Grammar can be such a drag. Okay, so I opened with a bunt reference, sue me. As a kid in third and fourth grade I made it deep into a few Spelling Bee’s. I will never forget the word that ended my third grade run; license. Those C’s and S’s really messed me up.
I felt tricked, betrayed, dismissed, and vowed to take the dictionary home to memorize every last syllable. Only, I forgot to take it. My attention span almost immediately was distracted by an impending knowledge of a televised sports game afterward.
It might as well have been a shiny object. To this day sports games still distract me, and because I didn’t take that dictionary home back then, many words still throw me for a doozy. Occasionally some names do too. One I have learned to spell well, though, is a sports athlete named Simmons.
Major Leaguer, shortstop, Gold Glover(2 in each league), Native of Mundo-Nobo in Curacao, Alumni of Western Oklahoma State Junior College, former Atlanta Brave, current LA Angels player, and a man whose worldly talents include being clocked at 98mph as a pitcher.
Acquired in a 2015 deal that sent what few top pitching prospects the Angels had in Sean Newcomb (#19 of MLB’s top 100 at the time) and Chris Ellis who was the #2 overall Halo prodigy. Oh, and a former Mike Scioscia stalwart at the same position Simmons played in Erick Aybar.
The Angels tossed in 2.5 million to match the salary differential of the two Short Stop’s in 2016; Aybar was short lived in Atlanta, meanwhile Newcomb became a major rotation piece in the rebuilding effort the Braves needed with a solid 4.06 ERA in two seasons, including a 2018 record of 12-9(3.90).
Ellis, it turns out, the Angels sold high on. In Single A and Double A he had a sub 4 ERA at the time of the deal. Since, his Minor League career ERA has ballooned to 4.47, with an even less impressive Triple A sum of 5.54 in 42 games. He has now pitched in 124 Minor League games with a 40-35 overall record. When the Angels released their statements post trade, Billy Eppler was quoted as saying that Simmons provided an “up-the-middle foundation at a premium position for years to come”.
Since then? 2016, 17, and 18 (order of stats). On the eve of 2019, we take a look back at the trade from the Angels end. By spelling out the contributions that Simmons has… well, contributed…
A ▪ is for Advanced statistics. How about fielding percentage? 98.2%, 98.0%, 98.4%, with double play totals of 82, 99, and 114. Putouts is a neat stat, accounting for any out resulted from a catch, force, or tag out; with Simmons totaling 198, 235, 228 the metric. By any advanced measure he is basically a stop gap that makes opposing hitters pull the ball toward the gap at third…
N ▪ is for Numbers, but not the defensive ones he is known for. At the plate he exceeded a career .269 average in each of the last three years… .281, .278, .292. In 52 at-bats versus traditional shifts last season alone, he hit .365. No shifts? .288 in 434 at-bats. On the road in 2018 he hit .329 versus lefties, and .318 versus righties.
Compare that to home averages of .222 versus lefties, and .278 versus righties. Sure, his homer totals are low at 29 in three LAA years and his RBI sun doesn’t knock our red socks off at 188 over the same span, but he has become a very productive 5/6 spot hitter. More on analyzing his improved hitting in a minute…
D ▪ is for Defense. Do I really need to break this down? How about Error totals of 10, 14, and 10 again. Over the entire seasons. The ENTIRE SEASONS. If he is not the best defensive Short Stop in baseball, who is? Not only in percentages but the good ole fashioned eye test. No on could argue that he is not the best defensive ball tagger in the game. He gets outs on Little League plays on Professionals all the time. Simmons often makes intense ranging plays look easy with a calm reaction time that almost slows down each ball. Oh, and that arm…
R ▪ is for Resolve. He was not a first round pick, but pick 20 of the Second Round in the 2010 Amateur Draft(70th Overall). By 2012 he had scorched through R, A+, and AA levels before emerging as the ML club starter for the Braves. He also stole 54 bases in the Minors. In reaching the Majors he has become a very good hitter on anything near the middle of the plate.
E ▪ is for Efficiency. In 2018 Simmons saw 1974 pitches from March to September. Of this, the spot he was pitched most was dead center(201 times, 10.2% of total pitches seen); middle belt high in the zone. It was by far his most efficient hitting zone, a close second was middle low(184 pitches, 9.3% of total pitches seen). Hitting the balls you’re supposed to is underrated in the Majors.
L ▪ is for Leadership. In 2017 Simmons was named Co-Captain with some other guy with some fishy(hmm, what was it…) name. His stats were not second best on the team, and widely he is not considered the second best player on the team. But he was still chosen by his teammates to lead.
T ▪ is for Team. Simmons does what is asked no matter where he is in the lineup. His best spots? In 233(18′) at-bats in the sixth slot he batted .348. He batted 3rd only 4 times but managed to go 2/4. His worst spots are definitely Leadoff and 9th, where in 10 total AB’s he had a sum of exactly 0 hits. 2nd slot he bats .227, and the cleanup spot is only .220. But still he managed to bat 116 times in 2nd and 4th because the team needed him to.
O ▪ is for Offensive opportunities. In 2018 Simmons hit .275 with the bases empty, not bad, right? With men in scoring position? Try .306. How about with runners on base at all? .317. What about 3-2 counts? .370. Oh, and when a pitcher is 3-0 needing to throw a strike to avoid putting him on base? .538. Now, that’s making the most of offensive opportunities.
N ▪ is for his Nickname, as “Simba” has become the calling for his smooth but aggressive movements, and pride in what he does on every plain. If the Lion King reference means that he is the second coming to the Angels Mufasa, then the felion shoe fits…
See, spelling his name isn’t so bad. Neither is he. A carnivore on defense, and an emerging pack leader in the club house. Maybe 2019 will provide a growling undertone; because if the LA Angels want to go anywhere this season, his name will need to be spelled in the box score more often than not.
Statistics from MLB.com, biographical information via baseball-reference.com, and advanced metrics are from fangraphs.com / Angels Baseball Addicts