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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Brisbee: Alan Trammell: Victim of Context

[Barry] Larkin getting in after a couple of decades or a Veteran’s Committee ballot wouldn’t add to Trammell’s cause. But Larkin got in on his third year of eligibility with 86 percent of the vote. Larkin wasn’t a borderline case—he didn’t satisfy the extra-super-special-first-ballot-bonus-points ninnies, but he was clearly a Hall of Famer in the voters’ eyes right from the beginning.

It’s that last statistic up there that’s the reason for the gap between the HOF perception gap between Larkin and Trammell. CRiL is a proprietary statistic I developed specifically to measure shortstops against each other. It’s a park- and era-adjusted stat that can sum up a shortstop’s Hall-of-Fame chances in a single number. It stands for “Cal Ripkens in League.” Larkin outpaces Trammell easily on this one.

Again, it’s not that Larkin wasn’t better than Trammell. By most metrics (and obviously in the court of public opinion), he certainly was. But if Larkin is a Hall of Famer, Trammell certainly deserves a closer look. The gap between them wasn’t that big…

Another difference between Larkin and Trammell is that the latter had a sidekick who was also worthy of the Hall of Fame. For just under two decades, Lou Whitaker played along Trammell, making All-Star teams and hitting at a position where most teams shouldn’t have a hitter. The two rode around on tandem bikes and finished each other’s sentences, and there might have been a tendency to pretend that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. If Trammell played a couple decades with Doug Flynn, maybe he would have stood out more.

I’m sure many of us remember the Trammell/Whitaker Starting Lineup figures.

The District Attorney Posted: January 10, 2012 at 01:40 PM | 43 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: awards, hall of fame, history, tigers

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   1. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: January 10, 2012 at 05:59 PM (#4033629)
Trammell isn't done any favors by his career line being littered with sub-100 OPS+ seasons (several of them well below 100). He never cleared 100 more than three times in a row, and he only did that once. You look at his career line and there are a lot of pedestrian seasons. I think that's a much bigger problem for his candidacy than Lou Whitaker.
   2. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: January 10, 2012 at 06:06 PM (#4033636)
Trammell isn't done any favors by his career line being littered with sub-100 OPS+ seasons (several of them well below 100).

I'm sure that's it. Whitaker knocked out 15 seasons in a row over 100 and he of course sailed right in.

Whitaker and Trammell are both HOFers without question. The biggest and really only problem is the lack of intelligence in the voting population.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: January 10, 2012 at 06:16 PM (#4033645)
CRiL is a proprietary statistic I developed specifically to measure shortstops against each other. It’s a park- and era-adjusted stat that can sum up a shortstop’s Hall-of-Fame chances in a single number.

Well I can see you'd want to keep that under wraps, it will be worth millions!
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 10, 2012 at 07:01 PM (#4033678)
I actually did have the Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell Starting Lineup figures. My dad was a Tiger fan, so they were my second favorite team, and I loved the middle infield positions and of course, they were two of their best players.

I also had Buddy Bell. His arm fell off.
   5. Floyd Thursby Posted: January 10, 2012 at 07:39 PM (#4033699)
I'm just weepy that I inspired a Tomax/Xamot reference without having to do it myself.
   6. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: January 10, 2012 at 08:27 PM (#4033732)
My recollection was that Trammell was a sort of super sub his last few years. However, checking bbref, that's not the case: 2139 of 2202 career games at SS. It looks like they tried the super sub role in 1993 and then abandoned it.

#1 is kind of right that the regular, re-occurring off years are a problem. But really, a bunch of those sub-100 OPS+ years were when he was very young. The off year in 1985 at age 27 is weird and destroys a nice run, breaking up his peak.
   7. The District Attorney Posted: January 10, 2012 at 08:42 PM (#4033746)
I also had Buddy Bell. His arm fell off.
It'd be better if it were Dusty Baker.
   8. CraigK Posted: January 10, 2012 at 08:59 PM (#4033751)
Ugh. My eyes wandered and for a minute I conglomerated the first two headlines and read "Alan Trammell Victim of Sexual Assault".

   9. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: January 10, 2012 at 09:49 PM (#4033781)
I'm sure that's it. Whitaker knocked out 15 seasons in a row over 100 and he of course sailed right in.


That's a fair point, and an even better one if you could've done it without being so rude.

Anyway, I didn't say the sprinkling of below-average offensive years was the reason he isn't in the HOF. I do suspect, however, it works against him. His career line doesn't really "eyeball" well.

The biggest and really only problem is the lack of intelligence in the voting population.


If only everyone were as smart as you think you are. Random BBTF poster overly impressed with his own intellect, film at 11. Yawn.
   10. JL Posted: January 10, 2012 at 10:07 PM (#4033791)
Problem is the BBWA hosing Trammell in 1987 was not enough, so they need to do,something else to him. if he wins the MVP that year, I truly believe he makes it in the HOF years ago. Unfortunately, he will have to wait for the Veterans Committee.
   11. RJ in TO Posted: January 10, 2012 at 10:19 PM (#4033804)
Problem is the BBWA hosing Trammell in 1987 was not enough, so they need to do,something else to him. if he wins the MVP that year, I truly believe he makes it in the HOF years ago. Unfortunately, he will have to wait for the Veterans Committee.

Dale Murphy won two MVPs. That hasn't helped him much in the BBWAA voting.
   12. Accent Shallow is probably a hologram Posted: January 10, 2012 at 10:45 PM (#4033820)
Has anyone here actually ridden a tandem bicycle?
   13. Walt Davis Posted: January 10, 2012 at 11:07 PM (#4033833)
My dad was a Tiger fan, so they were my second favorite team

Momma's boy
   14. alilisd Posted: January 10, 2012 at 11:18 PM (#4033841)
Anyway, I didn't say the sprinkling of below-average offensive years was the reason he isn't in the HOF. I do suspect, however, it works against him. His career line doesn't really "eyeball" well.


I'm not so sure. I doubt there are enough voters looking at OPS+ lines and seeing it bounce around to make the difference. Maybe they're seeing his BA bounce around from above 300 to 258 or so, but I think the bigger reason is he wasn't Ozzie or Cal. He had the misfortune to be overshadowed by the, at least perceived, greatest fielding SS of all time and the guy who broke Lou Gehrig's record (and was one of the greatest SS of all time). As if that weren't enough, once he retires and is waiting his 5 year period, Jeter, A-Rod and Nomar show up, not to mention Tejada. All of a sudden SS is a radically different position.

I think the voters just don't know how to fit him into this scenario. He can't be a HOF because he wasn't as good as Ozzie and Cal. He can't be a HOF because he didn't hit like Jeter, A-Rod and Nomar. I'm sure there are some voters who are able to look at him and see he's worthy of the HOF because you don't have to be Ozzie or Cal to be in, and I'm sure there are some who are able to see he's worthy because you don't have to be Jeter or A-Rod to be in, but I don't think it's easy to get 75% of over 500 voters to reach that conclusion at one time.
   15. Ron J Posted: January 11, 2012 at 01:02 AM (#4033889)
#14 There's a comment in the 1984 Abstract that notes how weird it is to have 3 elite hitters at SS at the same time. (James had Ripken, Yount and Trammell in the top 10 offensive players in the league in 1983)

He suffers from being compared to an unusually strong top end active in and around the same time he played as well as wrapping up just before the offensive explosion. Plus he lacks the simple hook -- being good at a fair number of things makes for a tougher sell.

So yeah, context plays a big role in keeping him out.
   16. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 11, 2012 at 01:48 AM (#4033905)
Ugh. My eyes wandered and for a minute I conglomerated the first two headlines and read "Alan Trammell Victim of Sexual Assault".

Eleven times so far.
   17. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2012 at 02:17 AM (#4033917)
Whitaker and Trammell are both HOFers without question. The biggest and really only problem is the lack of intelligence in the voting population.


exactly. I'm sorry for those who think Trammell is borderline, but there is literally no difference in seasonal, peak, prime value between Ozzie Smith(first balloter) and Trammell, just as there is no real difference between Whitaker and Sandberg. Heck we aren't even talking about Bobby Grich who's value is hidden and is probably better than either Sandberg or Whitaker.

sandberg
.285/.344/.452/.795/114 9282 pa
Whitaker
.276/.363/.426/.789/116 9967 pa

I mean seriously distinguish these two players careers?

Sandberg does have a better and healthier peak, but is it that much where one is in the hof and the other is one and done in the voting?

It would be silly to compare Trammels offensive lines to Ozzie Smith's of course, but ultimately Trammel is being ripped off because he was the second best offensive shortstop of his era, he was one of the better, but not the best fielders of his era, and he was healthy, but not healthy enough to be Cal Ripken.
   18. OCF Posted: January 11, 2012 at 02:52 AM (#4033926)
but there is literally no difference in seasonal, peak, prime value between Ozzie Smith(first balloter) and Trammell,

Trammell and Smith were both first-year eligible for the Hall of Merit in 2002. With 49 people voting, Smith got 18 first place votes and 14 second place votes, while Trammell got 18 first place votes and 14 second place votes. (The remaining first place votes scattered widely over the backlog, with 4 going to Charley Jones.) Minor differences among those who had one or both of them outside the top 2 led to Trammell placing first on the ballot and Smith second, with both elected. When we went back to do a ranking vote among those already elected, a slightly different electorate ranked Smith 14th and Trammell 15th. (I was personally in the faction that had Smith ahead of Trammell in both votes.)

I'd say that on average, the HoM electorate agrees with your "no difference" claim.

just as there is no real difference between Whitaker and Sandberg

We're not quite with you there - the HoM ranking vote among second basemen had Sandberg 9th and Whitaker 14th, with 22 out of 23 voters putting Sandberg ahead of Whitaker. We had Grich 7th. Just so you can see who we had in between, here's the whole list in order: Collins, Hornsby, Morgan, Lajoie, Gehringer, Robinson, Grich, Carew, Sandberg, Frisch, Ross Barnes, Billy Herman, Bid McPhee, Hardy Richardson, Whitaker, Joe Gordon, Bobby Doerr, Frank Grant, Cupid Childs, Randolph, Fox. But the point that Whitaker shouldn't have been "one and done" - of course.
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2012 at 03:01 AM (#4033929)
from my reading of the hall of merit, there was some type of concern that Whitakers numbers were upped by his being used in situational batting in the last 6 years of his career, that he was basically a platoon player. My haphazard look into the situation led to basically him getting roughly 150 or so more at bats more from his favorable side of the bag in those last years. Nothing to really claim as a difference. His platooning is overstated.
   20. Dr. Vaux Posted: January 11, 2012 at 04:06 AM (#4033937)
I was following the Tigers closely in Whitaker's last years, and I remembered him as platooning more than he apparently actually did. I wonder why?
   21. OCF Posted: January 11, 2012 at 04:27 AM (#4033938)
I think the two closest 1-2 finishes between newly-eligible candidates that we've ever had at the Hall of Merit both involved pairs of shortstops. One was Alan Trammell and Ozzie Smith. The other, about 90 years earlier, was George Davis and Bill Dahlen. Both pairs have a better offensive player (Trammell, Davis) and a better defensive player (Smith, Dahlen), although both "glove men" in fact also made substantial offensive contributions. And, unfortunately, both pairs have one in the Hall of Fame (Smith, Davis) and one out (Trammell, Dahlen). Dahlen has fairly often been the answer to the question of who is the best eligible player not in the Hall of Fame. (Except that right now, that's probably Bagwell.) Davis got into the Hall of Fame because there was a limited string of "researcher's picks" that made it through the Veterans Committee; Dahlen is not in because that string of picks ended before it got to him.
   22. Something Other Posted: January 11, 2012 at 06:28 AM (#4033945)

Trammell isn't done any favors by his career line being littered with sub-100 OPS+ seasons (several of them well below 100).

I'm sure that's it. Whitaker knocked out 15 seasons in a row over 100 and he of course sailed right in.


You know what's also weird? Whitaker was a hair better than Trammell at pretty much everything. Games played, runs, home runs, RBIs, OBP, SLG, OPS+...


Has anyone here actually ridden a tandem bicycle?
Yes. Briefly. I didn't get what all the fuss was about, though I imagine if you're behind your sweetie pumping away through a lane in the woods that might make all the difference.
   23. Something Other Posted: January 11, 2012 at 06:30 AM (#4033946)
I think the two closest 1-2 finishes between newly-eligible candidates that we've ever had at the Hall of Merit both involved pairs of shortstops. One was Alan Trammell and Ozzie Smith. The other, about 90 years earlier, was George Davis and Bill Dahlen.
I had no ideas some of you guys were that old.
   24. RMc Has Bizarre Ideas to Fix Baseball Posted: January 11, 2012 at 07:59 AM (#4033954)
I've gotten to the point that I'm rooting for Morris to go into the HOF (even tho he doesn't deserve it) because of the injustices done to Tram and Lou. (And Darrell Evans, for that matter.)
   25. Elvis Posted: January 11, 2012 at 09:12 AM (#4033978)
10 best seasons by fWAR

Larkin - 6.8, 6.5, 6.2, 6.1, 5.6, 5.5, 5.4, 5.3, 3.7, 3.6
Trammell 7.9, 7.3, 6.5, 6.1, 5.9, 5.7, 4.7, 4.2, 3.9, 3.8

Has anyone here actually ridden a tandem bicycle?


Our family had one, although we always called it a bicycle built for two. It wasn't so much fun if you were in the back seat, because you couldn't steer. Your only revenge was refusing to peddle when you were going uphill.
   26. JL Posted: January 11, 2012 at 09:18 AM (#4033984)
Dale Murphy won two MVPs. That hasn't helped him much in the BBWAA voting.

Trammell was a much better player than Murphy.

I think 14 really nails it. He is difficult to place in context and many writers forget how good Trammell was. He was, on occasion, both the best SS and best player in his league.

If he won the 87 MVP, I think more writers take a closer look and vote for him. Not enough to get in on the first or second ballot, but enough to get him to 40-45% (I think Larkin helped him, as many who voted for him realized that Trammell is very close). At that point, others start to take notice and really discuss him. They have to justify, if only to themselves, why he is not on their ballot. Others comment and he gets the momentum.
   27. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: January 11, 2012 at 09:30 AM (#4033991)
sandberg
.285/.344/.452/.795/114 9282 pa
Whitaker
.276/.363/.426/.789/116 9967 pa

I mean seriously distinguish these two players careers?


One of them had among the lowest peaks and primes of any reasonable candidate and had his career rates propped up by spending the last third of his career being platooned.

How was that?
   28. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 11, 2012 at 09:47 AM (#4034000)
My dad and I used to ride a tandem bicycle a lot.

I've gotten to the point that I'm rooting for Morris to go into the HOF (even tho he doesn't deserve it) because of the injustices done to Tram and Lou. (And Darrell Evans, for that matter.)


Its kinda weird those mid-80s Tigers have three legit HOFers in Whitaker, Trammell and Evans, and Morris is the one everyone is pimping for the Hall. Also kinda weird that the guy many thought was the best player - Kirk Gibson - is nowhere near the Hall.
   29. -- Posted: January 11, 2012 at 09:53 AM (#4034006)
Lou didn't hit lefties well -- 249/323/356 for his career against lefty starters. When he came up against a good lefty in a key spot, every Tiger fan either said, "Uh oh," or he's lying. I loved the guy, but objectivity is what it is. You can't just make a WAR list and leave it at that.

Just like with Tram, the intangibles don't work for Lou. He was quiet (**), didn't self-promote, didn't politic, and played in a market the nation doesn't care about. And playing side by side with Tram hurt him, as it's hurt Tram -- they're perceived more as a package than as individuals.

I'm not sure how much of a factor this is, but it's also true that, just like the 1967-73 nucleus, and the 2006-11 nucleus, the Lou/Tram/Morris/Gibson/Parrish nucleus didn't win as much as they should have. Which isn't to denigrate what the players accomplished, but more to say that they really could have used another time or two in the postseason national spotlight, a la 1984, Detroit being Detroit and all.

(**) And that's putting it mildly; he basically didn't say a word.
   30. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 11, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4034034)
He was quiet (**), didn't self-promote, didn't politic, and played in a market the nation doesn't care about


Turning down invitations to the All-Star Game probably didn't help. Lou don't care. He takes what he wants.
   31. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: January 11, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4034035)
from my reading of the hall of merit, there was some type of concern that Whitakers numbers were upped by his being used in situational batting in the last 6 years of his career, that he was basically a platoon player.

Well, if you already knew the answer...


My haphazard look into the situation led to basically him getting roughly 150 or so more at bats more from his favorable side of the bag in those last years. Nothing to really claim as a difference. His platooning is overstated.

Extremely haphazard. At his career rate through 1989, he'd have had 1066 plate appearances against lefties from '90-95. He had 448.
   32. BDC Posted: January 11, 2012 at 10:23 AM (#4034040)
I don't entirely understand what a platoon differential has to do with a player's overall value. Sure, it may have tactical importance, but: (1) if a hitter complies a really strong record despite a platoon weakness, he's murdered pitching when he's had the advantage, and (2) if he racks up some good rate stats late in his career as a platooner, surely they're offset by the lowered playing time. I reckon it all balances out; you're not in the HOF discussion anyway if you're only Iorg or only Mulliniks.
   33. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 11, 2012 at 10:28 AM (#4034043)
I don't entirely understand what a platoon differential has to do with a player's overall value.

The team had to carry a caddy for him, and reduced its roster flexibility.
   34. Squash Posted: January 11, 2012 at 10:48 AM (#4034064)
I think Trammell's big problem is that a lot of MI, if they aren't putting up huge raw offensive numbers, need to have a "thing" that gets them into the HOF. Ozzie had the defense. Ripken had the streak, and big numbers anyway. Larkin at least won an MVP and made a ton of all star games, and just won as a holdover on a weak ballot. The biggest problem, by far, is that voters still just don't put a lot of stock in what position a guy plays.
   35. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 11, 2012 at 10:51 AM (#4034070)
As Greg Maddux points out, the big difference between Whitaker and Sandberg is less the platoon stuff, and more the peak. As in, Whitaker never had one.

Whitaker was only twice in the top ten in the league in WAR (6th in 83 and 91). He has a 9th and two 10ths in OPS+ (83, 91, 92(, and one 9th in batting runs (83). His only placement in MVP voting was one 8th place finish (again, 1983).

Sandberg, on the other hand, has a 1st, two 3rds, a 4th and a 9th in WAR (84, 90, 91, 92, 89). He had an 8th, a 7th and a 9th in OPS+, and a 6th, a 7th, and two 8ths in batting runs. He won an MVP, placed 4th in two other seasons, and placed low in the balloting in three other years.

Whitaker's a pure career candidate. He was consistent enough that he'd be a fully deserving Hall of Famer, but without a peak, he's no Sandberg.
   36. OMJ, urban D machine Posted: January 11, 2012 at 11:43 AM (#4034138)
The team had to carry a caddy for him, and reduced its roster flexibility.


Having to have a good hitting back up infielder REDUCED their roster flexibility? Its not like they needed a fat dh to platoon with their other fat dh.
   37. -- Posted: January 11, 2012 at 11:56 AM (#4034153)
The early 90s Tigers had Tony Phillips as the "backup," arguably the best flex-infielder of our lifetimes. Nothing lost.

I don't know where it fits into value precisely, but hitting lefties at (essentially) replacement level is a big hole in a player's all-around ability and if you tend to favor all-around ability in your Hall of Famers, it's a big deal.

   38. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2012 at 04:31 PM (#4034462)
Extremely haphazard. At his career rate through 1989, he'd have had 1066 plate appearances against lefties from '90-95. He had 448.


not on my computer right now, but what I did was go through the percentage of batters faced by each hand in the al during those years, and compared it to the percentage of times Lou faced each side. Most of the years, Lou faced just a tad less than the league average hitter. It came out to about 150 plate appearances he lost.
   39. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2012 at 04:33 PM (#4034464)
As Greg Maddux points out, the big difference between Whitaker and Sandberg is less the platoon stuff, and more the peak. As in, Whitaker never had one.


considering their career numbers are pretty much exactly the same, if Sandberg had the bigger peak, then it also implies he had deeper valleys, so some years he was a hindrance to his team, not really sure how that helps his hof case(ok, I do, Bill James did a study that says inconsistency is more valuable, but I'm not sure how much of a difference it makes)
   40. Steve Treder Posted: January 11, 2012 at 04:40 PM (#4034479)
if you're behind your sweetie pumping away through a lane in the woods

So, THAT'S what you kids today are calling it.

(Sorry.)
   41. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 11, 2012 at 04:52 PM (#4034498)
considering their career numbers are pretty much exactly the same, if Sandberg had the bigger peak, then it also implies he had deeper valleys, so some years he was a hindrance to his team, not really sure how that helps his hof case
The Hall of Fame is about greatness, not about value. Even if someone invented the perfect metric that adds up all the value a player provided to his team with perfect accuracy, I would not use it as the only standard for Hall of Fame voting. A player who was greater than another, at the peaks of their careers, is more deserving of Hall of Fame induction even if their total value accumulated is equal.

I'm not saying that I'm utterly right. This is a judgment call. There are pure career voters out there, and career-with-pennants-added voters out there, but I'm not one of them. I think peak is more important than that.
   42. cardsfanboy Posted: January 11, 2012 at 05:52 PM (#4034572)
absolutely agree Matt, I wasn't saying 100% there was no difference between the two, of course you have to look at seasonal numbers, defense and all type of stuff, but ultimately their career numbers are about as similar as you can get between two players at the same position that features a hofer and a one and doner.

   43. The District Attorney Posted: January 11, 2012 at 11:26 PM (#4034807)
The team had to carry a caddy for him, and reduced its roster flexibility.
This made me curious to look up who Lou platooned with. He played 148 games in 1989, so I'll start after that.

1990: Tony Phillips, supersub who put up 101 OPS+ in 687 PA, started 43 games at 2B.
1991: Phillips became TONY PHILLIPS, 122 OPS+ in 655 PA; started 35 games.
1992: Phillips again superb, 118 OPS+ in 733 PA (led league in runs scored); started 50 games.
1993: Mostly Phillips again (47 starts), and he was better than ever (130 OPS+ in 707 PA). Chris Gomez shows up on the scene, starting 17 games and putting up a 70 OPS+ in 141 PA.
1994: Gomez starts 28 games, and improved with an 89 OPS+ in 336 PA.
1995: Gomez 26 games, and awful, 68 OPS+ in 482 PA. Scott Fletcher comes in to start 49 games, and "contributes" 64 OPS+ in 209 PA.

Overall, although one could certainly still make a more abstract argument that carrying Whitaker would have inconvenienced "a" team, it probably didn't inconvenience the real-life Tigers, given that the alternative was usually Tony Phillips :-)

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