Ted Simmons deserves to be included in the Hall of Fame
When Ivan Rodriguez is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer in his first year of eligibility, he will become the nineteenth catcher to be enshrined in Cooperstown, joining catchers such as Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Gary Cater, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, Carlton Fisk, Josh Gibson, and Mike Piazza amongst others. All of these catchers can be found amongst the all-time leaders for the position, yet there is one catcher who ranks among the all-time greats at the position who has never received a ton of Hall of Fame support; Ted Simmons.
Simmons, an eight-time All-Star, debuted on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1994 and quickly fell off after one year of eligibility, having only received 3.7% of the vote. In fact, in his one year of eligibility, Simmons received fewer votes (17) than Pete Rose (19) despite the fact that Rose was ineligible for the Hall of Fame. In 2010, Simmons first appeared on the Veteran’s Committee Expansion Era ballot, receiving less than 50% of the vote. He later again failed to gain induction after appearing on the 2013 Expansion Era Ballot.
When looking at the raw numbers, Simmons has numbers that are every bit worthy of being a Hall of Fame catcher. For his career, he played in 2456 games, hitting 242 HR, with 1389 RBI, 2472 hits, 483 doubles, 855 walks to only 694 strikeouts, and a .285 AVG. But when you break down the numbers even further, Simmons Hall of Fame case becomes even more compelling.
- Career WAR of 50.1 is 10th all time for catchers; all ten catchers in front of Simmons are in the Hall of Fame.
- Simmons has a career WAR7 (Seven best WAR seasons for a career) of 34.6, and 42.4 JAWS, which is 10th all-time amongst catchers. All catchers with a higher JAWS than Simmons, except for Joe Mauer, are in the Baseball Hall of Fame
- The career averages of the 15 MLB catchers (Negro League players are excluded) in the Hall of Fame include a 53.4 WAR, 34.4 WAR 7, and 43.9 JAWS, all numbers Simmons comes near or exceeds for his career.
- 2456 games at catcher are third all-time, behind only Ivan Rodriguez and Carlton Fisk.
- 1074 runs are the sixth most by a catcher; all five players above Simmons are in the Hall of Fame
- 2472 hits are second most all-time by a catcher, behind only Ivan Rodriguez
- 483 doubles are second most all-time by a catcher, behind only Ivan Rodriguez
- 1389 RBI are second most all-time by a catcher, behind only Yogi Berra
- 855 walks are eighth most all-time by a catcher
- 248 HR are tenth most all-time by a catcher
- MVP votes in seven different seasons
- 5 times in top ten in NL WAR for position players (1973, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1980)
- Top ten in the NL 5x in OPS, 4x in OBP and SLG
- Top 100 all-time in doubles and RBI in baseball history
- 20th most intentional walks in baseball history with 188
- All in all, he batted he batted over .300 seven times, hit 20 home runs six times, and drove in 90+ RBI eight times.
Some other statistical facts that only enhance Simmons’ case are as follows, courtesy of Todd Eschman of bnd.com
- His .285 career batting average is at least 18 points higher than Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, and Carlton Fisk. He also has the most career RBIs (1,389) and hits (2,472) among the four.
- Simmons hit more doubles (483) than Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson, Frankie Frisch, Reggie Jackson, Jimmie Foxx, Joe Morgan, Rod Carew, and Roberto Clemente,
- Simmons retired as the NL career leader in home runs by a switch-hitter and has the fifth highest RBI total amongst switch-hitters
- Despite being known as a subpar catcher, his career fielding percentage is .987, which is identical to Johnny Bench’s and would be the sixth best among catchers in the Hall of Fame. Simmons also led the league in caught stealing twice and was in the top ten in fielding percentage by a catcher four times.
- Total Zone rates him as just eight runs below average, so over 1771 games caught, he was pretty much league average
By most statistical accounts, whether it is looking at career worth or peak value, Simmons is a top ten catcher in baseball history, which makes it all the more shocking that he has received so little Hall of Fame support. In his Historical Abstract, Bill James ranked Simmons as the tenth greatest catcher of all time and had this to say in his Baseball Abstract.
“”An exceptional hitter, an underrated defensive catcher. Simmons was on OK catcher his first five years in the league; Bill Deane has studied the records at great length and demonstrated that Simmons threw out an above-average percentage of opposing base stealers in his prime seasons. But the Cardinals weren’t a very good team in those years; they spent most of the time fighting about something and criticizing one another for their failures, and then, too, Johnny Bench set an impossible standard for a young catcher…”
In 2015, Simmons was elected to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame, where he had his greatest success as a pro. For this writer, it is my hope that that was a stepping-stone to another Hall of Fame, and that Ted Simmons gets to take his rightful place in Cooperstown in the near future.