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Friday, January 10, 2003

Alan Trammell and Dave Concepcion

The two shortstops on the ballot fell short on Tuesday.  Did the Hall make a mistake?

We’re going to discuss the Shortstops on the 2002 Hall of Fame ballot, Alan Trammell and Dave Concepcion. It’s a split decision. We’ll start with the Keltner List

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

Trammell was likely the best player in baseball in 1987, when he finished 2nd in the AL in the MVP voting. His 35 Win Shares (WS) were the most in baseball that year, George Bell won the award with just 26. A case could also be made for Tim Raines, Wade Boggs, Jack Clark and Ozzie Smith, but I’d give the edge to Trammell.

Trammell was a very good player from 1983-90, but no one would have suggested he was the best player in the game, except for his incredible year in 1987 (where he was not only a SS, but he rated, according to WS, as the best hitter in the AL, 3rd best in baseball). It was a quite a year, and the Tigers won a Division Championship as a result.

Other seasons where Trammell was a top 10 AL player include 1983 (9th), 1984 (5th), 1986 (10th), 1990 (3rd). In addition to his 2nd place finish in 1987’s MVP voting, Trammell finished 9th in 1984 and 7th in 1988.

Concepcion’s best year was 1981, where WS shows him as the 4th best player in the NL. He was not one of the best players in the NL during any other season.

Concepcion was not a top 10 player in the NL during any other season, although he was 9th in the 1979 NL MVP vote, he probably wasn’t quite that good.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Tough standard for both players, as they were both on very good to great teams for a large portion of their careers. Concepcion was the best player on the Reds in 1979, when they won the division and lost the LCS. In 1981 he was second to George Foster, who was the 3rd best player in the NL. He was the 5th or 6th best player on the team during the World Championship years of 1975-76, behind Morgan, Rose, Bench and Foster, about even with Ken Griffey Sr..

Trammell was the best player on the Tigers from 1983-90, although in 1983 and 1989 Lou Whitaker had a better year, in 1985 Kirk Gibson was about even with Trammell and in 1990 Cecil Fielder and Trammell were about even. After 1990 Trammell was no longer one of the best players on the team. If you stretch the period from 1978-96, I’d say Whitaker was the best Tiger, he was better than Trammell in the early years, and the later years. But from 1983-90, Trammell was the best Tiger.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

The mid-1970s through early-1980s was a weak era for shortstops. The best SS in the game during that time was probably Dave Concepcion. Garry Templeton would have a case in the late 1970s, but his run as a good player was short (1977-79), and Concepcion was probably his equal during that run anyway. Concepcion’s run as a good player was from 1973-81, in 1982 he started to slip. I’d say around 1980 the title passed to Robin Yount, and on to Cal Ripken in 1983. Overall, if I were drafting from all the SS’s from 1973-81, I’d take the Concepcion package over anyone else’s.

As we just said Robin Yount was the best SS in baseball from 1980-82. In 1983 Cal Ripken took that mantle and overall, from 1983-90 (covering the rest of Trammell’s really good years), Ripken was the best SS in baseball. With Yount moving to the OF in 1985, Trammell was probably the second best SS in the game over the rest of the decade, although an argument could be made for Ozzie Smith. Trammell was better than Ripken for sure in 1987 and 1990, he was close in other years, but Ripken was the better player.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

The Tigers started September 1987 with a 1 game lead on the Blue Jays. The Jays played incredibly down the stretch, going 19-5 through September 26. The Tigers were able to hang on, as they went 15-10 over the same period, and Trammell was a huge part of that, hitting .417 (53-for-127), scoring 25 runs, with 10 2B and 7 HR over the last 33 games. He was also 6-for-6 as a base stealer. The Jays were swept in Milwaukee, the Tigers split 4 with Baltimore, then went to Toronto and won the pennant with a 3-game sweep. If Trammell hadn’t gotten hot when he did, there’s no way the Tigers win the division.

In 1981 the Tigers lost the 2nd half division title to Milwaukee by 1 1/2 games and Trammell did not have a good September. In 1988, the Tigers lost the division by 1 game, and Trammell was injured in September, only playing 16 games, hitting .196/.317/.275. With a healthy Trammell in September, the Tigers likely win the division. They held a 2 game lead heading into September.

In 1984 Trammell was the best player on the best team in baseball, but they won the pennant by 15 games, they would have won without him.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Yes, Trammell was good enough to play regularly, he posted OBPs of .370 and .388 in 1992 and 1993, .345 in 1995; the fact that he didn’t play regularly (except 1993) was a function of injuries and Sparky’s revolving lineups of the early 90s. He continued to play SS through the end of his career, although he was spotted in the lineup from 1991-96, and often was just a defensive replacement for Travis Fryman. In 1993 he had his best ‘post-prime’ season, hitting .329/.388/.496 in 401 AB, playing 63 G at SS and 35 at 3B.

Concepcion also played past his prime, but wasn’t a very good player after 1981. His prime did last until he was 33 though, so it’s kind of a loaded question, the answer, while a “no” is a little misleading.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

Another tough question. Now that Gary Carter and Eddie Murray are in, I think you could say to Trammell, though I probably wouldn’t. The eligible (BBWAA) players on the ballot that could be considered better than Trammell are Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven and maybe Goose Gossage, despite the fact that 7 others received more votes this year than Trammell. I’d put Trammell behind Blyleven and Sandberg, ahead of Goose and Dawson.

Among players no longer eligible for BBWAA voting there are several near Trammell’s accomplishments who have been overlooked, such as Darrell Evans, Lou Whitaker, Dwight Evans, Dick Allen, Bobby Grich, Ron Santo, Graig Nettles, Jack Clark, Ted Simmons, Joe Torre, Jose Cruz, Willie Randolph and Jimmy Wynn.

Concepcion is clearly behind all of the players mentioned so far, and is absolutely not the best player not in the Hall of Fame.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Trammell scores 119 on the Hall of Fame Monitor, designed to predict Hall of Fame voting (100 is a HoFer, 70-130 is the grey area). That being said, of the 10 most similar players to Trammell (offensively, with a factor built in for position, but not quality of defense), only Pee Wee Reese is in the Hall of Fame (Barry Larkin, Ryne Sandberg and Roberto Alomar are also strong candidates).

There are very few SS’s in the history of baseball that were similar to Trammell as a hitter, that’s why 4 of the 10 players are 2B (Biggio, Whitaker, Sandberg and Alomar) and another played 3B (Buddy Bell). The fact that half of his most similar players played an easier position says a lot about his quality as an offensive shortstop.

Of the SS’s on Trammell’s list, Barry Larkin, should be a Hall of Famer, it’s ludicrous if he isn’t (although I think his candidacy is a long shot in the BBWAA), Jay Bell compiled his stats in an offensively inflated era, Tony Fernandez and Julio Franco, were similar, but not as good as Trammell. Pee Wee Reese is in.

Though he wasn’t nearly the player Trammell was, four of the players on Concepcion’s list are in the Hall of Fame. Bobby Wallace is #1, Pee Wee Reese is #4, Luis Aparicio is #5 and Ozzie Smith is #10. Others on his list include Tony Fernandez, Bert Campaneris, Alan Trammell, Garry Templeton, Frank White and Dick Bartell.

It’s funny that Trammell is on Concepcion’s list, but Concepcion doesn’t make Trammell’s. That’s because players that hit like Concepcion can only have a long career if they play SS or are as good as Frank White defensively at 2B, while Trammell was a good enough hitter that he was able to be compared to others at easier positions.

Concepcion scores a 107 on the Hall of Fame Monitor, so players with a similar statistical record (including All-Star Games and awards) to Concepcion are a little better than 50/50 to make the Hall of Fame eventually.

8. Do the player?s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

Trammell scores 40.4 on the Hall of Fame Standards Test (avg HoFer is 50). With the average Hall of Famer at 50, a player at 40.4 is a strong candidate. As a general rule, I consider anyone over 35 to be a viable candidate, although you have to account for era, i.e. hitters from the current generation are overvalued by this test, as are pitchers from the 1960s.

Concepcion only scores a 29.1 on the Hall of Fame Standards Test. That would lower the standards of the Hall of Fame in my opinion.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

The big issue here, for Concepcion is the 1981 strike. It was Concepcion’s best year, and the Reds might have won another World Series if the season had played itself out. He lost 10 WS, he might have driven in 100 runs that year. In Baseball Prospectus’ WARP ratings, he only adjusts from 6.0 to 7.9 because of the construct of the formula, but he might have had as many as 9 had he maintained his level over the course of the season.

Trammell lost 7 WS for the 1981 strike, it was a average year for him, he had a good year but not a great one.

I’ll also use this section to address defense, since none of the other questions specifically cover this area.

Defensively, Trammell rates a B- according to WS, Concepcion an A+. Charlie Saeger’s methods confirm that Concepcion was probably historically great with the leather. Trammell finished with 93 dWS, Concepcion 124 dWS. Ozzie Smith had 140 dWS for comparison.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Trammell rates as 563 runs above replacement defensively for his career (as a SS), Concepcion 598. The two played about the same amount at SS, between 2100 and 2200 games. By comparison, Ozzie Smith was 914 FRAR, in just over 2500 games. Per 162 games Ozzie saved 59 RAR, Concepcion 44 RAR, Trammell 43 RAR. I’m not sure why WS and Saeger see Concepcion closer to Trammell than Ozzie, I’ll just present the information here and let you draw your own conclusions.

I’ll use WS to show how many Gold Gloves the players should have won, since the leaders are easily identifiable by running a “find” on the digital update. I’m willing to take WS over the conventional voting for Gold Gloves, which is seriously flawed.

Concepcion led the league in dWS in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, he was second in 1980, 1981, 1982 (at the age of 34, for the worst team in baseball), third in 1978, fourth in 1985, at the age of 37. According to WS, Concepcion deserved 5 Gold Gloves, and lost 3 more to Ozzie Smith. Concepcion won Gold Gloves each of the years he was ‘supposed’ too, so the general impression of him as a great fielder is accurate.

Trammell led the league in dWS in 1981, he was second in 1978 and fourth in 1982, 1986, 1987. According to WS, Trammell deserved one Gold Glove, and he was generally one of better defensive SS’s in the league, but he was not a great fielder. He actually won 4 Gold Gloves, meaning he was generally recognized as the best defensive SS in the AL from 1980-84, a title that should have been passed from Rick Burleson to Cal Ripken Jr. during that timeframe (with Alfredo Griffin slipping in the transition year of 1982).

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

For Trammell, unequivocally this is a yes. If you don’t count the shortstops currently in their prime, Trammell is probably the 8th to 11th greatest shortstop in the history of the game.

Historically, I’d say he’s behind Honus Wagner, Cal Ripken, Robin Yount, Arky Vaughn, Ernie Banks, George Davis and Luke Appling. He’s in the same group as Barry Larkin, Ozzie Smith, Joe Cronin and Pee Wee Reese. He’s significantly ahead of Hall of Famers like Lou Boudreau, Luis Aparicio, Phil Rizzuto, Joe Sewell, Dave Bancroft, Joe Tinker, Bobby Wallace, Rabbit Maranville and Travis Jackson. He’d be middle of the pack among Hall of Fame SS’s, and he’s clearly the best eligible.

Concepcion would fit in the middle of the lower group, he was similar to Joe Sewell, but also on the same level as guys like Tony Fernandez and Bert Campaneris. Very good players, but not the best available SS’s.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

We’ve already covered 1987. Other seasons where Trammell was a top 10 AL player include 1983 (9th), 1984 (5th), 1986 (10th), 1990 (3rd), using WS for the rankings.

In addition to his 2nd place finish in 1987’s MVP voting, Trammell finished 9th in 1984 and 7th in 1988.

Concepcion’s best year was 1981, where WS shows him as the 4th best player in the NL, he was also 4th in the MVP vote.

Concepcion was not a top 10 player in the NL during any other season, although he was 9th in the 1979 NL MVP vote, he probably wasn’t quite that good.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

Trammell played in 6 All-Star Games. Other position players that played their entire productive career in the All-Star Era, and played in 6 (not counting two in one year) were: Sandy Alomar Jr. (not another one, please!), Harold Baines, Bobby Bonilla, Lou Brock (BBWAA), Smokey Burgess, Bert Campaneris, Jose Canseco, Ron Cey, Will Clark, Rocky Colavito, Jim Fregosi, Bobby Grich, Frankie Hayes, Don Kessigner, Ralph Kiner (BBWAA), Kenny Lofton (active, but won’t get another), Frank Malzone, Don Mattingly, Willie McCovey (BBWAA), Jo-Jo Moore, Graig Nettles, Willie Randolph, Moose Skowron, Rusty Staub, Billy Williams (BBWAA).

That’s 25 players, in addition to Trammell. Four are in the Hall of Fame. A few of the others are good enough to be Hall of Famers but are overlooked (Grich, and Nettles, maybe Will Clark), but 6 all-star games, in and of itself, is low for a Hall of Famer.

Concepcion played in 9 All-Star Games. Other position players that played their entire productive career in the All-Star Era, and played in 9 (not counting two in one year) were: Bobby Doerr (Vets), Joe Gordon, Elston Howard, Fred Lynn, Eddie Mathews (BBWAA), Frank McCormick, Ron Santo, Joe Torre and Arky Vaughn (Vets).

Three of the nine are in the Hall of Fame, and I expect Santo and Torre to join them someday. Torre should be in even if his managerial record is not considered. Nine all-star appearances is impressive, but does not, by itself, indicate a Hall of Famer.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

For Trammell, the answer is absolutely yes. He was the best player on two division champions. If Concepcion were having a season like 1979 or 1981, he could be the best player on a championship caliber team. In a typical season for him from 1973-81, it’s likely he could be the second or third best player on a championship team, but if he was the best player the team probably wouldn’t be good enough to win a pennant.

During his career, the only years where Concepcion was as good as the best player on a division champion were 1978 (he was as good as Lopes, Cey, Garvey and Smith, the best players on the Dodgers), 1979 (best player on the Reds), and 1981 (he was as good as Hernandez on the Cardinals). In 3 different seasons, and on 3 teams in baseball over his career Concepcion would have been the best player on a team that actually won a division title.

On the other hand, Trammell was as good as the best player on the 1983 White Sox (Fisk); he was the best player on the 1984 Tigers (would have been the best player on the Royals or Blue Jays, who were 2nd in the AL East, too); the 1986 Angels (Downing, Witt or Joyner); any team from 1987 (best player in baseball); and he would have been the best player on the 1990 Red Sox (Clemens, questionable, but he only threw 31 starts, 228 innings that year), or Reds (Larkin). That’s 10 teams that won pennants during his career where he would have been as good or better than the best player on a division champion, during 5 different seasons.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

No and no. Bad question in my opinion, I agree with Don Malcolm here . . .

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Both players were never arrested as far as I know, so I assume they were both good sports. To be honest, I don’t really care all that much.

Summary

I think Trammell does pretty well on this test, Concepcion comes up short.

Trammell gets positive responses to almost every question. Where he falls short, on number 3 for example (best player in the game at his position) it’s because he’s behind two of the 6 best ever at the position (Yount and Ripken). This also affected his All-Star Game total as well.

Concepcion has the exact opposite results on the test. Where his answers are positive, they are weak positives, like being the best SS, but in a very weak decade for SS’s. He could have been the best player on a championship team—if he was having a career year. He was never considered the best player in baseball and almost every team that won a division during his career had a better player than him on the team. He was a very good player, not a great one. If the Hall of Fame added an ‘outer circle’ or something, for players just outside, Concepcion would be one of those players.

Trammell, while not an inner circle Hall of Famer, was clearly good enough to be as good as your typical Hall of Fame SS, and better than at least half of the current SS’s enshrined. His induction should be a no-brainer.

My beef comes when people compare him to Ozzie Smith. Trammell helped the Tigers to just as many wins as Ozzie helped the Padres and Cardinals to. The only thing that Ozzie has on Trammell is the “Fame” part of the equation. Ozzie was the greatest defensive SS ever, and he was a great interview. But he didn’t do a damn thing to win more games than Trammell did. I don’t think Ozzie deserves any extra credit for being the ‘best ever’ at one aspect of the game (fielding at SS), just like I don’t think Bill Mazeroski deserves to be in only because he’s the greatest defensive 2B ever. The whole package should be what we grade.

So how can two players who basically won the same number of games for their team be viewed so differently?

I’ll admit, I was guilty. When this topic first came up, I quickly perused the ballot (which is more than I’d bet some of the real voters do) and said Ozzie Smith was definitely in, I lumped Alan Trammell in with the group of players that could someday make it.

Then someone asked me to re-evaluate. What about Trammell, he’s pretty close, isn’t he?

I dug further, and I came to realize Trammell was just as good as Smith. I have no personal stake in this argument, other to present the facts, I’m not a great fan of either player. As Bill James (or someone analyzing his comments) said, I’m playing judge, not lawyer here. It’s close enough that I would call them even.

One theory, is that the edge Smith holds is really because of the back-flips, the flash. To measure this, we turn to the Hall of Fame Monitor, which is an amoral system. It’s amoral, because it doesn’t tell you who should be in the Hall of Fame. It predicts who will get into the Hall of Fame. Over 100 you are in. 70-130 points is the grey area. Ozzie scores 142 points here and Trammell earned ‘only’ 104.

The difference must be Ozzie’s incredible fielding, right?

Only 9 of the 38 points that separate them are for Ozzie’s extra Gold Gloves (which usually mean little to Hall of Fame voters), there’s still 29 points that are unexplained. Those nine extra all-star games that Ozzie played in are worth 3 times the gold gloves, or 27 more points. Remember the points for their accomplishments are pretty much the same . . . why would Ozzie have beat him in all-star games 15-6? Ozzie was a fan favorite, and he wasn’t competing with Cal Ripken, Robin Yount (through 1984) and Tony Fernandez much of his career like Trammell was. Barry Larkin did not come on the scene as a viable candidate until 1988. After that, in most years they both went. If Ozzie had competition from 2 or 3 viable candidates instead of one every season (and if he hadn’t made 3 gift appearances as a part time player late in his career) he’d have been able to play a little more golf in July.

Trammell beats the Wizard on the Hall of Fame Standards Test, 40.4-35.0. This generally sums up the argument for equality. Ozzie did more things that traditionally impress All-Star/HoF voters, but Trammell produced just as much value for his teams. The sizzle is enough to push Ozzie over the hump from the middle grey area to Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame Monitor system comes up roses here. James could not have designed it better for this comparison.

I know many of you feel that Ozzie was better. I simply don’t see it. There are more comprehensive metrics than those mentioned above, let’s really crunch the numbers now.

Trammell’s offense is light years ahead of Ozzie. Ozzie was helped by his park (which played to his talents, turf, line drive bad HR park - Ozzie lack of HR isn’t as important) relative to the average player, whereas Trammell was hurt because he played in a HR park that played to most of his disadvantages. The park adjusted numbers don’t account for this and Trammell still has a huge offensive edge.

I’m not saying there should be a massive adjustment, real wins and less real wins result from an ability to take advantage of a park, or lack thereof. But I agree with James that the question does change a little when evaluating the immortals, especially since they can’t control the environment they play in, except for free agency.

I believe taking advantage of the park is an asset. But I don’t see it as Ozzie’s skill adjusting to what the park would give him. I see it as Ozzie’s results adjusting to the park effects. Ozzie did what he did. He moved from a grass, pitcher’s park to a turf park that killed HR and inflated 2B and 3B. So his speed became a much bigger asset and his lack of power didn’t hurt nearly as much. If you take Trammell and Ozzie and put them in the same park, the gap (or Trammell’s advantage) would widen.

How much better was Trammell offensively? Ozzie’s career high slugging percentage was .383. Trammell beat that 11 times.

Win Shares sees the offensive edge as 225-187 for Trammell. Those numbers peg replacement level very low, so they understate the marginal difference. Ozzie had 15.8 seasons of PA, Trammell 13.7. Both are low relative to their games played because of batting lower in the lineup early in their careers, and because they were used as defensive replacements more often later in their careers.

Why is this important? A replacement level hitter in Ozzie’s PT would have 95 oWS. A replacement level hitter in Trammell’s spot would have 82 oWS. So Trammell was 143 oWSaR (above replacement), Ozzie was 92 oWSaR. 143-92 is an edge of 17 team wins (WS are 1/3 wins) over the course of their careers. Trammell’s offense was worth more than a win per season above Ozzie’s, which is huge when you have almost two decades of data to go on. Ozzie wasn’t in Trammell’s league offensively.

Trammell created an estimated 106 more runs while making 1494 fewer outs. Yes, his park and league were better for a hitter (ever after adjusting for the DH). Trammell’s environment was 4.32/g, Ozzie’s was 4.07. Trammell created an estimated 1248 runs in a 4.32 RPG league. That’s the equivalent of 1176 runs in Ozzie’s environment. Ozzie created 1142 runs, so Trammell is still 34 runs ahead of Ozzie with 1494 less outs made.

An average player makes about 486 outs in a full 162 game season. Since Ozzie played 2.1 full seasons more, we can assume 1021 of the outs Trammell didn’t make went to a replacement level SS, the other 473 went to average teammates, because Trammell simply made fewer outs than Ozzie, one of the reasons he was a much better offensive player.

Let’s say the replacement shortstop would have created 2.5 r/g over those 1021 outs. That’d be 95 more runs, pushing Trammell’s advantage to 129 runs. The other 473 outs that Trammell gave his teammates would have resulted in another 71 runs. Trammell’s advantage over Ozzie is now 166 runs. 10 runs is generally enough to swing one game in the standings. We get 16.6 additional wins for Trammell using this method. Two distinct methods, one says 17 wins, the other 16.6, I think we’re onto something here.

I have computed career offensive W-L numbers as well, based on James’ New Runs Created formula. Trammell’s edge is obvious there also. I adjust every season to 162 team games, adjust for ballpark, DH, etc.

Ozzie comes out at 140-150, OW% .483. At his peak he was very good for a SS, from 1985-87 I get 30-17, .631. For a 5 year peak, from 1985-89 he was 48-32, .603.

Trammell was 141-106, OW% .570. That is a massive difference. The 3-year peak for Trammell was 32-13, .707 (1986-88). His 5-year peak (1983-87) was 52-27, .654.

Concepcion’s career mark was 118-144, .451. He wasn’t as good as Ozzie with bat or the leather, he’s clearly a notch below the level of these two.

Think about it, a .570 team is about the level of the 2002 Red Sox, Mariners and Dodgers. A .483 team is the 2002 Reds, Marlins or Blue Jays. That was the difference between these two offensively over the course of their careers.

I realize we’ve mostly talked about offense. Ozzie was the best defensive SS ever, I don’t think anyone would question that. His range factors are phenomenal. He also played on turf, behind staffs that didn’t strike a lot of people out, things which might cause his range factor to be overstated a slightly.

The real question defensively is how much better than Alan Trammell was Ozzie, in terms of wins and losses? Win Shares and Baseball Prospectus’ FRAR, though both are flawed in spots are, in my opinion, the best widely available defensive metrics that cover the players’ entire career.

Ozzie earned 140 WS with his flashy leather, Trammell 93. Ozzie had a longer career, so the 48 WS difference needs to be nudged down a little, due to the understated replacement level of Win Shares (for fielding the replacement level isn’t zero, but it’s still too low). Even if we don’t nudge it down, we give Ozzie a 16 win edge with the glove. Trammell’s 93 are very good (25th all time), but significantly behind.

Switching to the Davenport system, Ozzie was 914 FRAR, Trammell 569. I think the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. FRAR could be pegging the replacement level too low, and WS arbitrarily caps the fielding credit given to a team, at around 52.5 dWS per team season. Ozzie’s teams approached this cap a few times, but never hit it, so I don’t think that’s an issue. dWS probably understates Ozzie’s contribution a little because it doesn’t adjust enough for extremely low strikeout staffs. Best guess, 20 wins for Ozzie defensively over Trammell.

Their peaks were probably even. Both had their best year in 1987, Trammell had 35 WS, Ozzie 33, both were at 11.8 WARP3. Want best 3-year run? It’s even. Both had 84 WS from 1986-88, Ozzie had 30.7 WARP3 to Trammell’s 30.9. For a 5-year run, Trammell rolled up 132 WS (1983-87) to Ozzie’s 123 WS (1985-89). Trammell had 46.9 WARP3 from 1983-87 or 1984-88, Ozzie had 49.5 WARP3 from 1985-89, but again, I think WARP3 might be overstating the Ozzie’s defensive contribution.

We are pretty confident Trammell was 16-18 wins better as a hitter. We’re making an educated guess that Ozzie was 20 wins better with his glove, I don’t think 2-4 wins here are enough to separate the two, it’s easily within the margin of error. Ozzie should not have gone into the Hall of Fame without Trammell. It’s that simple. There’s no way in hell he should get five times the number of votes Trammell did. It’s amazing what a few back-flips and a guest shot on The Baseball Bunch can do . . .

I’d call career value even. I’d call peak value even also. Their contributions are as even as can be in my opinion. Even if you have Ozzie slightly ahead of Trammell, I can’t see justification to put one in without the other, they are both well over the line.

I’d vote for them both.

Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: January 10, 2003 at 05:00 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. jmac Posted: January 10, 2003 at 01:20 AM (#608246)
As I said in another thread, I think Concepcion will be the test case (8-10 years from now) as to the extent to which Joe Morgan becomes Frankie Frisch

If he (Joe) is still around, wielding more & more suasion with the VC--then his buddies like Concepcion will get in

and that's the only way he'll get in
   2. Scott Posted: January 10, 2003 at 01:20 AM (#608248)
Great analysis -- you really turned me around on Trammell.
   3. Scott Posted: January 10, 2003 at 01:20 AM (#608249)
One question, though: yes, Trammell was a lot better than "replacement level" -- but isn't that partly because it was such a weak era for shortstops? How much credit should Trammell get for his peers being terrible? Isn't it fair to consider that relatively few SS from the 70s & 80s are on par with today's breed?
   4. Charles Saeger Posted: January 10, 2003 at 01:20 AM (#608250)
A clarification: I did not use CAD to look at Concepcion, but a variant of Win Shares. I did not look formally at Trammell at all.

IAE, I looked at the period from 1974-1980 and 1982, and Concepcion was an great fielder, easily the best shortstop in the NL, though Ozzie caught up to him at the end. Oddly, the Reds were not, as one would think, a great fielding team -- the Red outfielders were just okeh, the third basemen were not any good at all (Anderson played Pete Rose there because he had four good hitting outfielders and no good hitting third baseman), and Bench and Morgan, while good fielders early in the period, dragged the team as they aged.
   5. Charles Saeger Posted: January 10, 2003 at 01:20 AM (#608251)
Scott -- I think Joe is wrong here. The early 1980s is as good a time as any for shortstops, with Trammell, Ozzie, Concepcion, Ripken, Yount and Dickie Thon. Their hitting stats don't look as good as the current crop's do, but that's true for all positions.
   6. Jason Posted: January 10, 2003 at 01:20 AM (#608252)
We all yammer on about the current golden age of SS, but the 80's seems to do very well. Yount, Ripken, Ozzie, Trammel, and Larkin all did big things in that decade and would in my opinion qualify as top 10 at their position all time (though someone might get nudged out in another 10 years). Or another way of putting it. What happens if Jeter continues to decline, Nomar keeps getting hurt, and Tejeda has a good peak but not much else due to his sudden aging? Suddenly the golden age would pale in comparison.
   7. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 10, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608256)
I always liked Concepcion as a player, but I think he falls short.

Trammell made it to both my MLB and STAT Internet ballot, so I'm sold on him. I think he was a little bit better than the Wizard, but an argument can be made for Ozzie.
   8. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: January 10, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608257)
Thanks guys . . .

Mark:

Nice catch on the turf issue with Concepcion. It's definitely an interesting tidbit.

From Charles:

"Scott -- I think Joe is wrong here. The early 1980s is as good a time as any for shortstops, with Trammell, Ozzie, Concepcion, Ripken, Yount and Dickie Thon. Their hitting stats don't look as good as the current crop's do, but that's true for all positions."

I should have said 1970's for SS's. You are right Charlie, around 1980 (when Yount really turned it on) the tide changed. But Ripken wasn't playing SS full-time until 1983, Thon wasn't full-time until 1982, Ozzie wasn't a decent hitter until 1982, etc. . . . the comment was directed at Concepcion's contemporaries from the 1970s. Sorry for the confusion.

Scott:

"One question, though: yes, Trammell was a lot better than "replacement level" -- but isn't that partly because it was such a weak era for shortstops? How much credit should Trammell get for his peers being terrible? Isn't it fair to consider that relatively few SS from the 70s & 80s are on par with today's breed?"

The replacement level studies I've seen show that even when the star level moves up (like AL SS 1996+, NL CF 1950s, etc.) the replacement level doesn't change much. When you remember that Major League baseball players are in the far right of the bell curve, once you are out to replacement level at a position the field is big enough that moving up a spot or two (to accomodate the new star glut) doesn't really make a difference.

The replacement numbers I used when comparing Trammell to Ozzie were generic and would apply in any era, I wasn't specifically comparing them to other 1980's SS, I was just using a 1980's level of offense, and I guesstimated what a repl. SS would hit at those offensive levels, the only differnce over a 2000s comparison would be to raise the offense for the era as a whole, not the SS's specifically.

Joe Ross:

I'm as big a Minoso champion as there's ever been. I just forgot about him, most of the guys I mentioned were a little more recent. He's my number one candidate on the new Vet's ballot, I hope he's alive when he finally gets in.

Jason:

I always remembered it that way too. I remember the game was on a Sunday afternoon on ABC, and Al Michaels and whoever was announcing with him picked a Giant-Tiger World Series. I always remembered it as grass too.

But when I went to either BR or Retrosheet to refresh my memory on the events, DET was on the left and TOR on the right (they are BOLD for winner, so that wasn't it) and I assumed that meant home team on the right, as in DET @ TOR. Sorry for the mixup.

Another late bit of info from a discussion with some other Primer folks (Tango, Charlie, Mike Emeigh and Chris Dial) makes me hedge even less on Trammell over Ozzie: Fielding repl level is probably a little bit ABOVE average. To quote:

Tom: "The bigger question is to ask how can BOTH the replacement level on fielding and hitting be set to 20 runs below average. After all, a replacement level 2b who can't field, is probably a little below average hitter. And a replacement level 2b who can't hit, is probably a little above average fielder. But to be both -20 runs from average as a fielder *and* a hitter? We're talking about a bad triple-A player here."

Chris: "Tom's dead-on. Replacement level for a fielder is above average. That is the starters in a given league field worse than their colletive replacements.

League average fielding (for ZR) is higher than the collective fielding of the starters."

Because of this, I have bigger issues with the Prospectus (Davenport) fielding numbers than I did when I wrote the article, and I'd say Ozzie's is probably considerably overrated by FRAR.
   9. bob mong Posted: January 10, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608259)
Another late bit of info from a discussion with some other Primer folks (Tango, Charlie, Mike Emeigh and Chris Dial) makes me hedge even less on Trammell over Ozzie: Fielding repl level is probably a little bit ABOVE average. To quote:

Tom: "The bigger question is to ask how can BOTH the replacement level on fielding and hitting be set to 20 runs below average. After all, a replacement level 2b who can't field, is probably a little below average hitter. And a replacement level 2b who can't hit, is probably a little above average fielder. But to be both -20 runs from average as a fielder *and* a hitter? We're talking about a bad triple-A player here."

Chris: "Tom's dead-on. Replacement level for a fielder is above average. That is the starters in a given league field worse than their colletive replacements.

League average fielding (for ZR) is higher than the collective fielding of the starters."


Joe, could you clarify what this means? I am having a hard time figuring out what Tom and Chris are saying.
   10. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 11, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608273)
Templeton, Concepcion, Bowa, Ozzie, Trammell, Thon, Yount, Ripken... they ushered in an era where shortstops were more than just leather....

How did Bowa get mixed up in this group? I remember him just being leather when he played.

   11. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 11, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608276)
I challenge you not to judge the shortstops and others from 25 years ago, based on today's standards.

You're speaking to the wrong group here, piper. The guys who live on conventional stats, the media, are the ones who are leaving Trammell off the ballot. On the STAT Internet Hall of Fame ballot, Trammell had 43% of the vote, compared to only 14% for the BBWAA.
   12. strong silence Posted: January 11, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608284)
Let's set the standard high. Only great players belong in the Hall. Let's define greatness. For the purpose of brevity let's say greatness is defined as "the cream rises to the top." Playoffs and WS are where stars shine and great players step it up.

In 3 postseason series Trammell hit .333/.404./.588 (including a .450 average in his only World Series.) He did what great players are supposed to do - lead teams to championships and for this reason I vote him in.

For me, postseason performance is much more relevant than All-Star games. I would replace #12 with this question: In pennant races, playoffs and World Series, did the player perform beyond expectations? All-Star games are really a popularity contest so it is not germane to evaluating a candidate for the HOF.

Perhaps this is a tangent but I think the field of sabrmetrics and Win Shares in particular misses a key component - quality of competition. That is, why not weight a players stats by the level of competition he faces? For example, if Davey Lopes faced Carlton 60 times, but Morgan had only 30 AB against him would not we give Lopes credit for the higher quality pitching he faced? Does Win Shares equalize competition this way?

I think sabrmetrics will have to deal with the quality of competition issue soon because expansion has diluted talent. We should figure out which hitters are getting their hits off mediocre pitchers - pitchers who would not have been #4 or #5 starters prior to expansion - and discount their career statistics. We should figure out which players would not be playing today were it not for expansion. Rafael Palmeiro comes to mind. He is a great hitter but is he still in baseball because there are more teams and therefore more jobs to go around? His counting stats are piling up but if we decide he benefitted from expansion how do we adjust his career statistics?

Sabrmetricians should try to figure out which 10-year period had the highest level of talent and give credit to those who played in that era. From best player to worst player. The opposite of dilution. Concentration of talent. Which era had the most Hall of Famers playing? Which era had players shoved out because there was someone better - not because they were too old to hit.

I would enjoy your thoughts on this issue.
   13. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 12, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608286)
Ain't been on this site too much, eh? Baseball's drawing from a larger talent pool than ever, by a much larger factor than the increase in Major League teams

I'd like to expand this idea a little further from Jonathan's excellent post. Any time there has been an expansion year in baseball, the standard deviation between the best and worst hitters has increased. There is no doubt that there were more inferior hitters in 1961, 1962, 1969, 1977, 1993, and 1998 than the years before. However, within a few years, the standard deviation reverts back to its pre-expansion levels. I have no doubt that there are more fine hitters than there ever have been in the majors now.

I'm less confident with expansion pitching though. Because of the higher attrition levels of pitchers, there is less available talent to acquire.

Does anybody know of a study highlighting pre- and post-expansion pitching using standard deviation?
   14. Silver King Posted: January 12, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608292)
Did Ozzie have measurable ability and value on offense beyond his hits, walks, and steals?

Reading Joe Marshall's post about the Cardinals offense (up nearer the top, and reprinted below) reminded me of the first time I got to talk with someone from the Soviet Union. (Most surprising thing: the Estonian hadn't seen Star Wars but had seen Battlestar Gallactica!) Joe wrote about his perspective, as a--gasp!--'80's Mets fan, on the Whiteyball offense. I was a Redbirds fan in St. Louis with the same impression of Whiteyball from the other side (the good guys) of the rivalry.

Vince, enabled and continued by Ozzie and Willie, drove pitchers crazy and scored runs. Tommy Herr was part of that mix, and Jack Clark was the big stick. Joe raises a fascinating issue about stuff that happened beyond the H, BB, SB, & CS that show up in the players' stats. Were other events happening at unusual rates when these guys were on base: balks, wild pitches, passed balls, errors on the catcher and pitcher and maybe infielders, extra bases successfully taken on hits...

No doubt these things stuck in our minds when they _did_ happen, but Joe and I--from opposing perspectives--sure thought they were happening to a mad degree.

I'd love it if one of our skillful Retrosheet analyzers could look into these issues of the Cards offense. If you're a bit ambivalent about how much fun walks, whiffs, station-to-station, and three-run-homers are, that's extra motivation for you. =)

I'd focus on rates of events when Vince was on base, as he was _the_ extreme defense-distractor if such a thing measurably existed. But the same stuff for Ozzie and Wille would be good. And sorta conversely, what was the effect for and of the others (Ozzie, Willie, Tommy, maybe Jack) when a distractor (or simply anyone) was on base? Did the distractors make it easier or harder for the next guy to succeed at the plate? Absolutely, and relative to an average of base-stealers? Joe notes Ozzie's remarkable control of the bat and the strike zone, seemingly adding to and exploiting pitchers' frustrations with a speed demon on base. Willie also was a low K hitter with terrific speed; he was high-average and low walks.

How did these qualities intertwine to make stuff happen? Did they?
I'd look at '87, or '85-'87, or possibly '85-'89.

Joe's post:
"One comment about Ozzie, and the Cards of the mid to late 80's in general: they were such a unique (and effective) team offensively, I think it's difficult to fully capture the impact of Ozzie in the lineup. Ozzie's ability to take pitches without striking out (I think he led the league a couple of years in fewest strideouts), and then put the ball in Play ON THE GROUND contributed mightily to Vince Coleman's huge runs scored total. I remember Vince was balked over something like 22 times one year, and God knows how many wild pitches and passed balls were caused by the speed of Ozzie, Vince, and Willie McGee. I was a Mets fan during those years, and that team drove me crazy, though I admired them, and wish we could see more baseball like that again."
   15. Dan Turkenkopf Posted: January 12, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608294)
Another late bit of info from a discussion with some other Primer folks (Tango, Charlie, Mike Emeigh and Chris Dial) makes me hedge even less on Trammell over Ozzie: Fielding repl level is probably a little bit ABOVE average. To quote:

Tom: "The bigger question is to ask how can BOTH the replacement level on fielding and hitting be set to 20 runs below average. After all, a replacement level 2b who can't field, is probably a little below average hitter. And a replacement level 2b who can't hit, is probably a little above average fielder. But to be both -20 runs from average as a fielder *and* a hitter? We're talking about a bad triple-A player here."

Chris: "Tom's dead-on. Replacement level for a fielder is above average. That is the starters in a given league field worse than their colletive replacements.

League average fielding (for ZR) is higher than the collective fielding of the starters."

Joe, could you clarify what this means? I am having a hard time figuring out what Tom and Chris are saying.


Not to put words in Joe's, Tango's or Chris' mouth, but I think what they're getting at is how to accurately determine replacement level.

There are two types of replacement players (non-starters): defensive replacements (good glove, no-hit types), or pinch-hitters (good offensively, passable at best with the glove). Generally anyone who's really good with the bat will eventually find a starter's role, so I would assume most of the bench players would fit into the first category.

So non-starters, as a group, tend to be below average offensively, but average, or better (I think tango claimed 1-2 runs below for the 2001 season over on fanhome) on defense. So the replacement player baseline should be that, rather than the -20 offensively, -20 defensively that BP seems to use. This leads to overrating good defensive players by the BP Fielding Runs method.
   16. Rob Wood Posted: January 12, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608296)
Maybe we should have a separate thread on this topic alone. I don't buy the argument that the defensive replacement level should be higher due to the existence of many backup defensive wizards. These guys would almost never be the regular for the team since they are such lousy hitters.

Let's take the argument to the extreme and see where it goes. Suppose that there is a class of ballplayers who are defensive wizards, the equivalent of Ozzie Smith, Bill Mazeroski or anyone else you care to name. However, they are weak hitters, in the extreme suppose they can't even put the ball in play (the classic automatic out). Suppose further that each major league team keeps one or two of these type guys on the bench for late inning defensive replacements. The argument given above would suggest that these players would lead the defensive replacement level to be quite high (higher than the league average).

But that's just not right. A replacement level is supposed to reflect what quality of player a major league team would be forced to field if it didn't have its regulars. In the scenario above, if the team's regular shortstop, say, was injured, the team would not play the automatic-out defensive wizard in his place (certainly not for more than a few games), but would be forced to go out and acquire a new shortstop from somewhere.

I guess the problem I am having is in the splitting of the offensive vs defensive replacement level quality. It just doesn't work that way. And the bizarre situation described above would not arise if a composite replacement level quality were adhered to.

Comments encouraged!
   17. Dan Turkenkopf Posted: January 12, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608297)
I guess the problem I am having is in the splitting of the offensive vs defensive replacement level quality. It just doesn't work that way. And the bizarre situation described above would not arise if a composite replacement level quality were adhered to.

I think an important piece of the replacement level question is how teams behave when a starter goes down. Do they bring up a AAA player who's more well rounded than the defensive specialist (who fills a need when the starters in the game) or do they let the specialist play and have that new AAA players as the backup?

Let's assume that the defensive specialist is -30 runs offensively and +10 defensively, and the AAA player is -10 offensively and -10 defensively. Obviously they are both -20 players, but the choice of which to play affects the caluculation of the replacement player.

This seems to be an example of chaining which Tango and David Smyth, among others, have discussed quite a bit on Fanhome.

I don't think it's necessarily as simple as I portrayed it in my previous post, but I do think that setting the replacement player as far below average both offensively and defensively is the wrong way to go - since if you're that bad at both, you're almost certainly not a major leaguer.
   18. Boileryard Posted: January 13, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608305)
In the 1988 Abstract, James comments on the uniqueness of the 1987 Cardinals offense. One of the more interesting findings was the Cardinals good record in low-scoring games, and the lack of games with 0 runs, both phenomenons that James attributed to the extreme amount of one-run strategies.
   19. tangotiger Posted: January 13, 2003 at 01:21 AM (#608307)
I agree, it is silly to partition replacement levels by facet of play, and then combine it. The offense/defense thing is intertwined. The league replacement level should be set at about 75% or 80% of league average. And then you apply a historical positional adjustment. See my note on fanhome (link posted above) for more details.
   20. fracas' hope springs eternal Posted: January 13, 2003 at 01:22 AM (#608328)
Let's assume that the defensive specialist is -30 runs offensively and +10 defensively, and the AAA player is -10 offensively and -10 defensively. Obviously they are both -20 players, but the choice of which to play affects the caluculation of the replacement player.

I think that (setting aside arbitration clocks or ego issues) the obvious thing to do in that situation is to play the AAA player and continue using the defensive specialist as his defensive replacement. Jonathan's description of Lou Pinella's use of Charles Gipson indicates that Lou "gets it."

NL "ABB" Leaders 1985-1987 Vince Coleman* 39 Willie McGee* 18 Tony Gwynn 14 Ozzie Smith* 14 Chili Davis 11 Eric Davis 10 Von Hayes 10 Tony Pena 9 Kal Daniels 8 Tom Herr* 8 Steve Sax 8

I don't have the time to add everyone's steal totals, but I bet there's a strong correlation between steals and "Advanced By Balk"s. The first non-Card on the list is Tony Gwynn and he stole 107 bases over those three years (mostly 1987). I suspect we've been ignoring some added benefits of high SB totals here. Where are ABB numbers available? I wonder if the added benefit would be as strong today or if teams have compensated for opposition running games enough that they're less likely to overcompensate with balks. Hmm....

I agree with Tim DeWalt's conclusion that defensive replacement level is relatively higher at "defense-first" positions like SS than, for instance, 1B. Intuitively, it just strikes me as true.
   21. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: December 02, 2003 at 03:01 AM (#614203)
If I were re-writing this article, I'd re-analyze the FRAR aspect. FRAR are NOT a valid metric to use, IMO. I would use FRAA, as replacement fielders are basically average, see Tango's work for more on this.

FRAA (2003 version) has Ozzie at 252, Trammell at 62. That would lower my guesstimate on Ozzie's defensive edge, and definitely move Trammell from basically even to 'slightly ahead' of Ozzie overall.

Bob, you're going to have to give me more to change my mind on Concepcion. Or point out exactly where in my analysis I may have missed something.

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