Here's how Andrelton Simmons is raking

Known for defense, Angels shortstop off to strong start at plate

April 20th, 2018

ANAHEIM -- Angels shortstop has had one of his best career starts at the plate, but he's been outshined by , the young phenom who is the first full-time two-way player since Babe Ruth, and two-time American League Most Valuable Player Award winner .

But Simmons doesn't mind. In fact, he seems to enjoy not being in the spotlight.

"I'm OK with that, man," Simmons said. "I'm just trying to win baseball games. For me, we keep doing this the exact same way for the rest of the season, and we'll be good. Shohei absorbs all the attention, does great with it, deals with it great; Mike does what he does like every year."

Simmons is known for his defensive prowess, as he led the Majors in Defensive Runs Saved in 2013, '14 and '17. But he's also been hitting well through the first few weeks of the season. Simmons has a .306/.383/.389 slash line through 82 plate appearances, while his elite defense has continued.

Simmons' plate discipline seems to be the key to his early success. Entering Thursday, he had swung at only 21 of the 129 out-of-strike-zone pitches he has faced -- a chase rate of 16.28 percent that would be his career best. His previous career-high chase rate was 25.27 percent in 2015.

Simmons also had a walk percentage of 7.7 percent entering Thursday, which would also be a career best.

"Being more disciplined, that's it really," Simmons said. "That's made a big, big difference. It's what I've built on the past couple years: just trying not to swing at stuff that's hard to hit. It's going to cost me a strikeout or two here and there, but I think I'd rather be doing that than swinging at everything that might be called."

Simmons' renewed mindset comes from observing his elite-hitting teammates over his career, namely . Simmons said that he and Pujols have similar mechanical tendencies.

More experience for Simmons has meant seeing more pitches, understanding more hitting concepts and refining his discipline, something that hitters like Pujols have helped him cultivate. It's helped Simmons improve, as his on-base percentage has increased every season since 2014.

"You play with guys that are really good, you can't help but become a better hitter," Simmons said.

Because Simmons isn't swinging at pitches out of the zone, he's received more hittable pitches. He has reached safely, or notched an RBI, against 11.9 percent of fastballs he has faced in the strike zone, the highest rate of his career by more than two percent.

Last season, Simmons slashed .278/.331/.421, the best line of his career, and improved his Wins Above Replacement to 7.1 from 4.2 in 2016. Entering Thursday, he had a 1.0 WAR this year, which was on pace to set a career high.

"He's following up [last year] with a good start this year," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's comfortable in the batter's box, and he's gotten some big hits for us this year."

Worth noting

has struggled recently, as he is mired in a 1-for-20 slump, with seven strikeouts and zero walks. He was out of the lineup against the Red Sox on Thursday, but he entered as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.

"He's not as comfortable in the box right now as he was in the beginning of the season," Scioscia said.

Calhoun is batting .200/.221/.267 with one homer and nine RBIs.