On December 8th, the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans’ Committee will vote for the Modern Baseball Era candidates. As one of the ten announced, this article will look at former St. Louis Cardinals’ catcher Ted Simmons’ chances at being enshrined in 2020.
In 21 years, Simmons produced a slash line of .284/.348/.437 and was nominated to the MLB All-Star Game eight times. The major force in the 1970s’ good-but-not-great St. Louis Cardinals teams, Simmons produced 45 of his career 50.3 bWAR in 13 years in St. Louis.
From the Baseball Hall of Fame:
"Among those who played at least 50 percent of their games at catcher, Simmons ranks second in hits (behind Iván Rodríguez), second in doubles (Rodríguez), second in RBI (Yogi Berra) and fifth in runs (behind Iván Rodríguez, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench)."
Simmons’ 50.3 career bWAR ranks 10th all-time among MLB catchers. It should be noted that, with the exception of possible Hall-of-Famer Joe Mauer, the other eight catchers ranked ahead of Simmons are in the Hall of Fame.
Now, let’s look at who he is facing off against.
Of the ten names listed, which include nine former ballplayers and one executive (Marvin Miller), here is where Ted Simmons’ ranks in bWAR among his competitors.
We can see through this list that, although Simmons is in the top half of the list, he did not produce as much value as John, Evans, or Whitaker.
Another system is Jay Jaffe’s JAWS used to determine Hall of Fame worthiness compared to others already enshrined in the HOF. From Baseball-Reference:
"A player’s JAWS is his career WAR averaged with his 7-year peak WAR (not necessarily consecutive years). For non-pitchers, all non-pitching WAR (offense, defense, baserunning) is included in determining the averages, but any pitching WAR they might have accrued is not; right fielders aren’t penalized by the additional value Babe Ruth accumulated on the mound, for example.The current Hall of Famers are then grouped by position and a position average JAWS is computed."
When ranking catcher JAWS Leaders, Simmons again ranks tenth all-time with JAWS score of 42.6, just barely ahead of Thurman Munson’s score of 41.6. The average bWAR/JAWS for Hall of Fame catchers is 54.3/44.7, so Simmons is just short.
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One final question the Veterans’ committee might ask is what stands out when we think of Ted Simmons? Here is where I believe Simmons’ will fall short again with the committee. Simmons, albeit unfairly, is often overlooked because he played during the height of the Big Red Machine with all-time catcher JAWS leader, Johnny Bench, on their squad.
Dwight Evans made one of the greatest defensive plays ever in the 1975 World Series, against the aforementioned Big Red Machine. Lou Whitaker won the 1978 Rookie of the Year Award, won three Gold Gloves, and won a World Series in 1984. Dale Murphy was a back-to-back MVP Award winner in 1982 and 1983.
We should also not forget the impact Marvin Miller made off the diamond as leader of the MLB Players’ Association.
Ted Simmons’, in my opinion, deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame. A comparison of his statistics with his catchers’ peers show that he is one of the best ever at the position. Unfortunately, Simmons is against stronger peers who should also be in the Hall.
With the electees having to receive 12 out of 16 votes by the Veterans’ Committee, Simmons will be hard-pressed to receive a nomination. Maybe someday, we will see him in Cooperstown.