Sunday, January 16, 2011

Trammell Not Getting his Due

After seeing my recent post on WAR Grids and Lou Whitaker, some may have guessed that something on Alan Trammell was sure to follow.  And they guessed correctly.  The WAR Grid for the top 25 shortstops is shown below  (Click on the chart to make it bigger).  Thanks again to Joshua Maciel of Fan Graphs for developing this tool.

An explanation of WAR is included in my article on Whitaker linked above.  Keep in mind, of course, that WAR is only one way to compare players.  It's a pretty good method for comparing the career value of players , but it is dependent on defensive statistics which are far from perfect.  Much of the uncertainty with defensive statistics should go away with the large career sample sizes, but they are still not nearly as reliable as hitting statistics.

The chart shows that Trammell does not rank quite as well at first glance as his keystone partner Lou Whitaker.  Trammell is 16th in career WAR among shortstops, while Whitaker was 8th at second base.  He had 11 years of four WAR or better compared to 14 for Whitaker.

All-Time Top 25 Shortstops by WAR


On the other hand, Trammell does have some darker green boxes (WARS of seven and eight) indicating that his best years were better than Whitaker's best years.  As, I mentioned in the previous article comparing Whitaker to Ryne Sandberg, players with strong peak years are typically noticed more than players with long consistent careers.  It also didn't hurt Trammell that his two best years (1984 and 1987) helped the Tigers to a World Championship and division title.  Some might say that he led them to the title in 1987.    

Trammell is not getting as much backing as other comparable shortstops.  With 69 WAR, he is just one WAR short of Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Pee Wee Reese and probably soon to be Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.  Trammell is similar to all three in terms of number of good years and great years. He is also one behind Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau who had a shorter career but a higher peak.  The next three on the list - Bobby Wallace, Luis Aparicio and Joe Tinker - are also enshrined in Cooperstown.  Tinker went in at the same time as Chicaco Cubs doubleplay partners Johnny Evers and Frank Chance.

So, while Trammell is getting more backing than Whitaker, he is not getting the same support as his closest comparables at shortstop.


  1. Lee,

    What stood out to me is how much better Wagner was than everybody else. You think of recent history being the golden age of SS, starting with Yount/Smith/Tram/Ripken evolving to Larkin then on to the Jeter/Nomar/ARod trifecta. Yet Wagner dwards all of them.

    And on the 2B chart, 4 of the top 5 played before WWII... amazing.

  2. Yeah, Wagner was an incredible player, who still sometimes gets underrated in the discussion of all-time greats. He could do absolutely everything, including playing any position.

  3. Very salient article, Lee. I wonder if Tram getting the MVP in '87 would have made a difference in voters minds and given him a subjective edge he couldn't get in any other way. That was a close vote between him and Bell that year.

  4. Great stuff, Lee...The title reminded me of this Mitch Albom article:

  5. Thanks for the link.

    Bert, I definitely think getting the MVP would have helped Trammell in the HoF voting.



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