The Glove Can Play: What to Make of Andrelton Simmons

Through the first five seasons of Andrelton Simmons’ career he’s been known as defensive wizard at shortstop, and not much else. The 2017 version of him is one the Angels could only have been dreaming of since acquiring the native of Curacao in the winter of 2015 from the Atlanta Braves.

The soon-to-be 28-year-old is having by far his best offensive season in the MLB. He’s currently on pace to crush his career high in BA, OBP, SLG, wOBA, wRC+, as well as match his career high’s in HR’s and RBI’s, set in set in 2013 at 17 HR’s and 76 RBI’s. On top of all of this it appears for the first time in a full season he will be worth a positive number in Offensive Runs Above Average (Off), where his previous high was a dismal -6.6. So this bids the question, why the turn around for Simmons?

For starters, I looked at the breakdown of his batted balls in play. His LD% (line drive percentage) is the second highest of his career, at 19.8%. The league average is 21%, therefore Andrelton still sits below that mark. His GB% (ground ball percentage) sits at 50.8%, well above the league average of 44%, and his FB% (fly ball percentage) is at 29.3%, below the league average of 35%. There is nothing too noteworthy in these numbers, but his statistics on BABIP (batting average on balls in play) below in the graph is (keep in mind the league average is ~.300):

Season

BABIP

2013

.247

2014

.263

2015

.285

2016

.298

2017

.319

There are a few factors that lead us to believe that Simmons’ BABIP is due to more than just luck – namely, changes to his Hard% (hard hit ball percentage), HR/FB% (home run per fly ball percentage) and his aforementioned above average GB%. Here are his splits of Soft%, Med% and Hard% for his career:

Soft% Med% Hard%
2013 21.4 51.8 26.8
2014 18 55.6 26.4
2015 20.8 56.3 22.9
2016 21 55.7 23.4
2017 19.2 49.6 31.2

His Hard% for 2017 is miles ahead of his previous career percentages. Even though this is still only around the league average, the fact his percentage is finally meeting the league average makes for him becoming a viable bat, especially from the defense-first position of shortstop.

Add his high GB% to an improved Hard% and you get an increased BABIP. To simplify it, think about it in these terms: if you hit the ball on the ground, you’re forcing a fielder to field the ball cleanly and throw across the diamond, and also forcing another fielder to make a clean catch, all the while you’re putting pressure on both fielders via running to first base. Now, factor in that you’re hitting these balls an average of 6.5% harder than your previous years.

Take all of this, and add a higher HR/FB% (home run per fly ball percentage):

 Season HR/FB
2013 7.9%
2014 4.7%
2015 3.7%
2016 3.8%
2017 10.5%

Andrelton is hitting ground balls at well above league average, but when he is hitting fly balls they are leaving the ballpark ~5.5% more of the time. This is a reason for his increase in home runs this season, as well as SLG% and ISO (isolated slugging/power). In a sense, everything is going right for Simmons this year.

To conclude, Simmons resurgent offensive season is due to his:

  • BABIP
  • high GB%
  • higher Hard% than years past
  • higher HR/FB% than years past

Along with all of this, take Andrelton’s two Gold Glove awards (2013, 2014) and there’s no wonder as to why he’s only slightly in second in shortstop WAR in all of the MLB at 4.3, behind Corey Seager’s 4.5.

Maybe it’s time to add Andrelton into the statement, “too bad the Angels only have Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.”

Carter is a hockey player, formerly in the WHL for the Vancouver Giants, currently at the University of British Columbia. You can follow him on Twitter @carter_popoff.

You can follow Hit the Cut on Twitter @hitthecutblog.

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