Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Does Alan Trammell Belong in the Hall of Fame?

If it weren’t for my irrational love for a guy named Bobby Higginson, Alan Trammell would be my favorite baseball player of all time. Like many others that started watching Tigers baseball in the 80’s, Trammell became my childhood hero. He was good with the bat, arguably better with the glove, and was a class act in the D for 20 seasons. When I was a kid in Little League, I wanted to BE Alan Trammell. Sadly, I was too fat and untalented. I had to settle for being Barbaro Garbey.

Point is, Trammell was THE MAN to Young Rogo and other Tiger fans back then. In many fans’ eyes, he still is the symbol of excellence in Tiger history, the way fans of the ‘60’s Tigers look at Al Kaline, and the way chubby dumb girls of today look at Brandon Inge. I mean, what Tiger fan of that era doesn’t have fond memories of Tram and his double play partner, Lou Whitaker?

And now, once again, tis the season for the yearly Hall of Fame voting. Already, I’m seeing cries for Trammell to be inducted into Cooperstown in his 11th year of eligibility and it makes me feel like a bad fan. Why?

Because I’m one of the few (if any) Tigers fans that just doesn’t believe Alan Trammell belongs in the Hall.

Why is that? Let me count the ways.

I tackled this topic a couple years ago and felt I should re-visit it to see if my views have changed. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t lie.

-In his 20 seasons, Trammell played more than 140 games in only eight of the years. The guy was injured so much that I think it cut into him reaching the numbers fitting for a Hall of Famer. Don Mattingly has the same problem.

-In those 20 seasons, Trammell had only eight years when he had double-digit homers. Only twice did he hit more than 15. Homers aren’t everything, sure, but they help.

-The magic number of hits that guarantee you a spot in the Hall (unless you were caught with steroids) is 3000. Trammell was over 600 hits short of that mark. Of course, you don't require 3000 to get in, but being a bit closer would help his chances.

-He never once led the league in anything other than sacrifices (’81 & ’83).

-He hit under .260 in 7 of 20 years.

-His career OPS+ of 110 is hardly impressive at all. When one remembers Trammell, I think everyone likes to think of the ’87 Trammell, when he hit .343 with 28 homers and got screwed out of the MVP by George Bell. But his 162-game average numbers for his career are .285 and 13 homers. That’s good, but not Hall of Fame worthy.

-Still think I’m nuts? Check this out.

Player A played in 2293 games over 20 years in MLB. He had 2365 hits, hit .285/.352/.415, hit 412 doubles, 185 homers, 1003 RBI, and 236 stolen bases. He played in six All-Star games, had three Silver Sluggers, and won four Gold Gloves.  He won one World Series and was the MVP of that series.

Player B played in 2152 games in 16 seasons. He had 2327 hits, hit .286/.343/.398, had 436 doubles, 140 homers, 923 RBI, and 294 stolen bases. He was a five time All-Star, won three Silver Sluggers, and won two Gold Gloves. He also won two World Series championships and was the MVP of one of them.

Pretty close, huh? Player A is Trammell. Player B is Edgar Renteria. And he’s still going. Think Renteria belongs in the Hall?

Alan Trammell is a legend among Tiger fans. I know he’s a postseason hero in Detroit and his face would be on the Mount Rushmore of Tiger players if you built one.

But think about this. If his name was Alan Jones and he played his career in Seattle with his slightly above average numbers, would you think he was a Hall of Famer then? Look at Renteria’s numbers again. It’s hard not to be a homer in the case of a local legend like Tram, but I’m just trying to be objective.

It’s not the Hall of Very Good. It’s a place for the best of the best. And Alan Trammell, while a good player and a great human being, is just not one of baseball’s immortals. Too many injuries prevented that, in my opinion.

Sorry, Tram.

/ducks for cover


Jay Hathaway said...

Niiiiice job with the Renteria comparison.  Research is a specialty of mine, and I am impressed.  I was on the fence until I read that.

MonkeyWrench32 said...

You mean there's another soul out there who thinks that Trammell doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame AND his favorite baseball player of all time is Bobby Higginson? I'm scared.

H2OPoloPunk said...

I hate you and I will never visit this site again.

/not really
//or maybe really

Lrsigman said...

I agree that Tram falls a little short, but I don't really buy the Renteria comparison.  Renteria has played through the steroids and post-steroids era, where offense is a lot higher than it was during Trammell's time.  For comparison, while Tram's 110 OPS+ isn't much to get excited about, Renteria's OPS+ is 94 (and probably plummeting the longer he played).  A straight up comparison of their counting stats doesn't recognize how different the eras in which they played were, and short changes Trammell more than he really deserves.

I think the biggest obstacles facing Trammell's induction are that a) he was never the best at his position during his career (unfortunate for him to have played at the same time as Cal Ripken Jr.) and b) the end of Trammell's career coincided with an all-time great offensive era for shortstops (A-Rod, Jeter, Tejada, Nomar, etc.).  This skews the perception of him as being a lesser player than he really was.  But yeah, even giving him his full due, he's not quite good enough for the HoF.

JacksTigers said...

After looking at these stats, why is it even a debate?

kalinecountry said...

A couple of years ago when the mlb network started up, barry larkin was one of the ex-players on the show with the f'n goof harold reynolds, "Hey it's harold here". no shit you f'n goof, and plesac and a few others. The drool fest was awful for barry larkin to get voted in, and if you check the stats, Tramell and larkin are very  close.

SRogo said...

I think Larkin was a little better than Trammell, but he too falls short in my opinion. Again, injuries costed him. I think he, Tram, Mattingly, and Albert Belle would have been easier choices if they would have been able to stay healthy.

SRogo said...

The different era point is a good one and you're not the only one to bring that my attention. But there were still guys putting up big numbers in the 80's, too. It wasn't exactly the dead ball era. And while Tram/Renteria might not be the best comparison, I still thought it was worth including.

But I agree 100% with you on the other points. He has a lot working against him.

kalinecountry said...

It is close and I can also agree with your thinking larkin was slightly ahead. It is true that injuries cost Trammell better career numbers, much like Kaline missing 400 games to serious injuries seemingly every year from 1959 on. I am hoping that both Alan and Lou will at least get in with the Veterans Committee ballot years from now. Hope I am still around to see it.

Kurt Mensching said...

To be honest, I've just never gotten that excited over Trammell's case. It's not like he's an open and shut case and the evil voters are rejecting him. He's just kinda boring. I hope he makes it. He autographed a ballcard for me as a kid, that's really all it took to win me over. But I have a hard time getting worked up for it. 

Derek Schwanger said...

McGwire is on the ballot, too. Speaking of 'roids. Odds he gets in before anyone else on that list?!?!?

Michael Wilson said...

Player A played in 2293 games over 20 years in MLB. He had 2365 hits,
hit .285/.352/.415, hit 412 doubles, 185 homers, 1003 RBI, and 236
stolen bases.

Player B Played 2601games, 2677 hits, 262//313/343, 394 doubles, 83 HR, 791 RBI, 506 SB.

Player C played 2422 games, 2749hits, 310/399/398, 440 doubles, 45 HR's, 1116 RBI, 179 SB.

Player D played ? games (not in fangraphs and don't feel like looking elsewhere), 2004 hits, 279/335/358, ? doubles, 32 HR, 591 RBI, 145 SB

Player E played 2166 games, 2170 hits, 269/366/377, 330 doubles, 126 HR, 885 RBI, 232 SB.

Player F played 2856 games, 3142 hits, 285/346/430, 583 doubles, 251 HR, 1406 RBI, 271 SB.

Player G played 2573 Games, 2460 hits, 262/337/328, 402 doubles, 28 HR, 793 RBI, 580 SB.

Player H played 3001 Games, 3184 hits, 276/340/447, 603 doubles, 431 HR, 1695 RBI, 350 SB.

All those players are hall of fame shortstops (well except player A obviously...).  Players F-G are Robin Yount, Ozzie SMith, and Cal Ripken.  Trammel's numbers are very favorable to Yount's, better offensively than Smith's and obviously worse than Ripkens.  Trammels problem isn't that he didn't put up the numbers to be in the Hall, it is that he put them up as the type of player who played shortstop was evolving to a more offense oriented position while he was putting those numbers up.  He was better offensively than Smith, and better defensively than Ripken.  He was probably (along with Yount) the greatest all round Shortstop of his generation, the only problem is that there were two one dimensional players that were so much better at their one dimension than he was, and he was hurt too much.

I would like to see Trammel get in the Hall of Fame, I think he has the numbers to support it but I don't think he has the numbers to be a shoe in. 

The only player from those wonderful 80's teams that should have been a shoe in was Whitaker... that is the player I am pissed never even got serious consideration.

The Ghost said...

You can make a case for or against Trammell.  I watched him his whole career and if you are a Tiger fan, he will always be on your best shortstop list.  I think the thing that works more against him is his personality.  He was and is the anti-ballplayer.  Unassuming, polite, and as boring as mayonnaise on white bread.   And don't forget he was kind of a dork.  Dorkiness and HOF ego are not a good mix.

Stretch_TB said...

Totally agree... I've always looked at him and Ozzie Smith together. Tram was way better offensively, Oz was better defensively, but they ended up with roughly the same fielding % (.978 to .976), roughly the same WAR (Oz-64.6, Tram-66.9).. so the offense and defense balanced each other out, yet Oz is considered to be one of the greatest of all time.. why isn't Tram? Because of the flashy defense? Tram made up for that with his bat, clearly.

You can look at it both ways... but if Ozzie is in, Tram should be in too.

Jay Hathaway said...

Nice job.  I agree that Smith's flashiness got him in the hall probably above all other things, but it IS the Hall of FAME, lol, and yes, he was more FAMOUS than Tram (I'm not being serious, btw).  I think Yount's numbers reflect more of what Tram would have ended up with were he healthy.  But, of course, he got to the magic number of 3k.

SRogo said...

There is no more overrated player in MLB history than Ozzie Smith. Nice cartwheel into a roundoff...but that shouldn't have gotten him into the Hall. Does Vizquel get in now, too?

You can't fault Cal and Yount, though. 3000 hits is the magic number.

Russell White said...

This article is the reason why God struck down Jay Cutler.

Crunruh said...

Tram's OPS+ is 16 points higher than Renteria's and the gap will grow as Renteria finishes out his career.  Context is relevant and tells more than just isolated stats.

Crunruh said...

Just wanted to add, Tram's OPS+ of 110 is a lot closer to Jeter's 117 (and dropping) and Yount's 115 than Renteria's 94.  Consider also HOFers Aparicio - 82, Appling - 113, Cronin - 119, Travis Jackson - 102, Maranville - 82, Pee Wee Reese - 98, Ripken - 112, Rizzuto - 93, Sewall - 108, Ozzie Smith - 87, Tinker -96.  Trams OPS+ not only compares favorably to HOF shortstops.  It places him among the upper crust of HOF shortstops. 

Michael Wilson said...

I agree.  The problem with Tram isn't the talent, or the statistical numbers, it is the total numbers which are lower than his peer's due to the injuries.  Your comparison to Don Mattingly is probably the most fitting.  Another player that if healthy would have probably been a sure thing.

Sadly, Mattingly will probably eventually get in due to playing for the Yankees.  Tram probably won't unless the veterans committee puts him in.

Jay Hathaway said...

 Thanks for the perspective. I do like the OPS+ as a comparative device. 

Eric said...

I think Trammel belongs in the Hall and I think if the voters didn't screw him over in 87 for the MVP he would be in.  In terms of the era in which he played, it was only him and Cal Ripken that could play both sound defense and provide good offensive numbers.  These offensive numbers for shortstops in the 90s ballooned (rodriquez, garciaparra, jeter...) and steroids have been implicated in many of those numbers.  Tram and Ripken (and Larkin) were ahead of their time and should be in the hall of fame.

Eric said...

also, I didn't see that Lrsigman made pretty much the same argument in terms of era.  sorry.  I agree with him.

Dan said...

I think you should be embarrassed that you compare Renteria with Trammell, ignoring the context of their two eras. Tram's OPS+ is 110. Renteria's is 94, meaning he has been 6% BELOW league average as an offensive player. Trammell accumulated a WAR of 66. Renteria's is less than half of that (31). The gap will only widen as Renteria ages. If Trammell and Renteria had been on the same team in their primes, Trammell would have been a starter hitting #2, #3 or cleanup. Renteria would have been a utility infielder.

Not to be rude, but this blog post is silly. It would be like saying Brandon Inge is a better third baseman than Pie Traynor because Traynor only hit 58 homers in his career, and Inge has more than 100.
Do a better job next time.

Dan said...

Which SHORTSTOPS were putting up "big numbers" in the 1980s that were better than Trammell's? Ripken? Who else?

Dan said...

His career numbers AREN'T lower than his peers. Only Ripken (who is a legend and also played 3B) and Yount (who switched to CF for half his career) have higher career counting stats. In the measurement stats (OPS+ and WAR) Tram fairs just fine. His OPS+ of 110 is comparable to Ripken's (112). Ripken just refused to ever sit a game, so that meant he was bound to have 3,000 hits. Not saying Ripken wasn't great, but NO HOF SHORTSTOP other than Wagner compares that well to Ripken.

In WAR, Trammell's 66.9 is not far behind Yount's 76.9, of which 29 were recorded as a CFer.

I'm old enough to remember when shortstops were like Larry Bowa, Rick Burleson, Garry Templeton, and Ozzie. They were expected to field very well, run a bit, and if they could hit .270, great. That was the expectation into the mid-to-late 1980s. It was TRAMMELL and YOUNT and DICKIE THON and RIPKEN who changed that notion. Now, Trammell gets knocked because his numbers aren't eye-popping compared to the generation he ushered in? That's not fair.

Trammell is better than several shortstops in the HOF (Aparicio, Reese, Rizzuto, Ozzie), but that doesn't mean the voters will ever get it right. As one poster said above, Trammell did everything really well. He didn't do one thing GREAT. The voters love one-dimensional guys.

Michael Wilson said...


when I meant peers I meant his hall of fame peers.  There are three shortstops in the hall of fame from that time, Yount, Ripkin, and Smith.  The only one that Tram beats counting stat wise is Smith, who was voted in for his defense not his offense.  This is the same problem Mattingly has.  His measurement stats have him as a hall of fame player, but his counting stats don't.  I don't think Mattingly should be in the HOF, he was a great player and if he could have stayed healthy he would have been a sure thing, but he didn't.  Tram to me has a stronger case.  His numbers are borderline for his era to me, because of that you have to take a subjective look at it and evaluate his overall talent level and make a determination on if he should be in or not.

Tram does have better numbers than many of the shortstops currently in, but most of those guys played in a completely different type of game.  Offense wasn't the force back then that it was starting to be in the 80's onward, especially for a shortstop.

And Younts WAR probably would have been much higher if he had stayed at SS.  He was an above average defender at Short and a poor defender in CF which dropped his yearly WAR.  I don't know if he would have held up as well playing SS for those additional years though.