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The Greatest Cardinal Catcher

Has Yadier Molina been great enough to get the title for the greatest Cardinal Catcher ever to play? Not quite. He is number 2, behind one of the most underrated catchers of all time. He still has to get past Ted Simmons, which he will probably do in a short time.

But until then, Ted Simmons it is.

Arguably a top 10 catcher to ever play the game, and probably a top 5 offensive catcher at that.  A player that had a wonderful 10 year stretch who unfortunately dropped off at the end of his career. A prized bat although only average at best defensively to below average, he posted great numbers in a 10 year peak that is hard to beat for any catcher. This is a player who should easily be in the Hall of Fame, but in his first and only ballot, he only received 3.7% of the votes.

From the years 1971 to 1980, he was almost unstoppable for a catcher, his lowest wRC+ in a season was 113, while his average for the stretch was 128. In comparison, Johnny Bench’s career wRC+ is 125. In a four year stretch, he averaged 138 wRC+. Fantastic numbers for a catcher. Only Mike Piazza and Joe Mauer have really been above that mark for any consistent time

His lowest WAR during this time was 3.8, and he had 5 seasons with 5.0 + WAR. Ernie Lombardi, who is in the Hall, only had 1 season with 5+ WAR. Mickey Cochrane, another Hall of Fame catcher, had 4 seasons with 5.0 + WAR. He is the 11th-best catcher by WAR, ahead of guys like Gabby Harnett.

From a traditional standpoint, he has raked up 2472 hits, second all-time for catchers. Also, 248 home runs, and while that is low for any other position, it puts him 10th for catchers. 1074 runs scored, good for 6th all time. 2nd in RBIs with 1389. He ranks up pretty well in the traditional stats was well as the more advanced metrics. And he did all of this before Mike Piazza, the greatest offensive catcher, ever sniffed at playing at the major league level, making his numbers historic as well.

It’s hard to imagine a guy so dominant at his position like this not in the Hall. Well, like I said earlier, he completely dropped off. In his last five seasons, his highest wRC+ was only 103, with his lowest at 60. Highest WAR was 1.0 while his lowest was -2.4. And he was always considered bad behind the plate.  During his great time as a catcher, 92% of the time he played was as a catcher. In his later years, all that time played caught up to him. Injuries plagued his career after he left St. Louis, only playing more than 150 games once in a season. While with St. Louis, he played over 150 games 9 times.

This is a player who just became overlooked. Not even sniffing at becoming a HOFer, even when he had the stats to make it. He is not even in the St. Louis Cardinals team Hall of Fame. Although a Veterans Committee hopefully will add Simmons to the Hall where he belongs, who knows when that will happen?

I don’t believe he is a Johnny Bench or Berra, but he was a fantastic catcher for the Cards, and deserves to be in the Hall. Especially when catchers like Ernie Lombardi are in it now.