Friday, September 11, 2009

How Good Was Al Simmons?

You may have heard that Ichiro Suzuki recently became the second fastest player to reach 2000 hits. He did it in 1402 games. Al Simmons was fastest, doing it in 1390 games. The answer to the question is that he was very, very good. Great would work, too.

Simmons got his 2000th hit early in the 1934 season. His first season was 1924. Through the 1931 season, he was second only to Ty Cobb in lifetime batting average at .363 for players with 4500+ PAs (I used the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia). He finished his career at .334. That may be a normal dropoff. I really don't know, but it seems like alot. Maybe injuries caught up with him. He missed 143 games between 1927 and 1931 (might actually be a little less than that since the A's did not play 154 games in all of those years).

Through 1931, he was also third in isolated power (SLG - AVG) with .233, trailing only Ruth (.360) and Gehrig (.300). He is one of 22 players to have at least 3 seasons with an .800+ offensive winning percentage (the Bill James stat that says what your team's winning percentage would be with 9 identical hitters when you give up an average number of runs). Ruth had 12, Cobb 11, and Ted Williams 10. So he is not close to them, but to be in that small a group is pretty good.

He had 375 Win Shares (the Bill James stat that includes all phases of the game). That was tied for 63rd through 2001 (including pitchers). Bill James ranked him as the 7th best leftfielder of all time and gave him an A as a fielder. He played 1377 games in LF and 771 in CF. He was 88th among position players in WS per PA. He led the league in Win Shares once (thanks to Ruth's 1925 stomach ache). But he had 5 other seasons in the top 10, including 3 in the top 3 (once losing to Foxx by a hair in 1929). He led all AL outfielders in fielding Win Shares twice and was third 3 times.

He is ranked 85th among position players in Wins Among Replacement at Sean Smith's site. Looks like he was one of the greatest players ever. Good to see him get mentioned in the news. I just searched his name through google news. Got 653 hits. But if I put in "-ichiro" it drops to 40 and some of those deal with other guys with the same name. But I did also learn that he "holds the major-league record with 11 straight 100-RBI seasons at the start of a career" from a Jeremy Sandler article. Geez, I almost forgot. He was of Polish ancestry: his birth name was Alois Szymanski.

Click here to go to his Baseball Reference page.

Click here to read his bio by Fred Stein at the SABR Baseball Biography Project

Click here to see Simmons on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996


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