A close watching of five of the Braves shortstop's most impressive plays.
I basically believe in defensive metrics. I know there are a lot of people who don't, and that's fine; I don't necessarily have a good reason for believing in them, and maybe I'm just outsourcing the job of inadequately assessing defense to another person's brain, but I basically believe in them. So I know that Andrelton Simmons is spectacular defensively, somewhere between an all-time great shortstop (we have him at +19, and UZR has him at +21; he's got a reasonable chance of topping Ozzie Smith's best season by FRAA) and The All-Time Great Shortstop (Defensive runs saved has him there already, at +37). I believe in defensive metrics but I regress them heavily in my mind, so I doubt he's The All-Time Greatest, but I understand he's having a fantastic season. I understand it even though I can't really recall a single play he's made, and even though I've never really sat down and watched him exclusively for any length of time.
So today I'm going to watch him (and his highlights) exclusively, for a few hours, and make sure I can recall some plays he has made. These are not necessarily his best plays. Jeff Sullivan wrote about Simmons' defense the other day and showed "some of 2013 Simmons’ most impactful defensive plays, with regard to Defensive Runs Saved." In other words, the plays he made that the fewest number of other shortstops make. I'm not interested in such precision. For precision, I have the metrics. I'm interested in just watching.
The return of Justin Upton's power has propelled the Braves to a sizzling hot streak.
The Monday Takeaway
Remember the Justin Upton who cranked five homers in his first five games of the 2013 season, then tacked on a sixth in game seven, ran his tally up to nine in game 13, and was on top of the league with a dozen through game 23? He was gone for a while, and he rarely called home. But if the past handful of days is any indication, he has returned.
Upton swatted his 13th big fly of the year on May 13, his 14th on May 17, his 15th on June 12, and his 16th on July 9. The counter stayed stuck on 16 for the rest of July. After hitting 12 homers in the first month, he hit only four over the next two-and-a-half. Upton’s OPS tumbled from 1.040 on May 13 to .791 on July 31. And though the Braves withstood the slump for a while, they scuffled to a 23-25 record between May 26 and July 25.
The fantasy implications of these manager decisions.
Evaluating players based on lineup position is a tricky science. On one hand, it can have a dramatic impact on a player’s value. Take a guy batting eighth in an NL lineup, move him second, and it can be as much as a $5 boost. On the other hand, batting lineups are fickle constructs, so sometimes it is best not to put too much stock in where a player is hitting at the moment and focus on skills instead.
Lineup position also has an obvious compounding effect—that is, players who are already hitting well tend to be the ones who benefit from moving up in the order, and vice versa. Still, whether through injury or merit, when a player has moved into a more (or less) favorable hitting position, it’s worth reviewing who has seen their value affected thus far in 2013.
The Brewers' young shortstop deserves to be talked about.
Is it news when a general manager calls one of his players underrated? Should it be? Brewers GM Doug Melvin voiced concerns to Jayson Stark last week about the national coverage of Jean Segura. "I see people talk about the [Jurickson] Profars and even the Dee Gordons," Melvin said. "But they never talk about him. He's an exciting player." Putting aside Melvin's obvious vested interest in Segura, let's give the man what he wants by highlighting his shortstop.
Segura is indeed an exciting player. The 23-year-old is the youngest standout on a surprisingly fun Milwaukee roster. His .349/.386/.470 line entering play on Monday translated into the fifth-best True Average amongst shortstops with 50-plus plate appearances, and his stellar play is one of the causes behind the Brewers' recent surge. Why then is Segura overlooked in favor of the world's supply of Profars and even the Gordons? Presumably due to a combination of three reasons: 1) He plays in Milwaukee; 2) He lacks the elite ceiling of Profar; and 3) He lacks an elite tool, unlike Gordon. What Segura has—a wide and deep skill set—is more than enough to make up for those perceived flaws.
Some players weren't quite themselves during last week's wild card games, which made for some of the best baseball we've seen this season.
Leading up to last week, there was some kerfuffle over how teams would manage their rosters for the first-ever Wild Card Friday. Would we see six LOOGYs? A player-manager? Three catchers? No catchers? Turns out the question we should’ve been asking was how the players themselves would handle the novelty of a single-elimination game. The answer? Not very well: we were treated to seven errors in two games, including a Braves infield that couldn’t have won a teddy bear at a carnival and dueling errant pickoff throws from Derek Holland and Darren O’Day that their first basemen hardly bothered to reach for. Between the errors, the botched (?) infield fly call, and the possible ends of two great careers (Chipper Jones and Jim Thome), there were enough storylines in play on Friday to keep Dick Stockton on script for the rest of the month.
I loved every second of it. Look, there are plenty of practical reasons to support the second wild card—it leads to more money and higher ratings, it puts a premium on winning the division, and it gives more teams late-season hope, all without cheapening the achievement of making the playoffs—but in retrospect, one of the best reasons to like it is that it gave us two unbelievable games. It should continue to do so in future years, too, for the reason stated above: the new format is putting the players in situations with which they’re unfamiliar. How many players have ever been thrust into one winner-take-all contest to keep their seasons alive? Even the College World Series isn’t so cruel. Everywhere you looked, players seemed just a little bit off, and I defy you to tell me you didn’t have fun watching, or that it wasn’t good for the game.
The first play-in game ever will be remembered more for the umpires than for who won.
In an unfortunate turn of events, the first-ever Wild Card Game, and official 2012 postseason opener, will be known for an umpire’s call rather than the competitive and exciting play between two good teams.
Some young prospects might be getting their assignments to minor league camp right now, but not before scouts get to see who has impressed and who has not.
Now that we're approaching mid-March, early cuts have begun at spring training sites. For some this makes the games more interesting, as the big leaguers play more innings; for others, the earlier games are the ones to watch since the younger players get to play more, even if they're not as polished. Many scouts fall into the latter group, as early games mean extended looks at 2011 draft picks, or introductions to big-name prospects who play for organizations the scouts don't normally cover. So before all of the prospects head down to minor league camp, here are some players opening scout's eyes–for good or bad reasons–in Florida so far.