The Jadeite Jewel: No Play Impossible

Andrelton Simmons standing on a baseball field with a glove on his hand is a web gem waiting to happen, and this winter Braves Journal is going to determine which of his gems is the best of his best—his Jadeite.

To see the previous posts in the series, click here.

Round 2: Shortstop…or Left Fielder? vs. The Jeter

Shortstop…or Left Fielder?

Editor’s Pitch: No one saw this coming. All eyes were on Justin Upton, wondering if he would get to the ball in time, since the left fielder is really the only person who has a chance at that ball. The only problem is, Simmons does not think like the rest of the world, and he seems to be out to prove he could man the entire left side of a baseball field without any assistance if he needed to. He not only ran at full speed with his back to the infield toward a fence, he dove toward that same fence to make the catch without thought to personal safety. As if the effort itself wasn’t incredible enough, he actually made the catch and hung on for the out. That just doesn’t happen.

Last Round: Shortstop…or Left Fielder? beat Hot Potato 37-8.

The Jeter

Editor’s Pitch: With the Braves clinging to a 3-2 lead with 2 outs and a runner on 3rd in the bottom of the 8th, Jordan Walden got Travis d’Arnaud to hit a ground ball. Unfortunately for the Braves, it was headed toward the hole and looked destined to tie the game for the Mets. Fortunately for the Braves, they have Andrelton Simmons playing shortstop, and he ranged to his right, snagged the ball, leaped, and threw the runner out with nanoseconds to spare. ESPN will tell you this type of play was patented by Derek Jeter, but there are some notable differences between Jeter making the play and Simmons making the play. Jeter would leap because, unlike Simmons, he did not have a strong enough arm to take the time to plant himself and get the throw off in time. Simmons leaped because he had ranged so far to his right that he was able to get to a ball Jeter never would have even thought to try to get to, and, with as far as he had to run, had he tried to stop his momentum to plant himself and fire across the diamond, he probably would have fallen over. Although he made this look easy, it was anything but.

Last Round: The Jeter beat The Chipper 42-11.

43 thoughts on “The Jadeite Jewel: No Play Impossible”

  1. Wow – no easy pick here. But, as Joe Simpson said in the video – “You’ll never see a better play.” so I went with Shortstop…or left fielder?

  2. Heavyweight battle! I think I’ll go along with Seat Painter here.


    There’s some pretty good discussion of defensive value going on over at Bill James Online right now. Bill is (in the midst of) making an argument that several current advanced defensive systems work reasonably well on their own terms, but become disproportionate when combined with offensive numbers expressed in the same “units” (WAR, Total Runs, etc.)–although it’s fair to say he’s only moving in that direction and he hasn’t officially drawn any conclusions yet. It seems as though he’s going to introduce a revised total value system in the next few days.

    Tom Tango is politely responding to some of Bill’s arguments in the comments sections.

    Good reading, all of it. I’m interested to see where it ends up.

  3. I’m uncertain of the difference in degree of difficulty, but the aesthetics of the throw are high on the fizz charts.

  4. Oh no! I can’t decide!
    Both these plays are among my favorites ever, as evidenced by the fact that they were both among the three that I spontaneously came up with when you first asked for nominations, Rissa.

    I’ll have to think about this one, they’re both sooo good…

  5. @5 I tried to sprinkle the nominated plays around the bracket so they wouldn’t all have to be voted on against each other in the first couple of rounds, so it’s funny two you nominated are already going head-to-head. Definitely not intentional!

    Looking at the poll on this one so far and ahead at the rest of the bracket, I think it’s safe to predict the competition this round will be significantly greater than last round. We have a formidable task in front of us!

  6. There’s some pretty good discussion of defensive value going on over at Bill James Online right now. Bill is (in the midst of) making an argument that several current advanced defensive systems work reasonably well on their own terms, but become disproportionate when combined with offensive numbers expressed in the same “units” (WAR, Total Runs, etc.)–although it’s fair to say he’s only moving in that direction and he hasn’t officially drawn any conclusions yet. It seems as though he’s going to introduce a revised total value system in the next few days.

    Tom Tango is politely responding to some of Bill’s arguments in the comments sections.

    I find both of those guys more or less intolerable reads these days, but that said, I’d be interesting to see where consensus lands. I lean toward Bill’s contrarianism by default (on this issue.)

  7. I find Bill so very readable! I do have trouble staying interested past Tom Tango’s second sentence most of the time.

    Anyway, right now Bill seems to think right now that defensive credit is being charged twice to the fielder and once to the hitter, e.g. when a shortstop fields a grounder and throws to first in time, he gets credit for adding an out and taking away a hit, whereas the batter gets credit only for making an out (or only for getting a hit, if it squeaks through).

    But he might accept a correction–he appears to be in murky territory.

  8. Bill is a better writer than Tango. Both are obviously smart and worth taking seriously. Bill is a lot of fun to read on baseball history — he does breezy tossed-off phrases about players from a hundred years ago better than any other baseball writer anywhere. He’s frequently on very murky ground, though, because he does just toss things off. Of course, he has a day job, and at that day job he’s won a few World Series rings, so it’s hard to fault him. But while his reflexive skepticism is generally useful, its usefulness generally only goes up to a certain point.

    Tango writes much denser, choppier prose. He’s a lot more grounded in statistical methods than James, and indeed they take very different approaches. Most of Bill’s metrics are ultimately in service of ordinal ranking: things like Game Score and Hall of Fame Monitor and similarity score and Win Shares and so forth are just arbitrary weightings of inputs designed to allow you to rank players across history against each other. There’s nothing mathematically correct about any of them; they’re just ways of shaking up the numbers and trying to come up with something useful.

    Tango, on the other hand, genuinely is trying to statistically model the observed data. Things like FIP and WPA and so forth (many of which Tango didn’t come up with, but virtually all of which he played a hand in popularizing) are based on linear weights, which essentially use the historical database of box scores to determine empirically “correct” coefficients, and which are thereby intended to predict what will happen in the future. Run-average measures like ERA measure what already happened, and they form the much-derided classic stat toolbox; newer measures like FIP attempt to “predict” the true level of performance underlying it. James measures like Game Score attempt to ordinally rank the former and really don’t have much bearing on the latter. If you ask me, they all have a place, but there are plenty of young turks (and some who are not so young, including Tango’s co-author Mitchel Lichtman) who would prefer that no one ever quote batting average ever again, and I find those debates awfully tiresome.

    But the two of them are worth reading, even if I don’t do it as often as I used to.

  9. Who needs to read when Andrelton’s magic is served to us so nicely? Once again: thanks, ‘Rissa.

    Bill James is a better writer, Alex; like Sam, I tire of both’s superior attitudes towards us eye-test guys.

  10. I don’t think Tom Tango has influenced the game yet. He’s good enough to keep checking on him.

    I thank Bill for helping me understand the value of ballplayers, of how they help their teams win. Biggio’s entry into the HOF may be the finest example of that.

    So while I’ll enjoy their discussions on defensive stats, like coop says, Andrelton’s always there and I got eyes.

  11. I understand how you feel Coop. I started looking at it like this, Baseball is a game of ghosts. Looking at the numbers allows you to compare guys from different eras.

    I still rather watch the games. I also still value the Tripple Crown stats.

  12. I generally avoid Bill for non-baseball reasons. Notably, his built in contrarian streak that served him so well as an approach to baseball is not, in point of fact, a perfect model for every question ever asked, and turns him into a somewhat nutty, near-paranoid conspiracy level lunatic on other issues. I have a hard time keeping his baseball work separate from the rest these days, because the more and more I look at it, the more it seems that his baseball brilliance may have just been a blind stab in the dark that landed.

    Tom is okay, but again, can’t write his way out of a wet paper sack. And while I get his all “I’m all about the numbers” schtick, if you’re going to try to make your way in the world as a writer/journalist of some sort, take a fucking course in basic composition.

    I doubt I’d piss on MGL if he were on fire in front of me. Dude takes self-important asshattery to a completely new level.

  13. Whoa!

    Mr. James is dropping some bombs today:

    “Batting statistics and pitching statistics succeeded because they created an organized universe of information, which people could analyze in ways that became progressively more sophisticated over the course of more than a hundred years. But Fielding Statistics failed because they created no organized universe of data, thus no solid footing on which Direct-Inference Analysis could be conducted.

    RATINGS are not DATA. Ratings are opinions, stated in numbers. Data is facts; ratings are not facts. My Win Shares and Loss Shares. . .those aren’t facts. They’re just opinions, stated as numbers.”

    Edit: Sam, who is MGL?

  14. Pos is the anti Tom. At times, he seems more or less innumerate, but he writes so well you just don’t care. His primary flaw is that he lets himself get immersed in his subject to the point of reification. That’s also his best method to do what he does, but sometimes it bites him in the ass. (Notably over a certain disgraced coach from a certain Pennsylvania state university.)

  15. There’s also the fact that I’m never going to pay for a website on baseball statistics.

  16. On an unrelated note, KC just signed their 4th outfielder, Jarrod Dyson, for 1.2 mil for 2015. This isn’t interesting in any way, except for the fact that Dyson’s rWAR of 2.8 for 2014 in 260 AB’s was higher than any of our outfielders’ and almost certainly will be higher than any of theirs in 2015. To drool over the Royals’ 4th outfielder? These are the end times.

  17. Well, we’d be right to drool over anybody’s 4th outfielder, 5th infielder, 1st pinch hitter, 2nd pinch hitter, back-up catcher…the Braves bench in 2014 was absolutely miserable. It made as much of a difference in our final standing as Andrelton Simmons and Chris Johnson forgetting how to hit.

  18. But I mean for him to be our 1st outfielder. Our bench was horrendous last year, but our starters are horrendous this year, at least in the outfield.

    Over/under on our total rWAR for our 2015 outfield is 1.5

  19. @25, If Markakis, by from injury or age, doesn’t pan out, it will def look and feel like the Rapture happened in the Braves OF.

  20. As I have told folks before, it’s quite possible it’s happened already and nobody made the cut.

  21. Dyson ain’t gonna be a 2.8 rWAR player every year. I’d bet that his career path looks a lot like that of other defense-first corner outfield burners with iffy bats. Nyjer Morgan, for example. Or maybe Willie Harris. Every so often the defensive stats will tell you that he’s a 3-win player. The rest of the time they’ll tell you he’s a 1-win player, which reminds you why he’s a bench player and not a starter. He’s a very useful member of a 25-man roster, but there’s a reason they deployed him as a pinch runner in the playoffs.

  22. Would Ichiro had been a starter in our current outfield? The Marlins got him on a 1 year contract for 2 million to be their 4th outfielder. I bet we could have gotten him for less to be a starter due to it increasing his chances of getting to 3000 hits. I think he would have taken that into account.

  23. @34, sure. He can’t be much worse than what we’ve got in left, and he could sell a few tickets. Then again, it could be the year of the Terdo

    @32, I agree with everything you said, and yet I still believe Dyson would be a definite upgrade over at least 4 of our projected 5 outfielders.

  24. My chief worry regarding Ichiro is that, in baseball terms, he is a thousand billion years old.

    Counting his service in Japan, Ichiro has amassed 13,761 plate appearances in his pro career. He began playing in NPB at 18, and just turned 41 three months ago. (The Japanese leagues are typically thought to be roughly akin to a Triple-A level of play, but they are the highest level of play in their country, and so the stresses and wear and tear on his body may be roughly comparable to what he has faced here.)

    There are only three major leaguers who have ever exceeded that:

    1. Pete Rose: 15,890
    2. Carl Yastrzemski: 13,992
    3. Henry Aaron: 13,941

    In 2013, Ichiro passed number four, Rickey Henderson, who had 13,346. There’s a good chance that he’ll pass Hank and Yaz in 2015. Living legends all, but they were basically replacement players after they turned 41.

    He’s not ready to hang them up, but I don’t want us to be the ones holding the bag.

  25. The organization describes Toscano as a fourth outfield type player. So why did we give him a four-year deal with a $6 million guarantee?

  26. Because 1.25 mil per year for a fourth OF is about standard rate, and his upside is notably better than that of Jose Constanza?

    (EDIT: Bear in mind that Constanza made 500K per year.)

  27. I have no problem with the Toscano signing. He got on base at a pretty good clip in a limited sample size in Cuban league. He reportedly got stronger since defecting, and he’s a stout 5’10 – 200. Maybe he becomes Nori Aoki and it’s a steal.

  28. Hi guys:

    I thought I heard my name. Was there something you wanted me to chime in on? Ooops, let me get out of this wet paper bag: Was there something upon which you wanted me to chime, in this winter of despair, as we await the spring of hope?

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