The Atlanta Braves continue to follow the John Hart model of locking up pre-arbitration talent, inking Andrelton Simmons to a seven-year, $58 million contract extension last week. The 24-year-old Simmons must be thrilled with the deal, which makes him the most handsomely compensated domestic player in history with less than two years of major league service time. But those cheers you hear emanating from Atlanta's Disney World Resort spring training complex? It's Braves pitchers celebrating that fact that the dean of shortstop defense will have their backs through the 2020 season.
Simmons is absolute death to grounders hit deep into the hole. In 2013, Atlanta pitchers had a collective .103 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) when opponents hit a ground ball to the left-center portion of the infield. That was over 30 points lower than the next closest club, the Colorado Rockies. Since the advent of Pitch F/X, only the 2008 Rockies (.101) had a lower team BABIP on grounders hit to left-center.
Lowest team BABIP on ground balls hit to left-center, 2013
Pretty much all Braves hurlers got a boost from Simmons' mound-worthy arm and exquisite range (the highest BABIP on grounders hit to left-center belonged to Tim Hudson, at .167), but Mike Minor must be giddy that his shortstop is locked up. The lefty enjoyed a .054 BABIP on grounders hit to left-center, lowest among all MLB pitchers who put at least 50 balls in play to that location on the diamond. The since-departed Paul Maholm (.084 BABIP) owes Simmons a debt of gratitude, while Kris Medlen (.154 BABIP) and fellow new millionaire Julio Teheran (.154) will benefit from pitching in front of this generation's Ozzie Smith for years to come.