Jeter, Miller, Simmons, Walker

Just a few days ago, Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, and Larry Walker were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I’ve already written about Jeter; there’s no need to do it again.

With regards to Marvin Miller, one of the things that seems to be overlooked with his contributions is that he didn’t come across as a “union boss”. No cigars or three-piece suits for him. He was approachable; players felt they could talk with him and not get a lecture. His portrait at the National Portrait Gallery shows this.

But what of Ted Simmons and Larry Walker?

A solid, switch-hitting catcher for the Cardinals and Brewers, Ted “Simba” Simmons (played 1968-1988) had the misfortune of playing at around the exact same time as Johnny Bench (1967-1983), Gary Carter (1974-1992), and Carlton Fisk (1971-1993). Naturally, he’d be overlooked when compared to arguably the greatest catcher of all time. And he didn’t have Carter’s, well, “charm”, nor did he have an iconic moment like Carlton Fisk’s Game 6 home run.

So let’s look at some career numbers for Carter, Fisk, and Simmons. Can you tell who is who? Without looking it up online, of course.

A note on the “slash line”: There’s a common compilation of three numbers separated by slashes to note a player’s contributions at the plate. It would look something like this: .267/.356/.427 That’s called the “slash line”. The first number is the player’s Batting Average – the likelihood that they’ll get a base hit of some sort every at-bat. The second number is On Base Percentage. Using the old adage that “a walk is as good as a hit”, this number includes walks (and hit-by-pitches) to give a better idea of how often the player will wind up on base. The third number is Slugging Percentage. If, for example, a double is as good as two singles, that should be reflected in a stat somewhere. This number gives how many bases a player is expected to get for each at-bat. A slash line of at least .300/.400/.500 is truly exceptional.

Player A – .285/.347/.437, 248 HR, 1389 RBI, Eight All-Star teams
Player 2 – .269/.341/.457, 376 HR, 1330 RBI, Eleven All-Star teams
Player iii – .262/.335/.439, 324 HR, 1225 RBI, Eleven All-Star teams

Player A is best at hitting for average and getting on base, Player 2 has the most power. But the differences aren’t that great.

If two of those players are in the Hall of Fame, might it not make sense that the third one should be as well?

Simmons is Player A; Fisk is Player 2 and Carter is Player iii.

I’ve read that Larry Walker has been compared favorably to Duke Snider. They were both outfielders with similar career arcs; both could hit for power and average. But Walker was the rare “five tool player” who could hit for average, hit with power, play above average defense, have a great throwing arm, and show speed on the basepaths. You know where I mentioned above that a player with a slash line of .300/.400/.500 is truly exceptional?

Walker’s career slash line is .313/.400/.565.

Do you know how many players had a slash line of .300/.400/.500 and stole over 200 bases in their careers?

It’s a short list.

Ty Cobb.
Tris Speaker.
Larry Walker.

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