SEATTLE -- Like most pitchers, rookie Parker Bridwell tends to turn around whenever a batted ball sails over his head. His reason for doing, though: to watch the Angels' defense behind him.Since joining the Halos' rotation in June, Bridwell has become accustomed to seeing the club's defense make outstanding plays
SEATTLE -- Like most pitchers, rookie Parker Bridwell tends to turn around whenever a batted ball sails over his head. His reason for doing, though: to watch the Angels' defense behind him.
Since joining the Halos' rotation in June, Bridwell has become accustomed to seeing the club's defense make outstanding plays on a regular basis. During his start against the Mariners on Sunday, it took them only three pitches to produce another one.
Jean Segura opened the game by lining a 1-1 fastball from Bridwell to shallow center field, but shortstop Andrelton Simmons ranged to his left and leapt to make a full-extension grab, robbing Segura of a leadoff hit.
"Now you know why I said I want to turn around every time they hit the ball," Bridwell said. "The first play of the game? Top 10 play. We've got guys literally everywhere, I feel like. Every time they hit the ball, I want to turn around and watch, because it's going to be a play like that."
The Angels lead the Majors in Total Fielding Runs Above Average (6) and rank fourth in defensive efficiency (.700), which measures the percentage of balls in play converted into outs. More importantly, their adept fielding has ameliorated their unproven rotation and helped keep the Angels competitive despite a myriad of injuries.
"I think we've played terrific defense," manager Mike Scioscia said. "There's no doubt that it's had a tangible effect on some of our pitchers' effectiveness. Although we've had to get a lot of innings out of our bullpen, it could be a lot worse if we weren't making the plays that we were making.
"We've got some great range in the outfield and guys are playing really good on the infield, with Andrelton obviously being the glue."
Simmons, of course, has long forged a reputation as one of the baseball's premier defenders, a notion that's backed by many metrics. A two-time Gold Glove Award winner, Simmons leads all shortstops with 23 Defensive Runs Saved and a 10.3 Ultimate Zone Rating, according to Fangraphs. Simmons described his glove work this season as "not amazing, but solid."
"I've gotten a little more action," Simmons said. "I feel OK. I don't feel like it's my best year, but I still feel like I'm making the routine plays. The in-between tough ones, I'm getting them. I still feel like I maybe could have gotten a couple more guys on relays with a little better throw. Little stuff. I'm still having a solid year."
The Angels also boast an elite catcher in Martin Maldonado, who leads all backstops with 10 DRS and has helped deter the running game by throwing out 40 percent of base stealers with his cannon-like arm.
"The biggest piece of the puzzle that Martin brings for us is what he does behind the plate," Scioscia said. "He's been as good as any catcher in baseball."
While Simmons and Maldonado have formed the cornerstones of the Angels' defense, they have above-average defenders at almost every position on the field, including Gold Glover Kole Calhoun in right field.
Earlier this season, the Angels set a club record with 14 straight error-less games. Between June and July, they also played 21 consecutive games without an error by a position player.
"In my opinion, we play really good defense," Simmons said. "There's times when we make errors, but it happens. I didn't expect us to not make any errors. But we make a lot of plays that I'm like, 'Oh, that was a really tough one,' or that normally doesn't get caught or don't get turned. So that's good. Whatever I was expecting from the team defensively, we're accomplishing it."
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.