When he watched Houston play the Angels six times in a short span late last month, longtime Angels assistant coach Dino Ebel noted an unusual tactic the Astros employ with their middle infield.
Shortstop Carlos Correa serves as the cutoff man in all relay situations, no matter where the throw is coming from. Second baseman Jose Altuve always stays put.
It is an idea Ebel and the Angels may imitate with shortstop Andrelton Simmons. His arm is far stronger than that of second baseman Johnny Giavotella.
“That could be a thing we do,” Ebel said. “If the ball is hit to right-center or the right field line, Simmons is the lead man. That would get the ball into his hands more often than it is now.”
The Angels often refer to Simmons as the quarterback of their defense. The goal is always to get the ball to him in the field. The problem is that that can rarely be arranged within the constraints of the sport.
As his offense has come around in recent weeks, Simmons’ defense has remained the force it has always been. Through 51 games, he is putting up the best defensive performance in the 11-year history of one advanced defensive metric.
Ultimate Zone Rating tracks where a fielder rates relative to the average in range, arm, double plays turned and errors made. UZR/150 puts those numbers over 150 games, a standard amount of playing time for a big league regular.
Simmons has a 48.1 UZR/150, according to Fangraphs.com, meaning his defense this year would be worth an estimated 48 runs above average over a full season. Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner set the record of 45.8 in 2010.
“This guy wants to take away hits,” Ebel said. “When you hit the ball to Simmons, somebody is going to be out.”
The Angels placed outfielder Shane Robinson on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ankle suffered Tuesday. Todd Cunningham was recalled from triple-A Salt Lake to take his spot. He played five games for the team during a big league stint in June and carried a .387 on-base percentage in the minors. … Left fielder Daniel Nava said he was fit to play Wednesday if needed. His patellar tendinitis, of which he had a flareup, is not as painful as it was in April. … Right-hander Cory Rasmus will undergo core muscle surgery for the second straight season, the team announced. Rasmus had not pitched since June 13 with what was called a groin strain. He missed four months last season after similar surgery, and is thus likely to miss the rest of 2016.