Defensive player of year: Andrelton Simmons


Mike Zarrilli/AP Photos

There's nobody better on defense than Andrelton Simmons.

Our selection for Defensive Player of the Year for 2014 is the same as our pick for 2013.

And if we were guessing right now, Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons could win this award every year through the end of the decade.

It was a close vote among our 11-person voting panel (which included ESPN.com writers and "Baseball Tonight" analyst Doug Glanville), but Simmons edged out his teammate, right fielder Jason Heyward for the top spot.

Simmons received four first-place votes and 35 points (voting was a 5-3-1 system for the top three spots). Heyward got three first-place votes and 29 points.

Defensive Player of the Year Winners

Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy finished third, ahead of Mets center fielder Juan Lagares, Royals left fielder Alex Gordon and Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Throughout the season, I received comments on Twitter from followers who thought that the shortstop they follow is better than Simmons. I am here to tell them it's not true.

We've written a lot about Simmons' glovework in this space, so we'll keep the details on his success brief, other than to say that the comparisons to Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel still seem legit.

Simmons led all shortstops with 28 Defensive Runs Saved, nine more than the player with the next most at the position (Zack Cozart of the Reds). Using Baseball-Reference.com’s conversion methods, that equates to 3.9 Defensive Wins above Replacement, the most for any player in the major leagues.

Most Defensive WAR
2014 Season

Over the last two seasons, Simmons has 9.3 Defensive Wins Above Replacement. The next-closest is Lagares at 6.9.

As good as Simmons was in 2013, and even though his overall Defensive Runs Saved total declined from 41 to 28, there were some areas in which he actually improved in 2014.

Simmons still excelled at fielding balls in the shortstop-third base hole, with a prowess unmatched by anyone else. His conversion rate on double-play opportunities (as either fielder or relay man) jumped from 62 percent to 75 percent.

Simmons also stood out on video review, by Baseball Info Solutions’ system of tracking Good Fielding Plays (30 categories) and Defensive Misplays & Errors (nearly 60 categories). His ratio of Good Plays to Bad Plays went from 1.9 (76 to 39) to 2.5 (69 to 28). Only two shortstops -- Alexi Amarista (2.6) and Troy Tulowitzki (2.5) -- had a better ratio and both played fewer games at the position than Simmons.

Heyward was a very worthy runner-up. He led all major leaguers in Defensive Runs Saved with 32. But we're willing to bet that even he would acknowledge that Simmons is the best in the business and will be for quite some time.