Monday, February 22, 2010

The Catcher Project: Ted Simmons

Born: 8:9-49
Career: 1968-1988
Hall of Fame: No.
Career highlights: Nine All-Star teams. Six seasons above .300 while catching on an almost-daily basis. Played on one pennant winner, splitting time between catching and DH for the '83 Brewers; no team with Simmons as a regular catcher won even a division title.
Career slash stats: .285/.348/.437

See his stats here

Games caught after age 30 season: 332. Age last season as a regular catcher: 32. Win shares earned after age 30 season: 69. Win shares earned after age 33: 22.

Ted Simmons, like Jorge Posada, was a switch-hitting catcher with the emphasis on hitting, and in the 1970s — when basestealing was far more prevalent than it is today — a bat-first catcher was a bit of a liability.

But Simba could hit. In the context of the 1970s, in the context of old Busch Stadium, he was a better hitter than Posada.

And the Cardinals used him hard: 130 games caught at age 21, 135 at age 22, 153(!) at age 23, 141 at age 24, 154 at 25 ... if you've ever been in St. Louis in August, you know what a furnace feels like. And he consistently hit .300 through that workload.

It couldn't last, and it didn't. When Whitey Herzog took over the Cards, he decided he couldn't live with Simmons' declining defense — or, probably, his stature in the community. Herzog traded Simmons to Milwaukee.

Simmons' last season in St. Louis was his age 30 season. He hit .303/.375/.505 with 21 homers — a basic Ted Simmons season to that point. His first year in Milwaukee: .216/.262/.376. Simba had only one St. Louis-caliber season in the last eight years of his career. That came in 1983, when he caught just 86 games and DH'd for the rest of his playing time.

Another example of heavy use young leading to a decline late.

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