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Friday, December 06, 2019

The Hall of Fame Case for Ted Simmons

As is the case for Lou Whitaker and Dwight Evans, a lot of Simmons’ value came in statistical categories that weren’t appreciated nearly as much during his career as they would be later, leading him to be underrated.

On-base percentage was huge, as he notched a .348 OBP in his career and a .367 OBP during his best seasons, 1971-1980. Durability was another one that was not as admired as much during Simmons’ time. Catching is the toughest position physically speaking but he racked up 150+ games behind the plate an astounding eight times. If that were to happen today we’d be calling the guy a freak of nature. At the time it was noted, but perhaps not as much as it should’ve been.

Not that everything he did flew under the radar. Simmons finished with more than 100 RBI in three seasons and 90+ RBI eight times. He complied 2,472 hits. He was an All-Star eight times. He won a Silver Slugger award and got at least a few MVP votes in seven different seasons. He was not just a good hitter for a catcher. He was a legitimately good hitter for most any position, finishing with a career batting line of .285/.348/.437, giving him an OPS+ of 118 for his career, which is excellent for a catcher.

His offensive production and his durability made him one of nine catchers with 50 or more WAR in their careers. The other eight — Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Pudge Rodríguez, Carlton Fisk, Gabby Hartnett, Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza and Bill Dickey — are all in the Hall of Fame. In all, there are 14 catchers in the Hall, which means that Simmons had a higher-career WAR than six of them. He falls pretty squarely in the middle of the pack of Hall of Fame catchers in numerous other offensive categories, ranging from homers to batting average to runs scored. He’d not be a borderline pick for his position.

A player of interest to watch, given how close he came to induction the last time he was up.


QLE Posted: December 06, 2019 at 11:14 PM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, ted simmons

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   1. The Duke Posted: December 06, 2019 at 11:28 PM (#5906464)
Simmons is the only No-brainer for me. He’s a top 10 catcher all-time. He just played for terrible teams and had the disadvantage of having three of the top five catchers of all time be his contemporaries.

Whitaker has an easy path in. The 16 voters on this committee couldn’t line up better for him.

Only 1 owner so maybe Miller gets in.

So I am calling those three but I could see miller falling short
   2. Howie Menckel Posted: December 07, 2019 at 12:48 AM (#5906474)
I remember Simba from his early days, and did not think I would ever see him get in. so Sunday could be a good day.

his main crime was that he was not Johnny Bench.
   3. The Duke Posted: December 07, 2019 at 09:45 AM (#5906490)
Or Carlton Fisk or Gary Carter - it’s a shame he was the fourth best catcher of his time but 9th overall. And Munson was another great catcher from that period.
   4. cookiedabookie Posted: December 07, 2019 at 04:47 PM (#5906623)
Both Simmons and Munson belong in the Hall of Fame
   5. Walt Davis Posted: December 08, 2019 at 05:36 PM (#5906858)
it’s a shame he was the fourth best catcher of his time but 9th overall. And Munson was another great catcher from that period.

Generally I consider factoids like this to be slight negatives. While it obviously can happen randomly, it's not very likely that 5 of the 10 best Cs (and a good chunk of Freehan) played at the same time.

Part of it is that, post-war and probably more post-expansion, something happened that made Cs much more durable than before (some of it being the few extra starts from going to 162 games of course). Dickey made just 1625 starts there, Cochrane 1394, Hartnett 1714, Lombardi 1463 (many in the war years), even Yogi 1641. Those totals are solid but well short of most of the modern C candidates (we'll see what they do with Mauer).

With Munson we'll never know of course but given he was still a 1 WAA C when he died, ha likely would have lasted at least a couple more years as a starter then hung on as long as he and his body wanted to as a backup. Simmons stopped just short of 1700. But look at some of the guys who've made it:

Carter 1954
Pudge I 2097
Pudge II 2346

The true sluggers like Bench and Piazza made it to 1600. So in olden days, the most durable star Cs made it to 1600-1700; these days they're 300+ ahead of that. I doubt it was conscious on the BBWAA's part but they seem to have correctly assessed Munson, Freehan and Simmons as being kinda "short" career by modern C standards and without the elite hitting of Bench and Piazza (although all three had some very fine years). That doesn't mean they should have been kept out just noting that (intentionally or not) it made sense to slot these guys in at the bottom of this bunch.

Mainly I just mean we probably need to be extra careful in comparing Cs across eras. It's not as extreme as comparing today's SPs to Cy Young or even a 300-inning 60s/70s stud but something seems to have changed for Cs. The top 9 C WAR7s are all post-war, 8 of them are post-expansion. For career WAR, 9 of 10 are post-war, 8 of 10 post-expansion. Tenace (in about 700 fewer PA) ends up with nearly as many career WAR as Cochrane and while Tenace was a fine, under-rated player, he probably wasn't close to Cochrane in any absolute sense. Possibly (possibly!) Simmons, Munson, Freehan are closer to Lombardi on the old border.

FWIW, pre/post-war turns out to be a pretty clear distinction for Cs. Given the toll of catching then the toll of war, there aren't many who played substantially pre- and post-war, at least not among top Cs. Lombardi with 380 PAs in 46-47 is probably the closest and he didn't go off to war. Among those who did go to war, the most I've found (without trying to find) is Clyde McCullough of the Cubs with about 1200 PA through 43, military in 44-45, then 2300 PA across 11 seasons post-war. With a career WAR of 10, he wasn't a top C.

A more formal search for Cs with at least 300 games caught as of 1942 and their PA (at any position) from 1946 on turns up Birdie Tebbetts as the leader by far. Over 1900 PA through 42, off to war for all of 43-45, then 2300 PA. But less than 4 WAR before the war and only 6 in his career.

The next closest guys are in the 700-800 PA range. Mickey Owen was a strange one -- played through the war, didn't play at all for 46-48, came back at 33 for parts of three seasons, didn't play at 36-37, played at 38. The other 700+ PA guy was Mike Tresh who was Tom Tresh's father (news to me) who wasn't good before or after the war but did OK during it. McCullough would have qualified if I set the first cutoff at 300 games caught through 1943.
   6. Meatwad Posted: December 08, 2019 at 08:24 PM (#5906886)
He is going to be inducted. Vote just announced.
   7. base ball chick Posted: December 08, 2019 at 09:37 PM (#5906921)
bout time. my mama is cel e brate ing!!!!!!!!

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