My HOF deliberations: Trammell

Posted By on December 23, 2011 2:17 pm

It’s time to start filling out my Hall of Fame ballot.

The guys I voted for last year, who didn’t make it, were Jeff Bagwell (explanation here), Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire and Tim Raines. I’ll start by voting for all of them again.

Some of the guys who have come closest for me in the past have been, alphabetically: Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Alan Trammell and Larry Walker. (Jack Morris and Lee Smith? I have not voted for them, and I’m perfectly comfortable with those decisions, so I don’t feel the need to revisit them. Rafael Palmeiro? I think he was an overrated compiler, far from the top at his position in his era. I also feel Dale Murphy has a decent case, but I’ve looked at him for at least five years and still not voted for him, so I’m done with him.)

So, this year I will look closely again at Edgar, McGriff, Trammell, Walker and — the only newcomer worth a sniff — Bernie Williams.

We’ll start with Trammell, since he’s been on the ballot the longest. He also seems to be the new Bert Blyleven, which is to say he’s become a “cause.” A few of my friends who I respect very much, like Scott Miller and Tracy Ringolsby, both wrote recently that they feel Trammell is one of the most underrated players on the ballot. Scott went so far as to say that Larkin should not get in unless Trammell is.

After further review, I can safely say that the notion that Trammell was better than Larkin doesn’t go over with me. And here’s why…

WAR (B-R)66.968.9
Gold Gloves43
All-Star Games612
MVPs (top 10s)0 (3)1 (2)

So, how again was Trammell better than Larkin? It looks like he had him in Gold Gloves, but that has to be taken into context because a) the Gold Gloves are questionable in themselves and b) Larkin played the first seven years of his career with some guy named Ozzie playing shortstop in his league.

You may also want to say the raw offensive numbers aren’t comparable because they played in different eras (slightly) and different ballparks. Well, OPS+ takes that into account, and Larkin still wins. And if you’re into WAR — and I’m skeptical, because of the defensive component — Larkin still wins slightly. (That’s B-R WAR, by the way. In FanGraphs, it’s 70.6-69.5, for Larkin.)

But this isn’t about winning between Trammell and Larkin. I’ve already decided to vote for Larkin. The question is not whether Trammell was better than Larkin. It’s whether Trammell was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame.

Thanks to baseball-reference*, there are a few quick ways to get a rough idea.

    * I don’t know how anyone voted for the Hall of Fame before baseball-reference. It’s not just that it has all the stats, but it makes them easy to search and sort and compare players to one another. I think this is why the HOF ballots we’re seeing now are much different from those of even 10 years ago.

First, there are similiarity scores. His most similar players, in order, are: Edgar Renteria, Barry Larkin, Jay Bell, Lou Whitaker, Tony Fernandez, Ray Durham and B.J. Surhoff. After that, you get to Ryne Sandberg and Pee Wee Reese, a couple Hall of Famers, and then it rounds out with Julio Franco.

Baseball-reference also gives us a “Hall of Fame standards” index. It shows the average HOFer is a 50, and Trammell scores a 40. Bill James’ Hall of Fame monitor measures how likely a player is to get in, not how deserving he is. In that, Trammell scores a 118, where 100 is probable induction. I’ll argue that James monitor is based on the old days, when people weren’t using the sophisticated tools they are today.

Neither of those things screams that Trammell belongs in the Hall of Fame. They tell you that he’s close enough you could make a case for him, but you can also make a case against him. (By the way, he’s only been getting about 25 percent of the vote, so I’m not alone in being skeptical about him.)

If you rank all the shortstops in ML history (minimum 1,000 games) by their OPS+, Trammell ranks 11th. If rank by WAR on Baseball-Reference, he’s seventh. If you go by WAR on Fangraphs, he’s 16th.

What all of that tells me is basically what I already knew: Trammell is in the conversation. Beyond that, there’s not really enough compelling evidence to change my mind from what I thought before, that he was very good, but not quite good enough.

Sorry Alan. I gave you a honest look.

I’ll move on to the other guys in the coming days. Stay tuned.


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