Simmons made one of the best defensive plays by an infielder this season, throwing out Travis d’Arnaud at first base from deep in the shortstop-third base hole, with the tying run at third base and two outs in the eighth inning, and the Braves clinging to a one-run lead over the New York Mets.
Most Defensive Runs Saved by SS
The Braves would hang on for a one-run win, and though Craig Kimbrel was credited with the save, it was Simmons who was the game’s true closer.
Simmons doesn’t have the eye-popping stats he had at shortstop a year ago, but the Gold Glove is still highly likely to be his. He entered Wednesday tied with Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart for the major-league lead with 21 Defensive Runs Saved at the position in 2014.
The play Simmons made is the kind on which he excels unlike anyone else.
Baseball Info Solutions has a plus-minus system in which it looks at balls hit to different areas of the field and rates how much above or below average a player is against those balls.
Simmons is 24 plays better than average against balls hit in the area defined as the shortstop-third base hole (he finished last season a hair above that, at 27 plays above average). By comparison, Cozart is tied with Alexi Amarista for second-best among the 10 shortstops with the most Defensive Runs Saved this season. They rate only seven plays better than average on balls hit to that area.
We mentioned Simmons’ two-year run at the position. In that span, he has 62 Defensive Runs Saved. Next-most is 58 by Mets centerfielder Juan Lagares.
Simmons wasn’t the only great defender to make a key contribution in this game.
Braves rightfielder Jason Heyward led off the game with a home run for the fourth time this season and the second time against Mets starter Zack Wheeler, who had his streak of six straight winning decisions snapped.
Heyward will likely do what Simmons did last season: lead the majors in Defensive Runs Saved. His 33 are three more than Lagares currently has this season.