NL Defensive MVP? Simmons/Arenado lead

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
2:18
PM ET

Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesAndrelton Simmons has been super-solid for the Braves this season.
If you were going to pick the NL’s Defensive MVP for 2013, much like for the overall award, there is one candidate who stands above the rest.

Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is going to break the single-season record for most Defensive Runs Saved (definition here). He’s currently at 38 Defensive Runs Saved. Baseball Info Solutions has charted that stat since 2003 and no player previously finished with more than the 35 Brett Gardner had in 2010.

Simmons has twice been named Sweet Spot’s Defensive Player of the Month and was runner-up for that selection in August. He has more than twice as many runs saved as the next-closest shortstop (Pedro Florimon of the Minnesota Twins with 16) and has more than three times as many as the nearest NL shortstop had entering Friday (Clint Barmes, 11). No other Braves player has more than 16.

What Simmons does best is not just make the difficult play, but make the routine one as well. The left side of the Braves infield has been in vacuum mode all season. Opposing hitters are reaching base only 21.6 percent of the time on ground balls hit to the left of the second-base bag. That’s the lowest success rate in the majors. And let’s remember what Simmons replaced when he came up last season—Taylor Pastornicky, who had -15 Defensive Runs Saved in only 330 innings.

As we noted: There is a considerable statistical gap between Simmons and the next-best NL defender. That gap exists at one other position of note, third base. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado would be the runaway NL Defensive Rookie of the Year if such an award existed. His 30 Defensive Runs Saved are 20 more than anyone else in the league.

Nolan Arenado
Arenado
Arenado is one Defensive Run Saved shy of Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado for the major league lead at the hot corner. Machado gets a lot of national press for his glovework, but Arenado has been similarly good. He leads all third baseman in the Baseball Info Solutions-tracked “Good Fielding Plays” (think: plays that are Web Gem nominees) and ranks second to Machado in Baseball Tonight with 11 Web Gems (Machado had 16).

There are a number of other players who have had fine defensive seasons on non-contenders and teams that are fading out of contention, most notably Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers and Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks. The next-highest rated defender among those players on contending teams is Russell Martin (whom Dave Cameron is profiling today for ESPN Insider).

Martin ranks second among catchers with 14 Defensive Runs Saved, trailing only Wellington Castillo of the Chicago Cubs, who has 18. Martin doesn’t have quite the arm of Yadier Molina (who also has legitimacy with 10 Defensive Runs Saved), but he’s having his best year at throwing runners out, nailing 33 of 76 attempting to steal (43 percent) and picking off three others.

Starling Marte
Marte
Martin’s teammate, Starling Marte also could make a case. He leads all leftfielders with 20 Defensive Runs Saved this season, a total that got a nice early boost from a pair of early-season homer robberies. He’s rated best in the majors at his position in chasing down balls hit to the deepest part of the ballpark.

The Reds and Dodgers don’t have any candidates that would necessarily be standouts in a defensive MVP competition. The Reds top candidate is rightfielder Jay Bruce, who has rebounded from a pair of below-average (stat-wise) defensive seasons to lead his team with 14 Defensive Runs Saved (tied for fourth among NL players at that position).

The Dodgers have a host of defenders who rate well, with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez ranking best relative to his position (10 Defensive Runs Saved, third-best in the National League). Another player deserving of props: utility man Nick Punto, whose 10 Defensive Runs Saved tie Juan Uribe, Gonzalez and Puig for the Dodgers lead.

Therein lies the difference been MVP and Defensive MVP. Punto is unlikely to ever be mentioned in any MVP conversation at any point.

For more NL MVP info, see Jerry Crasnick's article from earlier today.

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