Everyone has their preferred sports play archetypes that lead to deep dives down the YouTube rabbit hole in time-consuming, auto-play compilations. For some, it’s the long home run or the dinger robbery. It could be the monster dunk or the chase-down block. I’m partial to goalie glove saves.

I’m also partial to laser beam throws that gun down well-intentioned runners. Ichiro’s field-crossing dart to put away Terrence Long is a bedtime story. The Ichiro “laser beam” compilation is a lullaby.

But this right here is my favorite clip ever (it can also be found here):

It’s from a few years ago, but that’s Andrelton Simmons throwing a frozen rope on a relay he shouldn’t have been involved with to get Justin Bour at home who, although hardly a speedster, is so clearly convinced the Braves have no chance of getting him out that he Jeremy Giambis his way to the plate. The in-play camera angle initially appears to hide arc in the relay, and considering the distance, you’d expect this to be a bit of a rainbow. But the behind-the-catcher angle reveals how little lob is in this throw. It’s closer to a line drive up the middle than an actual long distance strike. The physics of this throw is defiant.

This kind of defensive gem is a staple of the Andrelton Simmons playbook. He has so many highlights in the field, this reel from three months ago is already outdated.

But Simmons has spent the last few years of his career in the shadow of offense and upside as a new crop of highly-touted shortstops has entered the Big League fray.

That’s a fandom oversight.

There are probably a few reasons for this, but one that really sticks out is the “serial position” effect of the Shortstop spot.

A new crop of hyper-athletic middle infielders with defensive and offensive prowess has emerged in a conglomerate mimicking the last great influx of talent at the six. They feel new; new enough to make Simmons a holdover of an old guard. Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Xander Bogaerts are all attention grabbers on potential alone. Their hype harkens back to another bygone golden era whose fingerprints were all over the league for a good two decades.

The Alex Rodriguez/Derek Jeter/Nomar Garciaparra trident that began in the mid-’90s serves as the opposite bookend to this new generation. From A-Rod and Jeter alone, there’s nearly 200 FanGraphs WAR, 28 All-Star games, 15 Silver Slugger awards, seven Gold Gloves, and six World Series wins. Add Nomar’s offensive prowess and Edgar Renteria’s tremendous career, and the group is properly idolized.

Between the new stars and the legacy legends, there’s what becomes a poorly-regarded generation on our preference for the new and the old—not the middle.

Simmons gets subscribed to this group as its internal bookend: the last of a Troy Tulowitzki/Jose Reyes/Elvis Andrus/Brandon Crawford interlude that has its own merits but is sometimes viewed as a lineal intermission at shortstop. Simmons, in a lot of ways, became what Omar Vizquel was to the generation he predated by merely a half-decade; the old guard with a slick glove who was neither old nor simply a one-trick pony.

Simmons is turning 28 later this season. And he’s having a great year.

He’s third in all of baseball in Baseball Reference WAR and eighth in FanGraphs WAR. That’s good for first- or second-best overall production from shortstop on the season.

His defense remains stellar, and Simmons is at or near the top across most advanced defensive metrics at his position, and Baseball Reference has him as the top contributor to defensive wins above in the AL this season.

His .306/.469/.820 (AVG/SLG/OPS) slash line is the best offensive production of his career. It’s interesting to wonder what MVP consideration he’ll get, given his team’s mediocrity and his proximity to elite-level production (see: Trout, Mike and Altuve, Jose), but whatever he does receive is deserved. Simmons has been phenomenal this year.

He’s been legendary before, too.

No matter what Andrelton Simmons ever does with the bat, he’ll always be known for his glove. And he needs to be known more for it. He has one of the best dWAR seasons ever (5.4 in 2013) already on his CV, and though he hasn’t yet reproduced the production of that year, he continues to collect gaudy runs-saved and range stats year in and year out.

He’s worth paying attention to for his glove because his production with it is on an all-time scale. As in, one of the best—on a “THE best” trajectory—in the history of Major League Baseball.

Try not to miss the leather looking at shiny new things.

 

All stats up to date as of August 9, 2017

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