I’ll come back to that in a minute. What I’m going to start with is this:
I’ve already discussed how overrated Didi Gregorius is. I’m going to tell you how much you’re underrating Andrelton Simmons.
I get the Didi adulation, or “overration” if you ask me. Yes, I just made up my own word, because I think that is how much Didi is being overrated lately. He plays in New York, on not only a very good team but a fun one to watch, he hits home runs, he plays hard and he has a great smile.
What’s not to like?
Conversely, Andrelton Simmons suffers from what I call “Trout-it is”: It doesn’t matter how good you are – if you play on the west coast for a mish mash of a team and keep a low profile, no one will know who you are.
But trust me, if you were Brian Cashman and your former assistant GM and current Angles GM Billy Eppler called you up today and offered you Simmons for Didi straight up – you would take it if you were smart.
Here’s what you need to know about Simmons:
Since becoming a regular in 2013 he leads all MLB shortstops in WAR and defensive WAR (dWAR). Actually, he has more than double the dWAR of number two on the list, Brandon Crawford.
Among SS in MLB history through age 28, he’s second in dWAR to Joe Tinker, who played before electricity was invented. Yes, Simmons has higher dWAR at age 28 than Cal Ripken, Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger and Ozzie Smith.
He is arguably the best defensive player in the history of the sport. Think that’s hyperbole? Think again.
This isn’t a term paper and I want to stay under 1,000 words, so I’ll bypass the innumerable number of references and give you the short version:
Among very smart people who have done an insane amount of research, Ozzie Smith is generally regarded as the best defensive player of all time.
At age 28, here’s how Simmons compares to Ozzie Smith at age 28:
Why did I throw in OPS+ ? More on that in a second…back to Didi:
You don’t care you say? Didi hits home runs and smiles? OK.
Didi and Simmons are actually perfect for comparative purposes. Both entered the league in 2012, became regulars in 2013, are 28 years old and started in the NL before moving to the AL.
Here’s how they stack up:
Didi has been a little better offensively. Simmons has been massively better defensively. If they were left fielders the defense may not be a big deal, but this is shortstop. Being a plus SS saves your team an enormous amount of runs. Being an all-time great makes you an impact player if you contributed next to nothing offensively.
“But that’s over six seasons! Didi has improved!” You say?
Well, speaking of offense: Over the last 5 seasons, Simmons’ OPS+ has gone from 75 to 84 to 91 to 102 to 143 so far in ’18.
And please don’t come at me with “I don’t need stats! I use the eye test!”
Go to YouTube and cue up some Simmons highlights, then talk to me about the “eye test”. I’m eye rolling right now.
Again, we aren’t allowed to say that Didi is a very good player but there are better shortstops, without apologizing for 15 minutes. Generally, people aligned with me rightfully point out Correa, Lindor, Seager and Machado as clearly better than Didi – and they all are.
But so is Simmons.
So who’s the #2 shortstop in tonight’s game?
Zack Cozart, who doesn’t play short anymore since joining the Angels because of Simmons.
Think I’m crazy?
Here are 2017’s numbers:
Cozart was clearly the better player last season.
One can certainly say that Cozart’s ’17 numbers were unusual compared to the rest of his career. One could also reasonably claim Didi is markedly improved and Cozart is off to a slow start in ’18.
But I could also say my sample size is bigger than yours and size matters when it comes to samples.
In full transparency, I might still go with Didi – he is 4 years younger after all. But if you lost Didi and Cozart was your shortstop, you’d be just fine.