Year Inducted: 1953 (BBWAA, ballot #9, 199/264)
Mike Trout has had the greatest start to a career that any player has ever had. Naturally, the question becomes who else has started similarly. Most recently, Albert Pujols’ first ten seasons were historic and cemented him as the greatest player in the game, a title that Pujols has obviously relinquished to Trout as he becomes more and more like Dave Kingman it’s scary. Before Pujols’ beginning, many other players laid claims to a Hall of Fame career based on their first seasons as well. Players like Ken Griffey were pegged for greatness almost from their first game. But the first player to really jumpstart a Hall of Fame career on the strength of his first 10 seasons would be Al Simmons.
Simmons played for 20 seasons, most of which was spent on the A’s with Connie Mack. Simmons slashed .334/.380/.535 for a wRC+ of 130 in his career. Simmons finished his career just shy of 3000 hits, but still managed to collect nearly 1000 extra base hits including 307 homers, 149 triples and 539 doubles. Simmons teamed with players like Mickey Cochrane and Jimmie Foxx to form a dangerous lineup in Philly, which gave him plenty of chances to do damage. Simmons managed to drive in over 1800 runs in his career, including topping the century 12 times in his first 13 seasons. Bucketfoot Al also managed to score over 1500 runs despite being graded as a negative baserunner and stealing fewer than 100 bases.
Simmons played the game with a ferocity that few could match. Many fans and media would be amazed at how angry Simmons would look, especially with an open and odd stance and tightly gripped bat, even during batting practice. As one of the first real power hitting right handed batters, pitchers began pitching him away to negate his power. Simmons didn’t mind, he would just go with the pitch and hit it hard to right field (something that the current group of hitters could learn to do a bit better).
In 1934, in his second season with the White Sox, Simmons had a wRC+ of 136, played in 138 games and put up a fWAR of 4.7. In 1935, Simmons had a wRC+ of 85 in 128 games and put up a fWAR of 1.1. What happened? Simmons claimed that the attitude the White Sox had caused him to slack off a bit in practicing, resulting in a down year. He went to the Tigers in 1935 and rebounded nicely, but that would be his final great year as age slowly caught up with Simmons.
Simmons put up big numbers, and had an excellent peak, at a time when he had to contend against Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Foxx, Mel Ott and many others that were some of the best of all-time. While he may not be quite at their level, Simmons’ numbers and abilities as a hitter put him pretty close to them.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 11/21/16:
#59- The Astros lone inductee
#58- The best Red Sox shortstop ever (sorry Nomar)