Andrelton Simmons at his best once again with a spectacular leaping throw. It's going to be hard to top that one as defensive play of the year, or at least best from a shortstop. OK, the Atlanta Braves Gold Glove shortstop made that play against a catcher, Travis d'Arnaud of the New York Mets -- a player he has robbed before. Still ... that's a cannon from shallow left field.
Here's the Twitter reaction:
So, in a battle of all-time great defensive shortstops, who do you like: Simmons, Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel? Here's Ozzie with maybe the greatest player he ever made, maybe the greatest play anyone ever made. Here's a look back at Vizquel's career, including many defensive highlights.
I'd rank them like this:
I love Little O -- saw him when he first came up with Seattle, when he couldn't hit a lick and nobody knew how good he was on defense because the Mariners were terrible. Once he went to Cleveland and was in the playoffs every year, people finally realized his greatness, although he'd probably already lost a step by then (defensive value tends to peak early in a player's career).
According to the Total Zone defensive metric used at Baseball-Reference.com, Vizquel is behind Ozzie in career runs saved among shortstops:
1. Ozzie Smith: +239
2. Mark Belanger: +238
3. Cal Ripken: +178
4. Luis Aparicio: +149
5. Omar Vizquel: +134
My gut says Vizquel didn't quite have the range or arm that Simmons and Ozzie had, but he was so smooth and reliable that he won a Gold Glove when he was 39. Of course, Simmons is just starting his career; we'll see if he ages as well as Ozzie and Vizquel did.
Belanger is the guy here who never gets mentioned, but he won eight Gold Gloves with the Orioles from 1969 to 1978. He's before my time, and nobody remembers him much because he was a .228 lifetime hitter with no power who played before the SportsCenter era. Ripken is also underrated, but he had such a strong arm he could play a step deeper than most shortstops, allowing him to make plays others couldn't. Aparicio made the Hall of Fame on the strength of his defense.
But Simmons, like Ozzie and Vizquel, is special. That, we can all agree on.
For more on the Braves, check out the Chop County blog.