WASHINGTON -- Braves first-base coach Terry Pendleton had the pleasure of spending the first seven seasons of his career playing alongside Ozzie Smith, the man widely viewed as the greatest defensive shortstop baseball has ever seen.
While Andrelton Simmons has not been around long enough to be placed in Smith's elite company, Pendleton has seen enough to at least draw some comparisons between the two.
"I know they were both born to play shortstop," Pendleton said. "[Simmons] is just so fluid. It's like, 'Put me there and leave me alone, I know what I'm supposed to do.' Ozzie was that way."
Along with being blessed with a cannon arm that is much stronger than the one Smith possessed and tremendous range, Simmons has a tremendous understanding of the game. He was alert enough to sneak behind John Mayberry Jr. to complete a pickoff play that allowed Alex Wood to escape a jam in the fifth inning of Sunday night's win over the Phillies.
During Monday night's win, Simmons showed off his arm with a pinpoint throw to the plate that denied Wilson Ramos' bid to score from first base on Adam LaRoche's two-out double in the first inning. With the potential tying run at third base and one out in the ninth, his all-out hustle led him to cover the plate as catcher Brian McCann caught Scott Hairston's popup just in front of the screen.
"[Simmons'] work ethic is off the charts," Pendleton said. "You have to shut him down. Ozzie was that way as a veteran. We had to say, 'Ozzie, is that not enough?' As an infielder, you couldn't take your ground balls and stop working because Ozzie Smith was still working. So that meant everybody has got to keep working. [Simmons] is that way now."
Simmons leads all Major League shortstops with a total of 31 in the Defensive Runs Saved category, one of the more popular defensive metrics. Minnesota's Pedro Florimon ranks second with 11 and Baltimore's J.J. Hardy ranks third with seven.
According to FanGraphs, the top two DRS totals recorded by a shortstop, since the stat was created in 2003, were registered by Adam Everett (34 with the 2006 Astros) and Jack Wilson (32 with the 2005 Pirates). Simmons should easily eclipse both marks by the end of this season.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.