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Monday, December 02, 2019

The Hall of Fame Case for Lou Whitaker

A reminder of why his case has been a flash-point:

Here’s a thing I didn’t know until just a few years ago: before Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were elected to the Hall of Fame in December 2017, the 1984 Tigers and the 1981 Dodgers were the only two World Series champions who do not have a player in the Hall of Fame. The 1981 Dodgers seem to be permanently out of luck, but those Bless You Boys Tigers have a chance to gain three in the space of two years. And they dang well should get that third player in Lou Whitaker.

Whitaker, infamously, received only 2.9 percent of the vote when he first appeared on the ballot in 2001, knocking him off that ballot for good after just one year. The insult was compounded when, in 2017 — the last time the Modern Baseball Era Committee dealt with this current era — Whitaker wasn’t even included on the dang ballot. For that you can blame the BBWAA too, as an “oversight committee” of that guild was responsible for coming up with nominees.

This despite the fact that Whitaker more than deserves induction.

Whitaker had a career WAR of 75.1, which is seventh all time for second basemen. The six men in front of him — Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Napoleon Lajoie, Joe Morgan, Rod Carew, and Charlie Gehringer — are all Hall of Famers. Many behind him, including Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Almoar, Craig Biggio, Nellie Fox, Joe Gordon, and Bobby Doerr are Hall of Famers. The average WAR for Hall of Fame second baseman is 69.4. Lou Whitaker is above average compared to all Hall of Fame second baseman and not only has he not been elected, he was a one-and-done with the BBWAA and was literally left off the ballot when they could have given him a second chance.

 

QLE Posted: December 02, 2019 at 09:32 PM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, lou whitaker

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   1. bbmck Posted: December 02, 2019 at 10:22 PM (#5905081)
That plus, with a nod to Sandberg, he was no worse than the second best defensive second baseman of his era and was the best in his league

Frank White, Willie Randolph and Bobby Grich walk into a bar...
   2. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 02, 2019 at 10:33 PM (#5905085)
Here’s a thing I didn’t know until just a few years ago: before Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were elected to the Hall of Fame in December 2017, the 1984 Tigers and the 1981 Dodgers were the only two World Series champions who do not have a player in the Hall of Fame.


There obviously has to be a cutoff. The 2016 Cubs do not have a HOFer. But neither do the 1997 Marlins nor the 2002 Angels, and neither will. The 1988 Dodgers get one on a technicality (Don Sutton pitched 87 innings for them, none in the playoffs).
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: December 02, 2019 at 10:33 PM (#5905086)
That plus, with a nod to Sandberg, he was no worse than the second best defensive second baseman of his era and was the best in his league


Frank White, Willie Randolph and Bobby Grich walk into a bar...

You might be able to make a case for him as No. 2 (you can also make a case for Willie and Bobby), but I don't see how you're going to make him the best in a league that he shared with Frank White.

   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 02, 2019 at 10:38 PM (#5905088)
Best second baseman ever on Magnum PI.
   5. bbmck Posted: December 02, 2019 at 11:43 PM (#5905102)
The 142 players with 5000+ PA during Lou's career combine for 278280 Hits and 113394 BB+HBP or 40.75% of Hits. Seasons of 280 TOB among the 142:

8: Barry Bonds, Pete Rose
7: Wade Boggs
3: Dwight Evans, Paul Molitor, Tony Phillips
2: Roberto Alomar, Brett Butler, Lenny Dykstra, Keith Hernandez, Tim Raines
1: George Brett, Darrell Evans, Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Dake Parker, Kevin Seitzer

1st: Barry Bonds 90.77%
2nd: Mickey Tettleton 86.48%
4th: Darrell Evans 73.77%
7th: Jack Clark 70.43%
15th: Dwight Evans 59.04%

16th: Willie Randolph 57.96%
22nd: Fred McGriff 53.98%
25th: Tim Raines 52.67%
31st: Lou Whitaker 51.37%
32nd: Graig Nettles 51.15%

116th: Don Mattingly 28.29%
124th: Tony Gwynn 25.92%
126th: Andre Dawson 25.23%
131st: Kirby Puckett 21.96%
138th: Steve Garvey 19.55%
142nd: Ozzie Guillen 13.95%

First, last, generally "underrated" players near the top of the list and "overrated" players near the bottom.
   6. Cooper Nielson Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:55 AM (#5905112)
There obviously has to be a cutoff. The 2016 Cubs do not have a HOFer. But neither do the 1997 Marlins nor the 2002 Angels, and neither will. The 1988 Dodgers get one on a technicality (Don Sutton pitched 87 innings for them, none in the playoffs).

Yeah, I was wondering about that. I knew the 2002 Angels famously had no future HOFers but they have one guy who's technically still "active" -- K-Rod is only 37 and hasn't formally retired, as far as I know, though he hasn't pitched since 2017. He'll be on the HOF ballot eventually, and while it's unlikely he'll ever be elected, he could at least last for a few ballots. He's #4 on the all-time saves list and the three guys in front of him (Rivera, Hoffman, Lee Smith) are all HOFers. K-Rod's got the fewest WAR among them, but the second best ERA+. Kevin Appier (54.5 WAR) also has a glimmer of a large-Hall case, and Harold Baines opened the door (slightly) for Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon.*

* Interesting trivia: Salmon played for the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels, and the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim). Anyone else do that?

For the 1997 Marlins, no one is still active, but Gary Sheffield is still on the HOF ballot. Maybe that's why they're not mentioned. Kevin Brown is also a decent candidate for future Veterans Committee votes. And Moises Alou is the token "If Harold Baines, why not X?" candidate.
   7. Cooper Nielson Posted: December 03, 2019 at 02:00 AM (#5905113)
* Interesting trivia: Salmon played for the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels, and the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim). Anyone else do that?

Answering my own question: Garrett Anderson and Darin Erstad did. There may be others.
   8. bbmck Posted: December 03, 2019 at 02:56 AM (#5905115)
17 played for the Angels in 1996 or earlier and retired in 2005 or later. Only those 3 among the 17 played for the Angels in 2005 or later so you got all of them.
   9. Sunday silence Posted: December 03, 2019 at 03:23 AM (#5905116)
1st: Barry Bonds 90.77%


what does this mean? 90.77% of what?
   10. Cooper Nielson Posted: December 03, 2019 at 04:46 AM (#5905119)
17 played for the Angels in 1996 or earlier and retired in 2005 or later. Only those 3 among the 17 played for the Angels in 2005 or later so you got all of them.

Thanks, bbmck! I guess this might have been a commonly known factoid back in 2005 (at least in Southern California) but I hadn't thought about it until I looked at Tim Salmon's BB-Ref page today. It was odd to see that a one-team lifer played for "CAL," "ANA" and "LAA."

Of those three, Salmon has the distinction of being the only one to spend his whole career with the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels.
   11. The Duke Posted: December 03, 2019 at 08:00 AM (#5905123)
Does anyone on the 1981 dodgers have a chance? Garvey ? Reggie Smith ? Sciosca maybe as a manager?
   12. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: December 03, 2019 at 08:20 AM (#5905127)
Tommy Lasagna kinda counts doesn’t he?

EDIT: Didn’t see the players qualifier there...but at least he’s something.
   13. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: December 03, 2019 at 08:38 AM (#5905129)
what does this mean? 90.77% of what?


It's not clear to me at all, but I think it may be BB+HBP as a percentage of hits.
   14. Cooper Nielson Posted: December 03, 2019 at 09:16 AM (#5905135)
Here’s a thing I didn’t know until just a few years ago: before Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were elected to the Hall of Fame in December 2017, the 1984 Tigers and the 1981 Dodgers were the only two World Series champions who do not have a player in the Hall of Fame.

The march of time has taken care of the oversights, but as of 2017 the strange thing about the 1984 Tigers not having any Hall of Famers was that they had so many candidates with at least marginal HOF arguments. They were not a fluke team, and they had a bunch of guys with long, productive careers.

Trammell and Whitaker are now generally viewed as easy choices; Chet Lemon (55.6 WAR) and Darrell Evans (58.8 WAR) were borderline by saber standards; Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson were borderline by anti-saber, fame-and-narrative standards. Even Lance Parrish (39.5 WAR, 324 home runs, 8 All-Star Games), with a catcher adjustment, could be viewed as a plausible candidate. There are worse catchers in the Hall of Fame (and, admittedly, better catchers out of it).

In fact, all of those guys got votes for the Hall of Fame, and all but Chet Lemon (only 1) got at least 8 votes on their first ballot.

The 1981 Dodgers had a lot of Gibson and Morris types (I count 15 guys who got at least one HOF vote), but not much on the high end -- only Reggie Smith (64.6 WAR) had more WAR than the Tiger's 4th best guy.
   15. Qufini Posted: December 03, 2019 at 10:12 AM (#5905158)
There obviously has to be a cutoff. The 2016 Cubs do not have a HOFer. But neither do the 1997 Marlins nor the 2002 Angels, and neither will.
The author mentioned this as an interesting fact, not as part of Whitaker's case. He doesn't use the '80 Dodgers omission to argue for Steve Garvey.
   16. Qufini Posted: December 03, 2019 at 10:16 AM (#5905161)
That plus, with a nod to Sandberg, he was no worse than the second best defensive second baseman of his era and was the best in his league
Whitaker was a better defender than Sandberg. +77 fielding runs to +60, 6 seasons with 10+ fielding runs to 3, 16.3 dWar to 13.5. The Frank White omission is odd but I wouldn't be so quick to crown Sandberg ahead of Sweet Lou.
   17. John DiFool2 Posted: December 03, 2019 at 10:40 AM (#5905169)
If the Hall were to remain viable for centuries, would any of these now-marginal cases eventually make it? Nobody can be kicked out, they can only add players...

Over such a time frame, Sheff is likely a lock, at least.
   18. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:22 PM (#5905206)
Here’s a thing I didn’t know until just a few years ago: before Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were elected to the Hall of Fame in December 2017, the 1984 Tigers and the 1981 Dodgers were the only two World Series champions who do not have a player in the Hall of Fame.


But both managers are in.
   19. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:25 PM (#5905208)
You might be able to make a case for him as No. 2 (you can also make a case for Willie and Bobby), but I don't see how you're going to make him the best in a league that he shared with Frank White.


Sandberg never shared a league with Frank White.
   20. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:38 PM (#5905221)
Does anyone on the 1981 dodgers have a chance? Garvey ? Reggie Smith ? Sciosca maybe as a manager?
Dusty, as a Torre hybrid candidate.
   21. Blastin Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:49 PM (#5905226)
For the 1997 Marlins, no one is still active, but Gary Sheffield is still on the HOF ballot. Maybe that's why they're not mentioned. Kevin Brown is also a decent candidate for future Veterans Committee votes. And Moises Alou is the token "If Harold Baines, why not X?" candidate.


1981 Dodgers, as mentioned, unless Dusty goes in someday.

Looking after 2002, listing most likely and/or already in...

2003 will have Miguel Cabrera
04 has Pedro, will have (sigh) Schlling, very likely Ortiz
05... that's gonna be tough. Well, Frank Thomas counts if Sutton counts for 88.
06/11 will have Albert
07 Ortiz and Schilling again
08.... SHOULD have Utley but.... uh....
09 has Rivera (+Jeter, and the PED infielders, and maybe Sabathia)
10/12/14 will likely have Posey
13 Ortiz again again
15.... yeah.... um....
And now we're really getting too early to tell, but 16 has a bunch of early career posssibilities, 17 has Verlander (Altuve too, but he's gonna have to last a while), 18... Betts looks solid, and Sale? He needs to last, I think, 19 has Scherzer
   22. Rally Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:50 PM (#5905227)
I don't think Torre was a hybrid, he was inducted just on his merits as a manager.
   23. Rally Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:54 PM (#5905235)
By gold gloves, it's Sandberg 9, White 8, and Whitaker had 3. White has a lead over both in Rfield.
   24. JAHV Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:57 PM (#5905236)
Sandberg never shared a league with Frank White.


That wasn't the comparison, though. The line was that Whitaker was the best defensive second basemen in his league and second best in all of baseball, behind only Sandberg. Interestingly, by RField, White was fantastic basically until Whitaker was established in the league, then Whitaker's defensive numbers were fantastic for five years before tailing off during which time White's numbers were just kind of above average. Then White went back to being a defensive god in his early to mid-30's while Whitaker was just kind of average. Then Whitaker had two more really good defensive seasons right as White's career was winding down. I have no idea how much of this is just your basic fluky defensive stat variance versus actual dips in performance, but it's like the AL could only handle one excellent defensive second baseman whose name started with "Whit" at a time. I would agree that White was clearly better - higher highs and no negative seasons at all (this shows them starting with their first "full" season of over 100 games played). Sorry, I can't figure out how to format a table here.

Yr White Whitaker
1975 1 --
1976 15 --
1977 12 --
1978 12 10
1979 0 9
1980 6 7
1981 0 15
1982 4 13
1983 7 4
1984 18 2
1985 4 -3
1986 12 10
1987 14 -1
1988 7 -1
1989 8 2
1990 2 10
1991 -- 11
1992 -- 1
1993 -- -1
1994 -- -2
1995 -- -6
   25. Rally Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:59 PM (#5905239)
19 has Scherzer


In a decade we'll probably look at Soto's HOF case the way we think of Mike Trout's right now.
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:02 PM (#5905242)
Sandberg never shared a league with Frank White.


JAHV covered it, but I was referring to Lou, not Sandberg.
   27. Blastin Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:03 PM (#5905244)

In a decade we'll probably look at Soto's HOF case the way we think of Mike Trout's right now.


You're probably right, though I am not sure he's going to have like 5 9 WAR years by then. But in terms of lock, barring severe injury I agree.
   28. "RMc", the superbatsman Posted: December 03, 2019 at 05:46 PM (#5905377)
Whitaker had a career WAR of 75.1, which is seventh all time for second basemen.

If Whitaker was a Yankee, he would've made the HOF with 20 fewer WAR.
   29. SoSH U at work Posted: December 03, 2019 at 06:18 PM (#5905387)
If Whitaker was a Yankee, he would've made the HOF with 20 fewer WAR.


But a Yankee with 10 fewer WAR is still out of luck.
   30. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 03, 2019 at 06:26 PM (#5905389)
Yeah, I was going to say a Whitaker with 20 fewer WAR is Willie Randolph - but Randolph was even better than that.
   31. Booey Posted: December 03, 2019 at 06:29 PM (#5905393)
#21 - 2003 also has Pudge Rodriguez, and 2017 also had Carlos Beltran. 2006/2011 might get Yadi, too (Rolen and Edmonds would be better choices for 2006, but...).
   32. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: December 03, 2019 at 08:14 PM (#5905410)
Whitaker was a better defender than Sandberg. +77 fielding runs to +60, 6 seasons with 10+ fielding runs to 3, 16.3 dWar to 13.5.

Oh, well that's certainly indisputable evidence.

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