Birthday: January 17
Died: June 4, 2014
Chicago Cubs, 2B (1960-1961)
Chicago Cubs, Manager (1988-1991)
Yesterday's Cubs, Today's Metrics
The advanced metrics are not kind to Don Zimmer. His 1.4 career WAR in 914 plate appearances (as a Cub) and OPS+ of 86 is below league average and only slighly above replacement player level (a minor league player should be able to produce similar value).
To give you a few recent comparisons for Cubs who played 2B, Tommy LaStella has a 1.6 WAR in only 395 PA (Zimmer was 1.4 in 914 PA). Ian Happ was able to outproduce Zimmer in his first season with the Cubs (1.8 WAR in 2017). Happ did play both 2B and the OF in 2017.
To spin this in a different direction, the fact that he lasted for 12 years in the MLB at these levels seems to indicate that Zimmer could be versatile enough to get the most of his talent and find a role with different teams (he played for 5 teams). He was primarily an infielder with 3B being the position he played most, but saw significant time at 2B and SS as well. He played very few games in the outfield and was even a catcher for 35 game. And he won 2 World Series championships (1955, 1959), although he was primarily a part-time player for both Dodgers teams (just one plate appearance in 1959).
It's not surprising that a below league average player that could hang around as long as Zimmer did would than become a successful MLB coach and manager. He managed the 1989 Cubs team to a division title and playoff appearance (Cubs lost to the Giants in the NLDS).
This Day in Chicago Cubs History-Don Zimmer
April 12, 1960
This one was a Cubs loss, but an exciting and historic game as the Dodgers defeat the Cubs 3-2 in 11 innings on a walk off pinch hit home run by Chuck Essegian off Don Elston. Don Drysdale pitched a complete game and struck out 14 batters. And Don Zimmer hit a home run in his first at bat as a Cub
August 22, 1960
At Wrigley Field, the Cubs defeat the Reds 6-3. Don Zimmer hits a double, triple and drives in 3 runs.
October 1, 1960
In Los Angeles, the Cubs defeat the Dodgers 10-8 in 14 innings. Don Zimmer homers and drives in 3 runs.
April 26, 1961
Don Zimmer hits a walk-off home run in the 10th inning off Jim Maloney as Cubs defeat Reds 3-2. Glen Hobbie pitches 9 innings and Don Elston gets the win for the Cubs pitching a scoreless top of the tenth inning.
April 15, 1961
The Cubs get their 2nd straight walk-off victory as Al Heist's grand slam scores Don Zimmer, Ron Santo & Ernie Banks.
June 1, 1961
At Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, the Cubs defeat the Phillies 10-3. Don Zimmer homers, singles, scores 3 runs and drives in 3 runs.
July 23, 1961
At Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, the Cubs defeat the Phillies 11-5. Don Zimmer homers twice, scores 4 runs and drives in 4 runs.