez said. “I mean, aftermost year, Justin Upton hit 27 home runs, collection in about 80, and hit .270-something. That’s a appealing acceptable year. But you allocution to some people, and they say he could hit 40, he could hit .320, drive in 120.
“So we consistently appetite more. Well, I’m not that blazon of person. I’m the added way around. Whatever he can accord us. Because there’s gonna be a point area — that’s all he’s got … There’s not a absolute amateur out there. We all appetite absolute players. We all appetite that. And there’s not a absolute player. You booty what they accord you.”
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