By the numbers: HOF case for Trammell
Legendary Tigers shortstop compares favorably with previous inductee Larkin
Though seven players have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame over the past two years, many strong candidates remain on the ballot. With Baseball Writers' Association of America voters able to pick a maximum of 10 players apiece, and 75 percent of the vote required for enshrinement, several worthy candidates must travel a difficult road.
Results of this year's BBWAA vote will be revealed on MLB Network on Jan. 6, with a news conference involving any electees to be held the following day.
One player whose candidacy has stalled is Alan Trammell. The longtime Tigers shortstop was a six-time All-Star with four Gold Glove Awards, three Silver Slugger Awards and a World Series Most Valuable Player Award. But after receiving 15.7 percent of the vote in his first year of eligiblity in 2002, Trammell never gained much traction, reaching a high of 36.8 percent in '12 before dropping back to 25.1 percent the last time around. The '16 voting is his last chance with the BBWAA, though he eventually could find his way in via the Veterans Committee.
While Trammell has been largely overlooked, there is a strong numbers-based case for him to join those enshrined in Cooperstown. Here is a look at that argument.
• Over a 20-year career with the Tigers that he began as a teenager in 1977, Trammell played 2,139 of his 2,202 games as a shortstop. Over that time, he produced 70.4 wins above replacement (WAR), according to Baseball-Reference.com, which ranks sixth among all players who spent at least 80 percent of their games at short. That number puts him right in the same range as two shortstops who easily made the Hall of Fame (Ozzie Smith and Barry Larkin) and one who surely will get in on his first ballot (Derek Jeter). More on one of those comparisons a little later.
• Trammell had a handful of unproductive seasons at the very beginning and end of his career, but he also enjoyed a sustained peak. From 1980-90, he averaged 5.4 WAR per season, an All-Star level, with his 59.3 total WAR over that span ranking third in the Majors behind Rickey Henderson and Wade Boggs. Trammell reached the 6.0-WAR mark six times, tied for the second most in history among shortstops.
• JAWS, a system developed by Jay Jaffe, measures a player's Hall credentials by comparing his career and peak production with others at his position. Trammell's 57.5 JAWS score exceeds the 54.7 average of the 21 current Hall of Fame shortstops. Only four Hall of Fame shortstops who began their careers after 1932 are ahead of him.
• As mentioned, Trammell and Larkin produced a similar career value, going by WAR, but the similarities go much deeper. In fact, when examining the numbers, it's difficult to justify how Trammell has been unable to make significant progress toward induction when Larkin cruised in by getting 86.4 percent of the vote in his third year on the ballot, in 2012. Here is a look at how the two players, who both spent their entire careers with one team, stack up in several key categories.
Seasons played: Trammell 20 (1977-96) | Larkin 19 ('86-2004)
Games played: Trammell 2,293 | Larkin 2,180
Hits: Trammell 2,365 | Larkin 2,340
Home runs: Larkin 198 | Trammell 185
RBI: Trammell 1,003 | Larkin 960
Total Zone defensive runs: Trammell 81 | Larkin 28
OPS+: Larkin 116 | Trammell 110
WAR: Trammell 70.4 | Larkin 70.2
JAWS score: Trammell 57.5 | Larkin 56.6
Larkin enjoys a sizable advantage in stolen bases, but otherwise, the two appear to offer nearly identical statistical profiles.
• Part of the problem for Trammell could be that he played at about the same time as some other great shortstops, and since he retired, several more came along who redefined the position offensively. But when considering Trammell's case, it's important to put him in the context of both his position and his era.
When Trammell retired in 1996, only Cal Ripken Jr. had more career home runs and RBIs as a shortstop. Meanwhile, Trammell ranked third in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS and fourth in slugging (all minimum 1,000 games), plus fourth in hits and walks.
• Trammell possessed a rare blend of power and speed at his position, with only four primary shortstops exceeding his career totals of homers and steals. Seven times he collected double-digit homers and steals in the same season, and there had been only four 20-20 campaigns by a shortstop before Trammell did it twice in a row from 1986-87.
• Defensive metrics, especially during Trammell's time, must be taken with a grain of salt, but his 81 Total Zone runs as a shortstop rank 11th all-time. His 22.0 defensive WAR ranks 34th among players at all positions.
• If you want to award bonus points for postseason play, Trammell has that covered. He participated in the playoffs only twice, but in 1984 he hit .419/.500/.806 with three homers and nine RBIs in Detroit's eight-game championship run. Trammell was named World Series MVP against the Padres, recording multiple hits in each of the series' first four games and collecting two homers and four RBIs in a 4-2 Game 4 victory.