July 21, 2013

Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons: Close in Value?

Baseball Reference had Andrelton Simmons at 3.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Freddie Freeman at 2.8 WAR at the All-Star break.

Fangraphs had Freeman at 2 WAR and Simmons at 1.7 WAR.

Baseball Prospectus had Freeman at 2.23 Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP). They have Simmons at 1.85 WARP.

So Simmons is more valuable than Freeman according to one source’s value metric and is very close in another. Only BP has some separation between the two players.

I too find it hard to believe that Simmons has been as valuable or more valuable than Freeman. But I think it is possible that that is the case. Believe it or not, that’s not a knock against Freddie either.

As great as Freeman has been offensively, he’s still not quite elite in any key aspect of the game. He’s third among National League firstbasemen in OBP, 5th in SLG, 4th in wOBA, 4th in wRC+, 4th in batting WAR (per Fangraphs). So as great as he’s been, he’s not quite been the best offensive player at his position. Even the biggest Freeman supporter has to admit that he’s not fast enough to add all that much value on the basepaths. And while there are mixed opinions on his defense, everyone would agree that he’s no Andrelton Simmons, even if we are looking just at firstbaseman. Even if you think he’s the best defensive firstbaseman in the game, Simmons may be one of the best defensive shortstops in recent memory.

Simmons, according to the defensive metrics that attempt to account for total defensive contributions and value, has been one of if not the very best defensive player in all of baseball. He’s a great defender at perhaps the most important defensive position (aside from pitcher). Remember how highly regarded Andruw Jones was in his prime? Simmons is the closest the Braves have had to such a player defensively.

So you have one guy who has been elite, no doubt, at run prevention. You have another guy who has been great with the bat, the strength of his game, but short of elite.  The elite defensive player has been a poor offensively player but he is a shortstop, where the threshold for good offense is very low, particularly over the last couple of years when MLB-wide offense is rather low.  The guy who has been great with the bat plays firstbase where you can find great hitters relatively easily.  So I certainly think it’s possible these two players are closer in value than it seems on the surface.



3 Responses to “Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons: Close in Value?”

  1. 1
    Vinnie Says:

    Shaun, good read. One thing I’d say with the comparison. Simmons is great with a “reactive” metric (fielding), while Freddie is great at a “proactive” metric (hitting). A player may play an entire game and not have a single ball hit their way. All players (minus AL pitchers) bat. So Freddie’s strength is guaranteed to be utilized during the game, Simmons’ isn’t. And while managers utilize the “double switch” to allow for better hitters to get chances during the last several innings, defensive replacement usually only happen very late in a game and only when the chances for that substituted player to hit is minimal. Simmons is NO doubt a run saver, but so is Paul Janish. And we’d never compare Paul to Freddie.

  2. 2
    Shaun Says:

    Vinnie, Thanks for reading.

    From what I understand, the defensive metrics account for plays made (and possibly plays that should have been made). So it accounts for balls hit a player’s way and not just defensive skills. It has that opportunity element built in.

    It helps that Simmons has played more than any other Brave and of course plays the key position of shortstop. I think that’s why his defensive value and, in turn, his overall value is so high, according to the value metrics.

  3. 3
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