September 15, 2014

Braves Shouldn’t Try to Change Who Simmons Is Offensively

Andrelton Simmons is having an offensive season on par with B.J. Upton’s awful season.  Through Friday, Simmons has a 73 OPS+ while B.J. has a 72 OPS+.  Of course Simmons is an elite defender at shortstop, so his value is higher, but there’s no question Simmons has been downright awful at the plate, even for an elite defensive shortstop.

Simmons is tough to strikeout, he doesn’t walk much, but he has solid power.  He hit 17 homeruns last season.  He’s not hitting for much power this year.  He has 7 homeruns and a .331 slugging percentage.  If a pitcher made a mistake last season, he would run into a few homeruns but he’s always been the type to make a lot of contact and a lot of contact that leads to outs, given his .297 career on-base percentage.  This year his on-base percentage is .286, but even last year he posted an on-base percentage of just .296.

As you who are reading this know, Simmons is one of the best defensive players in baseball.  If he keeps it up, he could be one of the best defensive players of all-time.  Even this season, with his terrible hitting, Baseball-Reference has him at 2.8 WAR and Fangraphs has him at 1.9 WAR, and that’s with his defense also down a bit from last season, according to the metrics.  So Simmons is still providing solid value, according to all the indicators.

There’s been some chatter about Simmons shortening his swing in order to improve his offense.  He appears to swing out of his shoes often.  But I’m not sure if this is the way to go.  Simmons is a great contact hitter but doesn’t seem to have great pitch recognition, at least in terms of taking pitches he can’t barrel and swinging at the ones he can.  He swings a lot and makes contact a lot but he doesn’t get on base at a high rate, indicating he swings at pitches that often lead to contact outs.  If Simmons shortens his swing to try to become more like a Martin Prado or an Edgar Renteria, it might just make matters worse, leading to more weak contact on pitches that he can crush.

It seems the best approach for Simmons would be to swing less while still trying to crush the hittable pitches.  If he swung less at pitches he can’t barrel, he may draw more walks, avoiding more outs, while still hitting for some power.  The problem is that he may not have the pitch recognition to do this without running the risk of swinging at the wrong pitches and letting the right ones go by.  A lot of pitch recognition probably can’t be learned or unlearned by the time a guy is in the majors.

The Braves have a great defensive player in Simmons but they may have to deal with seasons like his 2014.  Obviously they should work towards improvement but to try to make him a different hitter is probably a mistake.  Power is the only good aspect of Simmons’ offensive game.  He’s not a great hitter, in terms of what scouts call the hit tool.  He doesn’t draw a lot of walks.  He does make a lot of contact but it’s a lot of weak contact to go along with the power.  To change his approach in an attempt to hit the ball to the right side and try to hit ’em where they ain’t, might just zap his one strength as a hitter.




2 Responses to “Braves Shouldn’t Try to Change Who Simmons Is Offensively”

  1. 1
    Tyler Says:

    Is take less home runs for a higher average and on base percentage any day.

  2. 2
    Shaun Says:

    I think the issue is he doesn’t have the hit tool to hit for much average and doesn’t walk enough and hit well enough to post a high on-base percentage. Offensively he’s going to live and die with the long ball. Trying to change that too much could mean even more contact outs.

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