He’s also now one of the best — ever — to play baseball’s most skilful position.
Andrelton Simmons plays shortstop like acrobats perform in Cirque du Soleil. That position on tihe diamond is his and his alone, it’s his stage, and Simba is a show-stopper.
He’s just the best — simple as that. Consider this: Only 10 shortstops in MLB history have won as many as Simmons’ four Gold Gloves. The Lion King, Simba, is in shortstop royalty.*
The Angels won one — and roughly two-thirds of another — Gold Glove awards on Sunday night, when MLB’s premier defensive awards were dished out by Rawlings.
The other “two thirds” of the award goes to second baseman Ian Kinsler, who teamed with Simmons as a glittering double-play combo for the Angels until the second-sacker was traded to the Boston Red Sox.
Watching Simmons and Kinsler turn two was like watching the ball move along a magical invisible string. Kinsler led all second basemen in Ultimate Zone Rating.
Kinsler, 36, just gets better with age with the glove. He was traded to the Red Sox for pitchers Williams Jerez and Ty Buttrey, both of whom featured in the Angels’ bullpen in 2018.
Voted on by managers and coaches — who are not allowed to select their own players — the Gold Glove is the gold standard of a main facet of baseball that is at once delightful, somewhat neglected, and hard to quantify.
An element of sabermetrics goes into the calculation: The SABR Defensive Index (SDI) accounts for roghly 25% of the Gold Glove selection process.
The dark arts of Tenacious D: Prevent runs, and baserunners. Nobody does it better than Simmons.
“I take my responsibilities at shortstop very, very seriously, “ Simmons, a soft-spoken native of the Caribbean island of Curacao, said earlier this year. “I love taking runs away from the the other guys and helping out our pitchers.”
General manager Billy Eppler had constructed the 2018 Angels with a emphasis on defense that is rare today.
The Angels had other contenders for gold hardware as well, so staunch was their defense last summer.
Nobody plays harder — and indeed, few are better at baseball than superstar Mike Trout.
After setting a bull-headed goal of “improving his defense” in spring training, Trout excelled while patrolling center field for the Halos.
He was steadier than ever, even if the wall-climbing, home-run robbing theatrics that helped made Trout a household name early in his career were less frequent.
Trout just went out and lived up to his promise. He played as darn solid a center field as anyone — except for Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr., who won a World Series ring before he got his first Gold Glove Sunday.
Trout was better than Bradley defensively when judged by SDI (4.2 to 3.9).
He also led all center fielders in defensive runs saved (+8), was second in ultimate zone rating (4.0)
Trout’s outfield mate — the ginger haired, cannon-armed right center Kole Calhoun, came in second like Trout, in no surprise, to the Boston Red Sox’ MVP-favorite outfielder Mookie Betts.
Calhoun was second in the AL in UZR at 2.7.
The Angels came up short for a Gold Glove at catcher.
Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals reclaimed the Gold Glove that Angel backstop Martin Maldonado snagged in 2017. Maldonado went to the Houston Astros in pre-deadline trade that netted the Angels lefty starter Patrick Sandoval.
Maldonado, between the Angels and Astros, gunned down the highest percentage of base stealers at 49%.
Although the “prevent defense” didn’t stop the Halos from finishing 80-82, they boys in red — led by human highlight reel Simmons — made appearances aplenty on MLB Must-C videos, and daily web-gem packages.
Simmons has leapt to the pinnacle of shortstopping greatness. Pretunaturally talented, Simmons really began his ascent when Eppler made him the first significant addition of his tenure as Angel GM.
The raw-boned, jangly limbed glovesmith arrived before the 2016 season in a trade that sent incumbent shortstop Erick Aybar and promising starting pitchers Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis to the Atlanta Braves.
Nobody in Anaheim really regrets that now. He won his first two Golden Glove awards with the Braves in 2013-14.
Especially when one considers Simmons’ place as one of baseball’s best glovesmiths isn’t just a flash in the pan kind of thing. Simba is prowling with MLB’s legends.
“There’s something about Andrelton Simmons, mentally, that sets him apart,” former Angel manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s like he’s got a sixth sense on defense that other shortstops don’t have. ... Like he has a gyroscope in his head. He’s playing 3D chess in his brain on defense. Always several moves ahead in his head of any danger.”
He possesses a howitzer of an arm, uncoiling throws in the upper 90-mph range on deep throws and relay plays.
Simmons’ defensive metrics, of course, were otherwordly. He was +21 in defensive runs saved, had a UZR of 19.7, and was awarded for his briliance with the glove with his sixth straight Fielding Bible Award for best shortstop in MLB, as presented by Baseball Info Solutions.
He also manages the Angels infield with a bit of a laid-back Caribbean groove despite his excellence.
In June, Roughed Odor of the Texas Rangers appeared to go well out of his way to spike Simmons as the Angel turned a double play. Odor’s reputation for thuggery wasn’t lost on Simmons, and a brawl nearly spilled over.
Asked about it after the game, the game’s best shortstop shrugged off the beef. “I’m gonna eat my gelato and sleep well at night,” Simmons smiled.
A trio of Angels’ shortstops before Simmons have won Gold Gloves — Jim Fregosi (1967), Orlando Cabrera (2007), and Aybar (2011).
The club can look forward to another major individul award on November 12th, when the American League rookie of the year is announced.
Most pundits consider Angels’ two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, just 24, to capture that award.
*Since 1957, Rawlings has been bestowing the Gold Glove awards.
The player to whom Simmons is most often compared, Ozzie Smith, won the Gold Glove in 13 of his 19 seasons and is the all-time leader in the award.
No. 2 is former Cleveland Indians’ shortstop maestro Omar Vizquel — who interviewed for the Angels managerial job before Brad Ausmus was hired. Vizquel has 11 Gold Gloves.
Luis Aparicio, the fielding wiz of the the 1950s and 1960s Chicago White Sox, is No. 3 with 9 Gold Gloves.
No. 4 is Mark Belanger, the Baltimore Orioles’ classic all-glove, no-hit shortstop of the ‘70s.
Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and Dave Concepcion of the Cincincinnati Reds are tied at No. 5 with five Gold Gloves apiece.
Tied for 7th are Tony Fernandez of the 1980s Toronto Blue Jays and Hall of Famer Alan Trammell of the Detroit Tigers.
Other shortstops before the the beginning of the Gold Glove Award were great glovemen too — Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Marty Marion of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Honus Wagners of the turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh Pirates were legendaray fielders.
But it’s becomming tough to imagine fans of our generation seeing a better shortstop with the leather than Andrelton Simmons. Cherish him.