Cro-Magnon, switch-hitting catcher. Oog.

When you bring up the subject of Ted Simmons’ Hall of Fame worthiness, the consensus among fans I get is a resounding “uh, I’m not sure. I guess he’s worthy.” It’s not like anyone is really incensed that he’s not in. He has some nifty baseball card numbers. Simba has more hits (2,472) and doubles (483) than any catcher in the Hall of Fame, and he’s second to Johnny Bench in RBI (1,389).  He also was an 8-time All-Star, hit over .300 seven different times in his career, and slugged over .500 four times in a row.

Simmons’ OPS+ of 117 is equal to Carlton Fisk’s and slightly higher than Gary Carter’s (115). Because of his hitting accomplishments, Simmons’ Hall of Fame Monitor score is 124. That ranks him 109th overall, slightly ahead of Andre Dawson and even Carlton Fisk. That doesn’t mean he’s the 109th best baseball player that ever lived; it’s just a predictive tool that says Simmons should have been a near lock for the Hall based on the voter’s tendencies. You know the story – Simmons instead got bounced off the ballot in his first year of eligibility, getting just 3.7% of the vote. How lame of the BBWAA for not living up to their own goofy, little predilections. Looking back, Simmons got overlooked for a few reasons, most of which you’ve heard by now -

  • Simmons played in a Golden Age of catchers – Bench, Fisk, Carter and even Munson.
  • Simmons played on some forgettable Cardinal teams.
  • Simmons’ defense rated somewhere between iffy to crummy. He did allow a high amount of passed balls, and his CS% is lower than the average catcher in his time.

Statistically minded fans have taken worthwhile looks at Simmons’ Hall of Fame case in times past, but now we have The Uber-Stat, WAR. You know I am going to go there, but first, let’s look at the defensive part of Simmons’ WAR and see if Simmons was a butcher behind the plate.

Innings Catch Catch/1000
I-Rod 19159.1 155 8.1
Bench 14488.1 97 6.7
Carter 17369 106 6.1
Yogi 7620.2 33 4.3
Freehan 13437 26 1.9
Fisk 18511.2 30 1.6
Simba 15092.1 -10 -0.7
Piazza 13555 -61 -4.5

This is only catchers who have their innings count available on Baseball-Reference.com.  This list includes some surefire Hall of Fame catchers (Piazza, Pudge Rodriguez), and Bill Freehan, who is in the Hall of Merit. As it turns out, at least according to this measure, Simmons’ defense is hardly awful, just a little below average. Simmons had two good years where he was a +6 defender. 1975 was his worst year, in which he posted a minus 10.

“Catch” is defined as:

Catcher ratings based on stolen bases allowed, caught stealing, errors, wild pitches, passed balls, and pick-offs. Catchers are compared to the yearly league average, with the averages splits catching left-handed and right-handed pitchers.

You can read more on Sean Smith’s catching metric here.

Now let’s look at the bigger picture, their various WAR figures:

Name WAR WAR/600 5-Y WAE
Bench 71.2 5 31.9 31.3
Fisk 67.5 4.1 22.8 17.8
Carter 66.2 4.5 31.6 28.2
Berra 61.6 4.5 27.7 19.2
Dickey 54.3 4.6 28.4 14.2
Ewing 51.8 5.4 22.6 13.8
Cochrane 51.2 5 27.3 17.9
Simmons 50.8 3.2 24.3 14.4
Hartnett 50.2 4.2 18.6 8.3
Bresnahan 41.5 4.7 22.3 10.2
Lombardi 39 3.7 17.6 4
Campanella 36.3 4.5 27 13.5
Ferrell 22.9 2 12.1 0
Schalk 22.7 2.2 13.7 0.4
Average 49 4.2 23.3 13.8
Glossary: WAR is career wins above replacement. WAR/600 is WAR per 600 plate appearances, or WAR per season. 5-Y is their five-year peak, which are consecutive. WAE is Wins Above Excellence. It’s how many wins a player has above three in a season, though his season total can never be below zero. We’re using this to give credit for great seasons while disregarding any season where a player is merely average or below. It doesn’t add for hinder a player’s case for greatness and doesn’t handicap a player for his decline.

The Veterans Committee and their favorite pets. Sigh.  Without the two Hall of the Average Catchers, the averages go up to 53.7, 4.6, 25.2 and 16.2.  Quick thoughts:

  • Simmons is slightly below average the Hall of Fame average for career WAR, and the bar will only go up when Piazza (59.1) and I-Rod (66.6) eventually find their way in.
  • Simmons per season average is completely unimpressive, as he played a few too many years past his expiration date. The fact that Simba was the Brewers’ designated non-hitter in 1984, a season in which he hit like Jason LaRue, didn’t help.
  • The “Greatness” stats don’t really set him apart. Sure, he’s better than the Bresnahans of the world, but does that prove Simmons was a Hall of Fame player? It’s iffy.  Simmons was more of your “very good” type of player whose WAR total is a bit enhanced by him having a career that spanned three decades.

Finally, a WAR graph.

No, he didn’t deserve to get bounced off the ballot so quickly. Yes, he’s better than a handful of Hall of Fame catchers, but there’s just not any one aspect that sets Simmons apart. He is by far the far the best catcher ever to don the Birds on the Bat, and by reason that he’s in some solid Hall company is enough for me to enshrine him into the Hall of Excellentitude. But as for the Hall of Fame, I’ll just say that Simmons’ induction wouldn’t really lower the bar for future Hall of Fame catchers, but it wouldn’t really raise it, either.

It will be up the Veteran’s Committee to decide upon in 2011. Godspeed, Simba.

[polldaddy poll=2594890]

I’m starting a new feature here at the blog I’m dubbing the Hall of Excellentitude. Don’t hate it because you didn’t think of the name yourself. It’s a tribute to the accomplishments of St. Louis players of years gone by, Cardinals and Browns. Some players will be Hall of Famers, others will be those I consider to have at least a Hall of Fame case. What all players will share in common is that much of their impact on the game happened while they were playing with a St. Louis club. We’ll start with Keith Hernandez.

Continue reading »

© 2011 Gas House Graphs Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha