The Devil’s Advocate: Gary Carter vs Simba

by on February 8, 2011 · 4 comments

That’s right.  One time and one time only.  In this corner, it’s 11 time All-Star catcher and current HOF member Gary Carter.  In the opposite corner, it’s 8 time All-Star catcher and notorious HOF snub Ted Simmons (aka Simba).  They are squaring off in the Devil’s Advocate Octagon of Baseball Pain and Enlightenment to determine whether or not Simmons belongs in Cooperstown.  (In my best Michael Buffer voice) Let’s get ready to RRRRRRUUUUUUMMMMBBBBLLLLLLLLEEE!!!       

First, lets go to the raw stats:       

Carter vs Simba

Notice that I didn’t include the Silver Slugger awards.  It’s not because I’m trying to purposely skew the numbers one way or another.  Carter won 5 Silver Slugger awards, and Simmons won 1 such award.  I actually chose to omit the award, because the Silver Slugger wasn’t first awarded until 1980, and Simmons’ career spanned the years from 1968 through 1988.  Carter’s career went from 1974 to 1992, so Carter had a slight advantage in that particular department.  The degree to which that advantage helps him in this comparison is debatable.  The simple fact is that Simmons’ best 2 years offensively were 1977 and 1978 which were pre-SS.  That doesn’t necessarily mean he would have won the award, but the fact that winning was not possible doesn’t help his cause.  For the purposes of this slugfest, I’ve made the decision to just ignore the award completely but present the information just in case someone else wants to draw their own conclusions.     

The conclusions I draw from a quick glance at the raw numbers are that Simmons was probably a better contact hitter and rbi machine than Carter.  Carter had slightly more home run power, but he missed a lot more pitches than Simmons.  Are these conclusions in any way supported by the neutralized batting stats:     

  • Carter – .273/.346/.456/.802 with 351 hr, 1370 rbi, 402 doubles, and 2259 hits
  • Simmons – .288/.351/.443/.794 with 261 hr, 1543 rbi, 504 doubles, and 2580 hits

I wouldn’t exactly call it a draw, but it’s really close and depends on what you value.  Over the course of 19 or more seasons, the disparity is relatively small on a per season basis.  The real difference comes down to defense.  That’s where the Gold Gloves and dWAR come into play and give Carter a significant advantage.  The Gold Glove award category doesn’t afford Simmons any help at all.  He just happened to be the victim of some rather unfortunate timing as his early career coincided with the career of Johnny Bench.  Bench dominated the Gold Glove award for NL catchers from 1968-1977, so Simmons didn’t stand much of a chance even in his prime years of winning a Gold Glove.      

Even if you ignore the Gold Glove as an award based on opinion, it’s hard to ignore the difference in statistical measurement of defensive prowess.  It’s not that dWAR is the ideal measurement, but even as a slightly flawed tool, it’s still a useful one.  Carter’s dWAR value of 10.0 trumps Simmons’ dWAR value of -5.2 handily, and that’s really the quantitative difference between the two.      

I could discuss each catcher’s ability to work with a pitching staff and call a game or throw out base stealers, but even a significant advantage in that department for Simmons would likely get negated by the playoff performance component.  In just 3 playoff series, he hit .186/.279/.356/.635.  To add insult to injury, his final playoff appearance resulted in a 4/23 performance against the Stl. Cardinals in the 1982 World Series, and we all know how that turned out.      

Final Verdict:  In terms of offense, Carter and Simmons were pretty much a toss-up.  The neutralized numbers show that Carter had slightly more power, and Simmons hit for a higher average.  Both probably provided similar rbi production efficiency.  It’s really defense that is the difference maker, though.  Despite the reputation that Simmons had, my recollection of seeing both play tells me that Carter was more than slightly better.  If Simmons has to be as good as Carter to be in the HOF, then the verdict is that he doesn’t belong.  Then again, who says that Carter is the litmus test?  Maybe Simmons is the bare minimum for HOF admittance for catchers.      

TIDBIT:  For his career, Simmons threw out 34% of all base runners who attempt to steal.  Carter threw out 35%.  Of course, this doesn’t account for efforts made by their respective pitchers to hold runners on base, but no stat is perfect.     

MORE BITS OF TID:  Hat tip to throatwarbler on Twitter for suggesting this particular matchup.  If you are on Twitter and don’t follow him already, I highly recommend that you do so.  His stories are worth a pause from whatever it is you are doing, because he’ll take you to a place in Cardinals’ history that you’ve probably never been to, and you won’t be disappointed by the few minutes spent going there.

Like it?  Surprised by the results?  Let me know on Twitter by following gr33nazn!

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Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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{ 4 comments }

Craig F. February 8, 2011

I often wonder if Simmons is a victim of the 70s Cardinals. They just were not that good or intriguing. And since he did not get in initially that is why he is given a pass. Now of course you look at a player like Andre Dawson and say.. he got in and played on bad teams why not Simmons? I don’t know.. have to ask the writers.

Gary Carter knew how to play the PR game and I believe that is why he got into the Hall.

Dennis February 8, 2011

Honestly, I had some of the same thoughts prior to doing the research for the article. My assumption was that Simmons simply was ignored, because he played in the shadow of Bench for so long, and he never got the credit that he was really due. After going through a lot of stories and statistics, I came to the conclusion that he was a really good hitting catcher with good power. His defensive skills were good but not outstanding, and he was probably underrated for his ability to handle the subtle aspects of catching. He was really, really good, but he wasn’t what I would consider great and definitely not great for a sustained period of time.

Seals February 8, 2011

Carter was a good interview and played the third act of his career in New York. That pushed him over the top.

Simmons did his third act in Milwaukee and stuck around for too long. He may have been as good or better than Carter but he doesn’t have the same sizzle nationally.

Dennis February 8, 2011

I’m sure that playing his age 31-35 seasons for the Mets didn’t hurt Carter much, but only his 1985 season was actually really good there. He pretty much made 3 more All-Star teams based on reputation in my opinion.

Simmons did probably hang on too long, but I think that one overlooked aspect of his candidacy is the timing of his appearance on the ballot. When he hit the ballot, there were a lot of other ex-Cardinals on the ballot as well – Steve Carlton, Orlando Cepeda, Bruce Sutter, Jim Kaat, Ken Boyer, Joe Torre, Curt Flood, Bobby Bonds, Bob Horner, and George Hendrick. Additionally, the ballot also included Phil Niekro, Tony Perez, Don Sutton, and several other players who would also get 20% or more of the vote at one time or another. The implication is that maybe he just never had a chance to stick around on the ballot long enough to gain momentum, because that first ballot was simply too strong.

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