There’s a player who’s not in the Hall of Fame, even though his career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is: six more than the average HOF position player; more than 13 of the 18 HOF second basemen; and more than any other eligible HOF reject besides PED suspects.
The reason usually given for his exclusion is that he had no great years and few truly outstanding ones. I’m not here to dispute that point, and this article is not an argument for putting him in the Hall.
Instead, I’m exploring whether Lou Whitaker was the most consistently “good” position player in MLB history.
...Number of “good” seasons
Has anyone produced more “good-but-not-great” seasons than Whitaker? In his 19-year career, Whitaker had:
Twelve seasons with 3.0 to 5.0 WAR — the most such years in MLB history. (Three others had 11, and two had 10.)
Fifteen seasons with 3.0 to 7.0 WAR — again, the most such years in MLB history. (Two others had 14, and two had 13.)
Why those WAR ranges? The floor of 3.0 WAR is a generally accepted standard for a good season by a regular. (See chart.) In a given year, between one-quarter and one-third of those playing 100+ games will register at least 3.0 WAR; it was 29% last year, 28% since 2000, 27% during Whitaker’s career.