“Compile” this!

In any discussion of Hall of Famers or HOF candidates, you’ll usually hear the term “compiler,” a mild pejorative meaning a player who reaches career totals in counting stats like Hits, Runs or RBI, without having great individual seasons.

The term is often applied to two of my favorite players, who I think are among the most deserving HOF candidates not yet enshrined: Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell.

Without question, Trammell and Whitaker meet any reasonable career standard for induction. If you spend 10 minutes comparing their career totals in both counting stats and rate stats to the shortstops and second basemen already enshrined, and if you have even a basic grasp of how the offensive context has varied in different eras, I don’t see how you could deny that they meet the career standards.

The only argument I’ve heard against them is that they were “compilers.” They won no MVP Awards (even though Trammell clearly was more valuable than George Bell in 1987); there’s no league-leading “black ink” on their stat sheets; they combined for just one 100-RBI season and five years of 100 Runs.

To focus on my main point, I’ll skip the argument that their better offensive seasons, considered in the context of their times and of their positions, are actually better than the first impression made by the raw numbers. My main point is this:

If you want to keep this kind of player out of the Hall of Fame, you’d better be prepared for a much smaller pantheon than we have now.

Let’s talk about big seasons, as measured by Wins Above Replacement, or WAR (using the Baseball-Reference formula).

Alan Trammell had four seasons rated 6 WAR or better (8.0, 6.5, 6.5 and 6.1); Lou Whitaker had two (6.8 and 6.5).

Now let’s look at the hitters already in the Hall. For simplicity, I’ll use a filter of 1,500 career hits, to weed out most of the guys who had good playing careers but were inducted as managers.

Counting from 1893 (when the pitching distance was moved back to 60′ 6″), there are 125 HOFers with at least 1,500 career hits. I think Al Lopez is the only guy in this group who was not inducted as a player. So our base number is 124; here’s the list.

Here’s the number of 6-WAR seasons for that group of 124 HOFers:

If you want to block Lou Whitaker as a “compiler,” be prepared to shrink your HOF by almost half — because 58 of these 124 HOFers had no more 6-WAR seasons than Sweet Lou had.

And if you want the bar set high enough to keep out Alan Trammell, your HOF just shriveled to one-third its present size — 84 of these 124 had no more 6-WAR seasons than Tram did.

Now, everyone agrees that there are some undeserving inductees. And there are plenty of serious baseball fans who belong to the “small-Hall” camp. But I don’t know many folks who want to draw the Hall of Fame standards so tightly that somewhere between 46% and 67% of present inductees get the boot.

To acknowledge that there’s nothing magically “right” about a 6-WAR standard, let’s do the same count of 8-WAR seasons:

  • The median is 0; the average is 1.3.
  • 76 of these 124 HOFers had zero 8-WAR seasons.
  • 17 had one 8-WAR season, including Johnny BenchFrank RobinsonMel Ott and Charlie Gehringer.
  • 6 had two, 8 had three, 4 had four, 2 had five, 6 had six, 2 had seven, 1 had nine, and 2 had eleven 8-WAR seasons.
  • Here’s the list of 8-WAR seasons.

If you kick out everyone in Whitaker’s group (no 8-WAR seasons), you’re left with 48 out of the original 124. If you also evict the Trammell group (one 8-WAR season), you could have a nice backyard barbeque with the 31 players who are left.

I still don’t really know exactly who is and who isn’t considered a “compiler” by the folks who use that term. If they want to slap the label on Johnny Damon (one season of exactly 6 WAR) or Omar Vizquel (peaked at 5.8 WAR), it won’t get my dander up.

But if you call Whitaker or Trammell a “compiler,” them’s fightin’ words.

80 thoughts on ““Compile” this!

  1. 1
    Dr. Doom says:

    Howdy everyone!

    Adam Darowski was doing a little project on this a while back, and he decided (very wisely, I might add) that “compilers” are those who rack up huge amounts of WAR in which a large amount of their WAR is between replacement and average. For example, Eddie Murray has 63.4 WAR – but only 27.7 WAA. The majority of his WAR comes from being a below average player! That might make him a compiler. For Whitaker, that number is 42.8/71.4; for Trammell, 40.4/67.1. It would be interesting to compare to a large sample of players, but I kind of doubt that these two fit the classical definition.

    • 19
      Timmy Pea says:

      I always thought Eddie Murray was overrated. He had a half dozen good years early in his career and a lot of average to below average years after reaching age 30. Here’s a guy plugged into the heart of the lineup year after year and can’t drive in 100 despite getting over 650 PA’s for all those years. Of course he gets to 3000 hits and 500 HR playing as long as he did.

      • 20
        bstar says:

        So Eddie Murray wasn’t adept at driving runners in? Eddie Murray is the only player in MLB history with 20 consecutive seasons of 75+ RBI. He’s also one of two players in MLB history with 20+ doubles for 20 consecutive years(Tris Speaker is the other). Considering he had to navigate through three separate strike-shortened years, those are mighty impressive feats of consistency.

        He has a career 129 OPS+. He’s got the 500 HR and 3000 career hits and 1900+ RBI. No one’s saying he’s an inner circle Hall of Famer, but he is indisputably one of the most consistent players in MLB history. That’s a Hall of Famer in my book.

        • 22
          Timmy Pea says:

          I just think he’s overrated bstar. He should be in the HoF but was he really that much better than Mattingly during their peak? 75 RBI’s for a guy plugged into the 4 slot isn’t very much. 20 doubles for 20 years? Big deal!

          • 24
            bstar says:

            Those marks just show his consistency, T, which I think is the most impressive thing about his resume.

            Also, remember he played his peak years in the early 80s where the scoring environment was lower. What his counting stats look like if he’d played through the steroid era? If you’re saying he was overrated during his prime, you might be right. I remember talk of Eddie Murray being the best player in baseball for a couple years. That was probably a bit much.

      • 66
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        I heard the same arguments against Yaz just before he was elected to the HOF in 1989, with 94.6 of the vote, at the time one of the highest percentages ever. Many people said he was “just a compiler”, and besides his three/four unquestionably great years (1963, 1967, 1970), he was merely a good player who played a very long period of time.

        I find this line of reasoning concerning Eddie Murray’s (and Yaz’s) HOF qualifications utterly and completely without merit, and belive that both are 100% qualified. You’d have to cut the HOF at least in half to begin to doubt their cases, and even if you did that, I think that both of them are still well over the “in” line. (esp. Yaz).

        There is simply no precedence for keeping players with their qualifications out of the HOF. None. As several people below pointed out, the HOF has _never_ been limited (after the first few years) to players of the level of Willie Mays and Rogers Hornsby and Bob Feller. This a team of close-to-“midpoint”, but still unquestionably qualified HOFers:

        C – Gabby Hartnett
        1B – Hank Greenberg
        2B – Ryne Sandberg
        3b – Wade Boggs
        SS – Barry Larkin
        LF – Al Simmons
        CF – Duke Snider
        RF – Reggie Jackson

        Judged against these players, I don’t see how anyone could say that Eddie Murray isn’t completely qualified for the HOF.

        Harold Baines is the example often given of a “compiler”; a very good hitter with an extremely long career who doesn’t quite rise to the level of a HOFer. Murray is at least a few notches better than Baines, for a number of reasons:

        – Baines was a good but not dominant offensive player; he never finished in the Top-10 in Offensive WAR. Murray did this a number of times. His Black Ink score isn’t that high, but his Grey Ink Score is considerably higher than the average HOFer (181 to 144, 55th), unlike Baines.
        – Baines was an adequate (at best) defensive OF, and not regarded as an all-around player; he never finished in the Top-10 in Position Players WAR. Murray did this a number of times.
        – measured by MVP vote shares, Murray was regularly receiving _much_ more MVP support than Baines (21st place vs. 619th place)
        – Murray was regarded as the best position player on the Orioles, before Ripken emerged in 1983-84. I don’t think Baines was ever regareded as the best player on any team he was on.
        – Murray buries Baines in WAR, 68-34.

  2. 2
    PP says:

    In defense of Whitaker, in his last two “half” years at ages 37 and 38, he went .287 .375 .503 in 571 ABs, not a bad downside and not really hanging around compiling in my mind, though only a 3.7 total war, which is still not too shabby a number at all. Trammel’s numbers his last 3 yrs are not nearly as good and his total war is -0.4, but it seems pretty normal to have a career like his and play it out until age 38.

  3. 3
    Paul E says:

    Has anyone noticed that Ben Zobrist (yeah, that Ben Zobrist) has 2 8-WAR seasons thus far in his career and is third among active players in that “category” behind A-Rod and Pujols? Having thrown that out there, where DO you draw the line on good/great seasons using WAR as the measure?

    Just curious: Pick one – Trammell or Whitaker – who was the better baseball player? And, how did you/would you reach your conclusion?

    • 6
      John Autin says:

      Paul E — I’ve never asked myself which was better, and part of the beauty of their careers to Tigers fans was that we got to think of them as a tandem for 18 years. But I’ll give it a shot.

      “Who was the better baseball player?”

      I can’t imagine any long-time teammates being more closely matched in this regard, but if there’s a dime’s worth of difference between them, I’ll say Trammell was better. Why?

      — SS is tougher than 2B. I don’t think Whitaker (who was drafted as a 3B) would have been a good defensive SS; I don’t think he had quite the range or the arm.

      — Baserunning. It’s close, but Tram was a little better — slightly higher rate of extra bases taken on others’ hits, fewer outs on bases, more steals with a slightly better percentage.

      — Platoon splits. Whitaker didn’t hit lefties well, and for his last few years he often sat down when a southpaw started. Trammell was much more balanced.

      I could spend paragraphs on the hair-splitting nuances of this particular issue: What do we mean by “better”?, since a LHB has a natural advantage over a RHB (has the platoon edge more often, and has a shorter distance to 1st base). And do we focus on the way that he was used, or the way that he might have been used? (Looking back, Detroit might have been better off if they’d started platooning Whitaker earlier; from 1984-90, Lou’s BA and OPS vs. LHP were consistently in the range of .210/.610, while vs. RHP he was around .290/.850 — darn big numbers for that era.) Ultimately, I just have to make a judgment call on the platoon-splits issue — small edge to Trammell — and move on.

      — Roundedness. Here it’s hard to separate objective judgment from aesthetic preference; I love all-around players. Trammell could have played anywhere on the diamond; he did start a handful of games in the outfield, even 4 in CF, as well as 43 at 3B. Whitaker never played any position but 2B. Trammell could bat anywhere in the order — he hit cleanup for all of ’87, where he’d never started before, and was fantastic. He hit 3rd or 4th in 572 games, batting over .300 with power. Whitaker didn’t get that many chances to bat outside of the #1-2 spots, but in 218 games at #3, he hit just .240.

      — Field leadership. Partly it’s the positions they played, but I doubt that any Tigers fan who watched them would deny that Tram was a little bit headier. And while I wouldn’t put too much weight on their post-playing careers, Trammell did manage for 3 seasons — not necessarily well, but it at least reflects the perception of a difference between them.

      All these things taken together barely add up to significance, but if forced to choose the better player, I’d take Trammell.

      Still, if we were having a draft, and the top pick had to be Trammell or Whitaker, and the draft was structured so that one of us got the #1 pick and the other got the next 2 picks, I would let you pick first in a heartbeat.

      • 12
        Paul E says:

        Thanks for the insight. I believe that if not for being a contemporary of Ripken, Trammell would have been much more appreciated during his playing days…and probably would have made the Hall of Fame a while ago on a path not too dissimilar from Barry Larkin.

        Looking back, you might think the Tigers would have won more than in just 1984 (AL pennants/WS)with a nucleus of Trammell , Whitaker, Gibson , Parrish…..

        • 35
          Dr. Doom says:

          Speaking of Ripken and Trammell, my dad said that, during the ’80s, he was a Brewers fan working with some Tigers fans and some East coast guys. They would have their own Willie-Mickey-and-the-Duke-type arguments (or perhaps, more appropriate, A-Rod-Jeter-Nomah arguments) about who the AL’s best shortstop was – Yount, Ripken, or Trammell. Ripken and Yount each wound up with two MVPs, while Trammell should have had one – but one of Yount’s was in CF. I always thought that was interesting, though, since my friends and I were of the Rodriguez-Jeter-Garciaparra generation.

    • 7
      PP says:

      which begs the question, how many players have had two 8 war seasons? I’d guess around 25?

      • 13
        Paul E says:

        39 players have had 2 or more seasons of 8 WAR and, with the exception of Snuffy Sternwiss during WWII, Zobrist is the “odd” name on the list….baseball-reference is providing a free trial on “Play Index” through July 12th

        Sorry, but I just don’t know how to “drag” in the link

  4. 4
    Mike L says:

    John A, my only comment is that I wish you felt more passionately about this.

    • 8
      John Autin says:

      Mike L, I keep it in check for about 51 weeks out of the year. I’ve grown weary of pointing out their lofty status in career totals and rates at their respective positions.

      Whatever the reasons, most folks seem to prefer a player who had a few obviously great seasons and a lot of ordinary ones, over a guy like Whitaker, who was unnaturally consistent at a good level — OPS+ over 100 in 17 of 18 seasons.

      I know there’s an argument that, given a certain amount of value for a player’s career, you get bigger pennant impact by distributing it unevenly over the years. But if were a GM, I’d rather have the guy who solves my second-base problem for 15 years — a guy who never gets hurt, never has an off year, and could be named an All-Star in almost any year of his career without provoking an argument. That was Whitaker.

      He only made 5 actual AS teams, but if you hacked his B-R page and typed “AS” on the lines for 1978-79, ’82, ’88-89, and ’91-95 — ten more AS appearances — nobody looking at that page would raise an eyebrow.

      I know that some people say, Well, if Trammell and Whitaker were truly HOF-worthy, why didn’t Detroit win more than 1 pennant in their long careers? But there are plenty of teams that had 2 HOFers for a long stretch and didn’t win more than one title. Why isn’t Bobby Doerr’s one pennant (and no WS titles), while playing alongside Ted Williams, a big strike against him? How many championships were won by Pee Wee Reese and his trio of HOF companions? Sheesh, there are probably more fans who want to give the one-ring Boys of Summer a fifth HOFer (Hodges) than there are stumping for Whitaker and Trammell.

      And I turn the question around: Does playing for a string of pennant winners make you a HOFer? I’d like to hear the argument that Phil Rizzuto was more valuable, career or peak, than Alan Trammell; is it even conceivable that if you could slip Trammell in his place, the Yanks would have won less often? Sure, Rizzuto lost 3 years to the war — but if you credit him with 3 seasons equal to his MVP year, he still doesn’t match Trammell even in peak value.

      Anyway, it’s time to start biting my tongue again.

      • 10
        Mike L says:

        Nah. It’s a worthy cause. They both belong in. I think that what killed them was they were wrapping up (and then eligible) during an era of high octane high profile offensive middle infielders. If you started their careers in the early sixties, they would have received more attention.

        • 11
          John Autin says:

          Hitting stats centered in the ’60s are even more snubbed than those of Tram/aker’s time. Dick McAuliffe averaged a 125 OPS+ from 1964-69, but just try telling someone that McAuliffe was a better hitter than Dustin Pedroia. Or try telling someone that Bill Freehan was about as good a hitter as Ivan Rodriguez.

          I think they’d get more respect if their careers had been delayed by 10-15 years. Start them around 1990, let them get their feet wet for a couple years before the offensive explosion. Let Whitaker hit 25-35 HRs for a few years, instead of 15-25, and people would be able to see that he was a better all-around player than Jeff Kent.

          • 29
            BryanM says:

            Dick McAuliffe WAS a better hitter than Dustin Pedroia, and probably just as good with the glove. McAuliffe was a key in the Tiger’s ’68 championship, and could play some shortstop . He had a bit more power , but to be fair to Pedroia, Dustin’s best year may still be in the future; McAuliffe never had a real good year after his knee injury, one of my early favorites – thanks for bringing him up

      • 65
        Tmckelv says:

        “But there are plenty of teams that had 2 HOFers for a long stretch and didn’t win more than one title.”

        Don’t forget Jack Morris. 🙂
        And if it were up to me, Kirk Gibson would get a little consideration also. That 1984 team was so special, I wouldn’t even blink at multiple HOF players from that squad. I would have a MUCH harder time with none. I am hoping that someday, the Veteran’s committee will induct both of them (Alan and Lou) the same year.

  5. 5
    Ed says:

    In response to Dr Doom…not sure where you’re info is coming from. Adam doesn’t have a category labeled WAA.

    • 15
      CursedClevelander says:

      WAA is on baseball-reference, but I’m not 100% sure what the methodology is for it. I know it debuted when they refined their WAR stat earlier this year.

  6. 9
    Doug says:

    Possibly, part of the problem for Tram and Lou may be that they were teammates. Voters may feel they can’t choose both, but then can’t decide which one to vote for. As you say, they were always perceived as a tandem.

    We’ll never know, but had they not been teammates, or not exact contemporaries, or if there had been a Tiger dynasty, then they may well both be in.

  7. 14
    Phil says:

    At a certain level of compiling “counting stats,” I think the charge becomes silly anyway. When people level it at Palmeiro, for example–putting aside PEDs, which is a separate issue–I roll my eyes. If you say someone with 500+ HR/3000+ hits deserves to be in the HOF, you’re not automatically implying he was one of the three or four most dominant players of his era (as those who decry Palmeiro’s counting stats seem to assume); you’re just saying he was very, very good for a very, very long time, and that he cleared two traditional benchmarks for career excellence. I mean, I’m waiting for someone to complain one year that such-and-such a manager shouldn’t go into the HOF because all he did was win a lot of games, and manager-wins are just a counting stat.

  8. 16
    Larry says:

    Off topic but very recent. The Brewers Greinke was ejected after only 4 pitches. The second batter Altuve was ruled safe at first as Greike covered the bag on a grounder. Greinke was ejected because he spiked the ball in anger. The announced said the record for quickest ejection by a pitcher was 2 pitches, but I couldn’t catch who it was. Ruth threw at least 4 pitches before he was ejected for arguing the walk (I think he even struck the ump!) whereupon Ernie Shore pitched the (later ruled unofficial) perfect game.

    • 39
      Luis Gomez says:

      Roger Clemens was ejected during the first inning in an early 90´s(?) ALCS game, though I can´t remember what were the circumstances.

      • 67
        Tmckelv says:

        With Roger, there was a lot of grumbling from the mound on what he thought was a bad call on a pitch. He was actually ejected while on the rubber looking in at home plate. You could see him running his mouth from behind his glove. I guess he said something. It must have been bad to get ejected in the first inning of a playoff game.

  9. 17
    Richard Chester says:

    On 5-16-2009 John Lackey was tossed out of the game after 2 pitches. His first pitch came close to hitting Ian Kinsler and his second pitch hit him. That’s why he was ejected from the game. KInsler hit 2 HRs against the Angels the night before.

  10. 18
    bstar says:

    Hey, JA, just curious: what was the straw that broke the camel’s back and prompted you to write this article? Was it something specific that set you off? Inquiring minds are bored and want to know.

    • 23
      John Autin says:

      Hi, b — As I recall, somewhere in the Dale Murphy discussion on another thread, someone described Whitaker as a compiler. It was a casual thing, and I didn’t want to take it up there and go off on a tangent. But as it’s been said a million times about Trammell and Whitaker, it got me thinking about what those people mean when they say that.

      I had a hunch that, whatever it is people mean by “compiler,” the term probably could just as fairly be applied to a whole lot of guys already in the HOF. So I decided to check the number of big-WAR seasons by HOFers, in comparison to the two Tigers. I found even more confirmation than I’d expected; it seemed to me that, whatever the definition of “compiler” might be, it applies to roughly half the HOF hitters.

      And I thought it should be stated explicitly: If you don’t want compilers in your Hall, then it follows logically that you want the population cut in half, and here’s some of the guys you’ll be evicting.

      So that’s how it came about. Plus, y’know, I hadn’t posted anything but game notes in a while. 🙂

      • 25
        bstar says:

        Good enough, John. Remember our Hornsby vs. Collins argument? I quit that one because I realized I was basically arguing peak over “compiler”(sorry, of course Eddie Collins is much much more than that) when comparing the two by providing rate stats instead of looking at overall production.

        I’ve done a lot of self-examination on that topic since, and I realize I’m not that internally consistent on it. I can dismiss Will Clark’s peak value because I don’t think he belongs in the HOF but am happy to point out Dick Allen’s prime years to argue for his enshrinement. And since I do think peak value gets a tad overemphasized in general, it wouldn’t be right of me to argue for Murphy’s case based on his peak(which you pointed out may not have been that phenomenal anyway).

        • 26
          Jason Z says:

          As for the Dale Murphy discussion we had on the other thread, as birtelcom pointed out, Murphy was fourth in the B-ref version of WAR from 1982-87.

          And actually he was pretty close to second behind Schmidt. Gary Carter who was third was worth .12 more wins per year than Murphy. Tim Raines who was second was worth about .3 more wins per year.

          This is not a big difference. I think it proves that Murphy’s peak was pretty phenomenal.

          I don’t know how many players appeared in the NL between
          those years, but whether a guy is fourth best or second best for six years, he deserves very serious consideration. Murphy never has been seriously considered by the writers and this is just wrong.

          Final point on Murphy, I agree he fell of the cliff after 1987, and as John pointed out previously, Murphy’s career was short compared to other HOF’ers in the expansion era. But, I think it needs to be pointed out that his games played totals from 1980-91, excluding the strike year of 81 are as follows:


          Oh and BTW, Tim Raines should be in.

          • 27
            John Autin says:

            OK, Jason, Dale Murphy was 4th in the NL (not MLB) with 32.3 WAR from 1982-87.

            If that’s the strongest argument for Murphy, then let him get in line behind Trammell. And Raines, of course.

            Alan Trammell was 4th in the AL from 1983-88 with 35.1 WAR — more WAR than Murphy’s 6-year prime, and obviously Trammell had a lot more good years.

            For the 10-year period 1982-91, Trammell and Whitaker ranked #4-5 in AL WAR, with 52.1 and 46.6, respectively. They also rank #4-5 for the 14 years 1980-93. Three of the guys they outpaced in those years were future HOFers Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and George Brett (who were active all those years). I’m not claiming that the two Tigers had better careers than those guys; I’m just saying they put up more value in that long span.

            For the 11 years 1980-90, Trammell was 3rd in AL WAR at 57.2.

            I don’t agree that Murphy was never seriously considered. He was on the ballot for a total of 14 years, got about 20% in his first 2 years, but never did that well again.

            Whitaker never got properly considered. One year on the ballot, less than 5%, banned forever from BBWAA consideration. Now, that’s wrong.

      • 60
        MikeD says:

        The reference to Whitaker and compilers probably came from one of my notes, although without going back and trying to find exactly what I wrote, I’m pretty darn sure I didn’t directly refer to Whitaker as a compiler. The reason I’m sure of it is because I don’t view him as a compiler, at least not in the traditional sense of what we think of when we say “compiler.”

        If Whitaker was reinserted on the ballot and was elected by the BBWAA, I would have no problem. Same thing if he was elected by some future veterans committee, which probably remains his best chance. I just won’t be passionate about writing many words for the cause. My personal view of the HOF has shifted to some degree over the past few years, and I do put more emphasis than ever on peak value. That doesn’t mean I’m trying to kick players out. It means that I’m more focused on putting some players in who may have fallen short on the compiling side, but at one point were considered to be the best, or among the best in the game.

        Now, of course, any discussion of compilers has to include a discussion about WAR and the merits of WAR, since WAR is also a compiling statistic. It is possible for a non-great player to accumulate higher WAR statistics than a player who was truly great, but for a shorter period of time. Both types of players might merit HOF induction, but if the choice is between one or the other, I’ll lean toward the great player with the peak, but the shorter career.

  11. 21
    Timmy Pea says:

    I confess to never looking at WAR and really don’t know what it is. Having said that to me the only way Lou Whitaker gets a sniff for the HoF is by using newstats. I see a lot of good on his stats page but not much great. Trammel? Well someone is starting to love him because his HoF vote shot up to 37% this year. I understand that both were good hitters in an era of light hitting SS and 2B. I understand that playing SS is more demanding than playing right field. But still, I don’t think either is destined for the Hall.

  12. 28
    Jason Z says:

    I know he was fourth in the NL, just neglected to write that, but it really
    is a close fourth, as I pointed out.

    I agree that Trammell and Raines should be in, to me they are obvious choices.

    I remember their careers well, and I always thought they were outstanding players.

    In regards to Whitaker, I remember him as a very good player, but not great.

    I realize now that with the advent of WAR, this opinion probably isn’t fair.

    At the time, I felt that Lou Whitaker was very similar to Willie Randolph, only with a lot more power.

    And I do agree that one year on the ballot with less than 5% was unfair.

    The hope for Lou is that someday the veterans committee with the information
    we now have, will give him a fair shake.

  13. 30
    BryanM says:

    Since Raines has been mentioned a couple of times , does anyone have a theory on what’s keeping him out? Didn’t enough voters actually see him play?

    • 32
      Doug says:

      Perhaps some silly things are keeping him out, like a career BA just under .300, and a career OBP just under .400. Also, his hits + walks total is just under 4000. If he were above those thresholds, he would likely be perceived better.

      Aside from stolen bases, Raines did not have much black ink – once leading the league in BA and OBP (in the same season), twice in runs, and once in doubles (with a really low leading total of 38). Also, his best defensive season was only 0.9 dWAR, and his career was -9.5 dWAR.

      FWIW, HOF Monitor has him at 90 (100 = likely HOFer), and HOF Standards has him at 47 (50 = average HOFer). The first metric is supposedly the likelihood of selection based on performance but also on things like what cities did he play in, did he play on championship teams, etc. He wouldn’t score well on those extra considerations. The second metric is supposedly just about performance as compared to current HOF members.

    • 34
      bstar says:

      Yeah, Bryan, I have a theory about Raines. I think he played too long. He played so many years past an elite level that voters actually forgot how good/great the guy once was. Unless you’re out there chasing some Hall of Fame counting stat benchmark, in my opinion hanging on too long can have a detrimental effect on your chances of enshrinement. Here’s a look at Raines’ career from a WAR perspective, in graph form(look at the second graph especially):


      Notice how his career WAR line in the second graph pretty much flattens out but continues for another decade? Over the last nine years of his career, Raines produced 10.0 WAR, primarily as a bench player. How many Hall of Famers played nine years in the league as a part-time player? Not too many, I would think. I’m not suggesting Raines SHOULD have retired earlier; hey, if you’re getting paid a ridiculous amount of money to play and still have a passion for the game, I myself would certainly continue playing. But overall, I think this hurt his image in the minds of baseball writers as a potential HOF’er.

      I foresee the same problems upcoming for Kenny Lofton and probably Andruw Jones later on down the line.

      There’s also the matter of Tim Raines’ drug use. Although I feel he should be applauded for his bare honesty, I don’t think it sat well with voters that he admitted to doing cocaine during games, even on the field itself. I don’t think that’s going to help him in Vets Committee voting either.

      • 36
        John Autin says:

        b, you’ve raised an interesting point about the effect of Raines’s “hang-around” years on the voters’ perception of him.

        But I think it’s a Catch-22 situation. The HOF has not been kind to leadoff men in general. I can’t think of any who were elected mainly on their offensive strength with careers on the shorter end of the spectrum.

        Suppose Raines had retired after 1995, his last full season. It’s just a guess, but I think he loses as much as he gains. His Runs fall from 1,571 (which was #30 on the modern list at the time of his actual retirement) to 1,374 (#44 through 1995). And Runs, to me, are his strongest HOF credential.

        There’s a dozen factors that bias the vote against him. But the main problem is that his last great year came at age 27.

        During that season, the baseball world was starting to realize that he was one of the 5 best players in the game. Well do I remember the anticipation of his collusion-delayed debut that year. But let’s go back to where he stood after ’86:
        — Reigning batting champ and OBP champ.
        — 6 straight All-Star appearances; not too many guys did that by age 26.
        — 6 straight years with 70+ SB and great SB%, averaging 76-12.
        — 4 straight years of improvement in his BA/OBP/SLG.

        Then in the ’86-’87 offseason, the owners illegally agree to not bid on free agents (an action, by the way, that winds up costing them far more in judgments than they saved in salaries). Raines and other top stars refuse to accept their own teams’ lowball offers, and by the rules of the time, having missed a certain signing deadline, they must sit out the first month even if they sign before that.

        So, as May ’87 approached, there was a serious buzz around the baseball world about Rock’s return. It came against the defending champion Mets in Shea Stadium on a Saturday, batting 3rd in the order against David Cone:

        1st time up: 2-out triple (stranded).
        2nd time: Walk, steal, run.
        4th time: Single moves go-ahead run to scoring position, but the rally dies.
        5th time (9th inning, down 2 runs, leading off): Infield single, Expos send the game to extra innings.
        6th time (10th inning, bases full against Orosco): Grand slam. Expos win.

        Raines homered again Sunday in his first time up as the Expos won, 2-0.

        The buzz grew: With all that he had been so far, now he’s adding power?!? He finished the year at .330/.429/.526, career high in slugging as well as the 18 HRs, and MLB-high 123 Runs in just 139 games. He was on the crest of a wave. In a very crowded field, many called him the best in the game.

        But the wave broke. Injuries came. The power didn’t stay. He changed teams, and leagues, coming to the AL right when Rickey Henderson, his nemesis in some respects, was the reigning MVP. He had some good seasons, but not the kind of numbers to get attention in that era — he didn’t hit .300 for 5 straight years after ’87.

        In his waning years, he was still good — in ’93, he helped the White Sox win a division, batting .306/.401/138 OPS+ in 115 games; playing half-time for the Yanks in 1996-97, he hit .305/.394 with 101 Runs and 71 RBI in 472 ABs, and helped them win their first title since ’78, and as late as ’98 (age 38) he had a .395 OBP in 109 games. But the moment had passed.

        If he had been able to capitalize on the buzz that he had generated through ’87 with maybe 2 more great years, I think he might have made the HOF on the strength of his peak value even if he’d retired when he couldn’t play every day any more. But as it is, I don’t see early retirement helping his cause.

        • 37
          Mike L says:

          John A, Raines ends up being an interesting example of a player that the Hall may not like very much-one who has a demonstrably superior (and Hall-worthy) peak, but then moves down in performance to a sustained level of useful, maybe B+ player who doesn’t make the magic thresholds. I’m going to be interested to see what happens to Damon, who might get very close to 3000, but isn’t the player Raines was, and certainly didn’t have his peak level.

          • 38
            John Autin says:

            If Damon becomes the 28th modern player with 3,000 hits, he’ll be the first real test of that “magic number” in the sabermetric age. Among that group, he would be:

            — Last in OPS+, 5 points below Brock’s 109, which is the only one below 112.
            — Bottom-5 in both BA and OBP, despite playing in a historically high era for both.
            — The first to get there with less than 3 seasons of 5+ WAR (Damon has 2).
            — The second to get there with less than 6 seasons of 4+ WAR (Damon and Brock have 4).

            I’m not sure just who his constituency will be, beyond the shrinking “magic number” crowd. Certainly, the saber gang is against him, as is the “he never seemed like a HOFer” / “never among the top 10 in the game” crew.

          • 40
            Ed says:

            I’m reasonably certain that we’re safe from Johnny Damon and 3,000 hits. At the rate he’s going, he’ll probably end the season around 2,800, leaving him 200 away. But where’s his next job going to come from? He struggled to find a job coming off a 110 OPS+ season…who’s going to be interested in him coming off a 70 OPS+? (granted he’s hit the ball better of late). Meanwhile, he’s shown what everyone already knew…he should absolutely not be playing the field. I see a VERY limited market for him next year and he may go without a job.

            And if somehow he does manage to get 3,000 hits it’s going to be by hanging on, playing year after year, getting 30-70 hits a year crawling his way to the finish line, doing nothing to help his teams win, only doing what’s necessary to achieve his own personal goals. Not an image that’s likely to get him into the HOF.

          • 41
            PP says:

            I remember the Damon discussion over in BBR, no way he gets to 3000 or in the Hall, though I suppose he could get 20% to 30% of the vote for a few years, it looks like Baines is the player with the most hits (2866) eligible for the Hall and not in it and he topped out at 6.1%, Damon’s better, I suppose, with a higher war for base running and fielding but Baines was his equal or better offensively it looks like

          • 46
            Doug says:

            Another notable hanger-onner, Early Wynn, made the Hall on just his 3rd ballot. Or, at least, it’s said that he hung on just to get that 300th win. The facts are a bit different.

            Wynn went 22-10 in 1959 at age 39, leading the AL in wins, winning the Cy Young and placing 3rd in MVP voting. In 1960, he pitched over 200 innings at 110 ERA+ and was as AS selection. In an injury shortened 1961, an 8-2 record with 112 ERA+. Time finally caught up with him (or so it seemed) in 1962 when, with 8 wins needed to get to 300, he went 7-15 with an 88 ERA+. The claim of hanging on, though, seems like hindsight, as Wynn had been pitching effectively prior to that season. In 1963, he had to wait until mid-season to catch on with Cleveland and finally notch no. 300. But, even then, his form was good – 55.1 IP, 29 K, 15 BB, 161 ERA+.

            To me, the hanger-on label for Wynn is a bit unfair.

          • 47
            Timothy Pea says:

            I think the magic number crowd is only shrinking as it relates to PED users. Damon is a lot more than 3,000 hits if he gets there, which it looks like he won’t. He has 400+ SB and 625 2b and 3b. He is among the greats in runs scored. He has 2 championships and has played well in most of the post season series he’s played in. Damon’s defense is not bad, he has a weak arm. Having said that I would not vote him in if he came up short of 3,000.

          • 51
            Ed says:

            Doug – I would put Lou Brock down as a hanger-on in search of a milestone. After back to back disastrous years (OPS+ of 81 and 46!), he was 100 hits shy of 3,000. He came back for one more year and he did bounce back a bit, getting 123 hits and an OPS+ of 100. On the other hand, his WAR of 0.5 in 120 games suggests that the Cardinals may have been better off letting Lou hang ’em up a bit shy of 3,000.

            Course the ultimate hanger-on is without a doubt Pete Rose. -2.5 WAR his final 7 seasons.

          • 57
            Doug says:

            Ed, I’m with you on Brock and Rose. I always wondered why Rose came back for another season after passing Cobb. Only thing I can think of is wanting to get to 200 SB. Seriously. He finished with 198 after 3 SB and no CS as a 45 year-old. Brock probably benefited from as much or more focus (deservedly) on Yaz reaching 3000 at almost the same time – Brock slipped under the radar in terms of his chase seeming a little pathetic. When he retired, it was like “Oh look, he also had 3000 hits! How can he not be a HOFer?”.

            I’ll add Perez to the list. But, it sure worked for him. The teflon man – no price paid for hanging on for 5 seasons too many. He debuts on the HOF ballot at 50% and never goes lower. Four years at 50%+, four more at 60%+, and in on his 9th try. His supporters among the voters were evidently faithful, and slowly won over new adherents.

          • 62
            Ed says:

            Here’s what always bothered me about Perez. His supporters made him out to being some sort of clutch hitting savant. (of course we know that wasn’t true, it was the effect of having Rose and Morgan ahead of you in the lineup). Anyway, I never saw anyone point out that Perez was generally horrible in the postseason. Career OPS of .669 in 189 PAs, 135 point below his career average. Shouldn’t we expect more in the post season from a “clutch hitting savant”?

            The other argument that was made in his favor was that he was the “4th best member of the Big Red Machine”. Except by the time they won their two World Series, he wasn’t. Not even close. In 1975, he was tied with Griffey Sr. for 7th in WAR among position players. In 1976, he was 8th.

            And yet I never saw any pushback re: these two points. Everyone just kind of accepted the common wisdom of him being a clutch hitting savant and the 4th best member of the Big Red Machine.

        • 58
          BryanM says:

          John. Thanks for the well reasoned response. I well remember Raines first at bat ( the triple) in 87. I guess I get it, but I don’t like it. If you can hit, depending on your profile, you hit 1, 2, 3 or 4 . If there are 5 guys who were better lead off men than Rock in the history of Baseball, I cannot at the moment think of their names, Rickey , I guess, and um…

          • 59
            BryanM says:

            Oh and ,getting back to your perceptive list of 6 WAR seasons. Rock had 4

      • 44
        Jason Z says:

        Since you brought up the cocaine with Raines, let me add this.

        I attended high school in Palm Beach County from 81-85.
        Raines used to work out with our baseball team before spring training which for the Expos, was then in West Palm Beach.

        Anyway he became friendly with one of the guys on our team and after the 1984 season he showed up at one of our football games.

        I will never forget how hammered he was. Completely out of his mind. Almost incoherent.

        In any event, since he admitted to cocaine use during games, I am sure the writers saw this Tim Raines too. The one whacked out of his mind on drugs. This and the assumption that the cocaine during games probably helped him, especially in the stolen base department, are probably factors that have caused many writers from that era who covered him not to vote him in.

  14. 31
    dannyc says:

    Trammel and Whitaker were very nice players but would you really take them over Winfield Gwynn and most all the others above? I know WAR is a trendy measurement, but if your life depended on a base hit would you want Trams, Whits or Molitor?

    • 33
      John Autin says:

      Re: Gwynn and Molitor —
      What if my life depended not on getting a base hit, but on preventing one? There’s two sides to the game, y’know. Gwynn was a good defensive player in the first half of his career, but then, to be blunt, he got fat, and wasn’t a good fielder or baserunner any more; and in any case, he was a right fielder, not a premium defensive position. Molitor never was a good fielder, to put it kindly.

      Those aren’t trendy measurements, they’re demonstrable facts. If you think of Gwynn as that speedster who stole 56 and scored 119 in 1987, you’re missing half the picture.

      What if my life depended on a home run? Or avoiding a DP? I’m much better off with Tram/aker than Gwynn. His DP rate was much higher than theirs. Those things matter; the game is not settled by base hits alone.

      Lastly, I’ve never campaigned to get Gwynn, Molitor or Winfield removed from the Hall — only to get the appropriate recognition for Whitaker and Trammell.

    • 45
      Jason Z says:

      A friend from high school pitched six years in the majors from 91-95,99.

      I asked him once who was the best hitter he ever faced.

      The answer, without hesitation, was Molitor.

  15. 42
    Bill Johnson says:


    Keep fighting the good fight.

    Do you think Trammel still has any kind of realistic chance with the writers? Hoping the Vets committee remedies both wrongs if not.

    • 49
      John Autin says:

      Bill — Trammell has just 4 years left on the BBWAA ballot, so time is running out.

      He did get a spike to 37% of the vote last year (from a high of 24% the year before). But it took Blyleven 7 ballots to get from 35% to election, and Santo had a spike similar to Trammell’s around his 10th year on the ballot, but then stalled again and never topped 43% from the writers.

      If I had to bet, I’d have to bet against. My one hope is that we are in a period of growing acceptance of metrics beyond the classic counting and dividing stats. In 2005, Bartolo Colon won the AL CYA with a 3.48 ERA thanks to run support, while Johan Santana (the K and WAR champ and a close 2nd in ERA) went begging. Just five years later, Felix Hernandez won the AL award with a 13-12 record. Times are changing, and I think I’ll live to see Trammell (at least) in the Hall. I just don’t know if they’re changing fast enough for the writers to come around.

  16. 43
    Hartvig says:

    John- Sorry for weighing in so late on this since I’m sure you’re aware that this cause is also very near and dear to me as well.

    I can’t even begin to understand that logic behind keeping Trammell and Whitaker out of the HOF. Just look at a list of the 21 shortstops in the Hall of Fame- I would suspect that no one with any baseball knowledge would put Trammell any lower than 11th or 12th on that list and many would rank him 2 or 3 spots higher. He’s better than shortstops that the BBWAA selected almost 60 years ago. He’s better than shortstops the BBWAA selected 40 years ago. He shouldn’t go into the Hall of Fame because Ripken & Yount were better? I’ve got a newsflash for anyone who thinks that: Ripkin and Yount were better than EVERY shortstop who had played in the American League up to that point. I don’t think anyone would rank Trammell as worse than the 6th best shortstop in the history of the AL at the time of his retirement and many would rank him as #3. Even if you include the National League he’s going to be in the top 12 in the overwhelming majority of rankings and I would guess that he’d be top 10 in at least half.

    He’s better than your average Hall of Fame shortstop but he’s not a Hall of Famer. I don’t get it.

    • 48
      dannyc says:

      I just don’t get this, and I have no axe to grind here. They were both nice players but why do we continue to lower the bar for the HOF? Other than playing together for a long time, where’s the beef? In Trammells long career the only offensive stat he ever led the league in was SHs twice and Whits was leading the AL in games played during the 1981 strike year. Hell, the Tigers haven’t even retired their jerseys!

      • 50
        John Autin says:

        dannyc, I don’t mean to be rude, but I honestly think you don’t know what the de facto Hall of Fame standard is. Maybe half the existing HOFers at 2B and SS never led the league in any important stat. What did Joe Gordon lead the league in? Games, twice; strikeouts and GIDP once each (and that was his MVP year). If you doubt me, go look it up.

        If you want to make inroads in this argument, maybe you would look through the list of 124 Hall of Fame hitters that is linked in the post and tell us approximately how many you think belong and which ones, if any, should be out. There is no other way to evaluate a player for the HOF than by comparison to who’s already in there.

        • 53
          no statistician but says:


          I have no ax to grind either. Bill James ranks Trammell ninth at SS in his magnum opus, that’s one point.

          Another: while Trammell was playing as a regular, not being a fan of either, I always thought of him as being more or less on a par with Ripkin. That was before Ripkin turned into the Energizer Bunny, of course, but when I look at their stats through 1990, it’s obvious that Ripkin’s power generated more pizazz, but Trammell nearly matched him in OPS and OPS+ without the HR boost. Both were outstanding glovemen. Ripkin held on longer and made himself into a legend. Trammell, for lack of similar public recognition, is vastly under-appreciated.

          A last point: Boudreau, Reese, and Rizzuto are in the hall, and they were rough contemporaries. Why not Ripkin, Yount, and Trammell?

          • 55
            John Autin says:

            The whole angle about Rikpen and Yount is just silly. There are many examples of contemporary positional trios (or more) making the HOF.

            Willie, Mickey & the Duke.

            First basemen of the 1920s-30s — Sisler, Kelly, Terry, Bottomley, Gehrig, Foxx, Greenberg.

            First basemen of the 1960s-70s — Cepeda, McCovey, Perez.

            Lajoie, Collins, Evers.

            Frisch, Hornsby, Gehringer.

            Herman, Gordon, Doerr.

            Robinson, Schoendienst, Fox.

            Cochrane, Hartnett, Dickey, Ferrell, Lombardi.

            The early shortstops — Davis, Tinker, Wagner, Wallace.

            Bancroft, Sewell, Maranville, Jackson.

            And on and on and on.

            Some will say the point is having all the guys in the same league. I can’t see that. Players aren’t elected to the Hall by league. If there were 3 greats at a position in one league, and none in the other, should the 3rd guy get screwed, while in another era, 2 greats in each league are allowed in? It’s a bunch of nonsense.

      • 52
        John Autin says:

        Further to dannyc —

        Here’s a link to the 36 Hall of Fame middle infielders who (a) had at least 1,500 hits since 1893, and (b) played at least 50% of their games at either SS or 2B:

        If you want to show that leading the league in important offensive categories is one of the de facto standards for a middle infielder to make the HOF, a suggested starting place would be to show that a solid majority of those already in the HOF do have at least a couple of those markers.

        But don’t just give me Hornsby and Wagner and Collins and Morgan. Give me all 36 guys. I hope we agree that PA, AB, SH and SF are not significant positive offensive categories, and obviously SO, CS and GIDP are negative. Let’s focus on the rest — G, R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, BB, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, TB and HBP.

        If you find that several of these guys have no important black ink, I’d be interested to know if you want to boot them out of the Hall, or just put up some kind of warning flag so that folks will know they were mistaken selections who shouldn’t be considered as part of the HOF standard for evaluating future candidates.

        • 54
          dannyc says:

          2/3’s of those guys began play before the color line was broken and the ones that came after with the exception of old 42 himself each had a minimum of 2340 hits with the exception if Maz(who you can argue doesn’t belong)and OBTW Joe Gordon at least won an MVP. Did Tram or Whit win an MVP? Again, I have no axes to grind here but there is a reason these guys haven’t passed muster for 11 years running. It is the HOF not the hall of very good.

          • 56
            John Autin says:

            I don’t care about your axe, but call back when you have an actual coherent argument. Your points are all over the place.

      • 61
        Hartvig says:

        “They were both nice players but why do we continue to lower the bar for the HOF?”

        Seriously? Lower the bar? There are 21 shortstops ALREADY in the Hall of Fame. I’m willing to bet that over 90% of knowledgable baseball people would place Trammell in the top 12 and a majority in the top 10. How exactly does that LOWER the bar?

        The idea that the Hall of Fame should suddenly be limited to guys like Babe Ruth and Willie Mays after 70 years of selecting guys like Tommy McCarthy (1946), Rabbit Maranville (1954), Kiki Cuyler (1968), Jessie Haines (1970), George Kell (1983), Rollie Fingers (1992) and Jim Rice (2009) would be grossly unfair to dozens of far, far more qualified players still on the outside.

        This isn’t an argument that Trammell is better than Travis Jackson or Rabbit Maranville or Joe Tinker. Everyone knows that he was. This is an argument that Trammell is as good as Joe Cronin or Barry Larkin or Luke Appling and maybe even better. How does it make any sense to exclude a player who is exactly as good as your average Hall of Fame level player at his position?

        Whitaker’s argument isn’t quite as strong as Trammell’s because his peak was not as high but he easily fits into the middle 50% of HOF second basemen. Three, maybe 4, rank well above everyone else. Six or seven might be called questionable selections, although only 2 or maybe 3 are clearly poor choices. Of the 10 or so remaining Whitaker probably ranks around seventh or eighth. Not quite right in the middle but close. If your argument is like MikeD’s that peak value is the most important factor then you may have a leg to stand on. But that his selection would somehow diminish the level of quality of players in the Hall of Fame then you are sorely mistaken.

        I understand that just because someone is better than the very worst players in the Hall doesn’t mean that they should be elected too. There are 100 pitchers more qualified than Jessie Haines or Rube Marquard. But when a player is clearly as good as the average Hall of Famer at his position than you had better have a pretty compelling reason for why you are excluding him.

      • 63
        Michael Sullivan says:

        Because shortstops and 2Bs almost never lead the league in offensive stats. They add a lot of their value in the field. Middle infielders who regularly lead the league in offensive stats and are not major defensive liabilities, are not just HoFers, they are inner circle.

        And note, there is something Trammel led his league in a few times: total value, i.e WAR. You can dismiss this as a “new stat” if you want, but what it does is look at all the ways he was very good and add them up.

    • 75
      e pluribus munu says:

      I’ve been working on longwinded comments to add to this string for days, but I keep deleting them because others have said them better.

      I join in agreeing strongly with John. If Trammell & Whitaker were compilers, then it is in the sense that they provided a top quality keystone for an incredibly long time, and the longevity of their productivity is at the core of what makes them rare and famous.

      I think people undervalue both because their fame is joint, and each is pictured as only one half. And it doesn’t help that the infield combo that FPA got into the Hall by writing his jingle is viewed as a cautionary lesson. Personally, I’ve never minded those Cubbies in the Hall – that infield was a key part of baseball history as I learned it, and (thinking of the Joe #68 approach) I told my kids about it. Trammell and Whitaker seem far more worthy of celebration to me. (Little known fact of no significance: their WAR as a duo almost exactly matches the Cub trio’s.)

  17. 64
    Timmy Pea says:

    Darwin Barney = Ryan Braun. I went and looked up the WAR stats for the NL and Barney is tied with Braun, and ahead of Melky?? No way, and an example of why I look at many newstats with a critical eye. I understand Barney has had only 2 errors in the field, but he doesn’t have great range from what I’ve seen and turns the DP average. His 267/308/351 are pretty poor.

  18. 68
    Joe says:

    My rule on who is in the HoF: Who do I want to remember when telling my son about great baseball players of the past. I’m a big stat junky, but I think there is also room for nonstatistical considerations. Alan Tramwell was pretty good, and I personally probably feel he’s at least a borderline HoFer – but I would like to see more in in general. By the limitations of quantity that they currently go with – I think it’s okay not to have compilers, if they’re truly compilers (just long lived players). If they were an exciting player that was worth remembering among the top 10-15 players from their generation, then go for it – but if they were good for a long time but never one of those top-five guys, even for a year or two, then – sorry, not going to get in.

    But then again, there are always ‘stories’. Cal Ripken Jr. might have a hard time breaking the hall’s walls if he hadn’t had The Streak; but he did, and that by itself justifies his inclusion (quality play aside). I don’t like it when people complain about players making it in who aren’t as good but had media attention that led to their inclusion; if they had that media attention, they’re worth remembering. Hall of Fame, guys, not Hall of Good Stats. Baseballreference.com will have them covered in that department 🙂 If Ichiro didn’t make the hall I would be pretty upset; he is not only a very good player for a number of years, but the bellwether of Japanese stars who now make up a significant group of MLB players. (Fortunately his stats also bear out inclusion, so he should be safe… but even if they were a bit weaker, I’d consider him quite famous enough for inclusion. Similarly I’d favor Yao Ming being in the NBA hall of fame.)

    • 70
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      Cal Ripken and The Streak is a very bad example of what distinguishes a HOFer from a non-HOFer. The Streak may be what distinguishes Ripken in the casual baseball fan’s mind, but he has plenty of other HOF credentials.

      If Ripken never had a meaningful consecutive-games streak, but had the exact same records and accomplishments, he’d still be an easy first-ballot HOFer.

      To use a very bad food metaphor, Ripken’s consecutive-games streak of 2632 games is the cherry on top of the cake, rather than the cake itself. Steve Garvey set a record for the NL consecutive-games streak, but I’m not sure how much that helped his HOF case.

      • 72
        Joe says:

        Fair enough. It is somewhat hard to find players who are famous while being good-but-not-great players. The ones who were the most famous, of course, were the ones who did both 🙂 The only others I can think of off the top of my head are sort of like Yao but with even weaker cases (often from shortened careers); Bo Jackson, for example. Clearly an extremely famous player, but such a short career that it’s pretty hard to make any justification for the hall. But do I imagine telling my son about baseball in the 90s without mentioning Bo, and what Bo Knows?

        Maybe Don Mattingly or Minnie Minoso are better examples. Both were very good players, probably close to the statistical requirements for hall entry but not quite in. Mattingly won an MVP, Minoso was in the discussion several times. But both were probably more famous than their statistics demonstrate; Mattingly had the hard luck of playing all of his seasons for the not-quite Yankees in between the Reggie Jackson heyday and the late 90s dynasty, and Minoso was not only a very good player but one of the early Latin players and a great mentor for others through the years. Both were quite well known, and would certainly be in the discussion if you were to describe baseball during their era. In my Hall, both would be in; certainly before folks like Kirby Puckett (who draws both players among his similarity scores, ironically), although he was famous in his own right.

        • 73
          Lawrence Azrin says:

          Thanks for being so magmanimous in acknowledging my point about Ripken.

          I’ll give you a player whose fame surely exceeds his greatness: Roger Maris. Breaking the most hallowed record in MLB history in 1961 certainly made him famous; so did winning back-to-back MVP; so did playing for the Yankees, winners of five pennants in a row 1960-64.

          Unfortunately, that is almost the entirety of his HOF argument. While that may be enough for some people, and he was a great player from 1960 to 1962, his peak isn’t good enough, and his career is just waaay too short. There’s a whole bunch of people in front of him in the “deserves to be in the HOF” line.

          Denny McLain is another example of a similar career arc to Maris (though not as good); very famous for two great years, then several other decent years, and the rest ordinary years in a short career.

          • 74
            Joe says:

            Maris probably wasn’t good or famous long enough to be in, but at the same time it’s hard to say he wasn’t important or famous enough overall. I certainly agree that some statistical excellence must be present, so we don’t have one-hit-wonders; but I’m not sure Maris really qualifies as a one hit wonder. His one hit was pretty darn big, after all (whether or not it was aided by drugs and/or circumstances), and when you consider the surrounding publicity, as well as the movies and whatnot, I’m not sure he doesn’t belong there (as part of my ‘who do you mention as part of the summary of the 1960s’, he’s certainly there). I suppose he’s in the hall in the sense that they list his record, though; maybe that’s sufficient for people like that.

  19. 69
    Bill Johnson says:

    Yao Ming? I was following you right up until that point.

    • 71
      Joe says:

      Yao clearly was defeated by Father Bad Back, but when he was playing full time he was one of the top couple of defenders in the league. But beyond that, he was clearly one of the most famous NBA players during that era; not only in China, but in the US as well, and was personally responsible for creating literally millions of NBA fans. The Rockets will have at least another decade of high Asian fan turnout even if they fail to land Lin or another Chinese(-american) star, and while Yao hasn’t brought quite so many Chinese players along with him as Ichiro did, he certainly introduced the NBA to the possibility of Chinese players. I don’t think you can tell the story of the NBA in the 2000s without including a significant mention of Yao, and that’s why I think he should be in the Hall of Fame (again, not the Hall of Good Stats).

  20. 76
    mosc says:

    The hall is clearly full of people who don’t belong. You don’t have to look at currently eligible players to see that. If you pick the current hall by WAR of players not currently active or on the ballot, you’d lose nearly half the list as it is. Not that I like WAR much mind you. DWAR is still a complete steamer of uselessness for evaluating anything. And we still haven’t the foggiest clue of a catchers value behind the plate IMHO.

    All that said, I wouldn’t consider a guy for the hall unless I thought he was better than most of the guys already in it. If he’s not above the median, he shouldn’t get in.

  21. 77
    Jeff says:

    What is everyone’s opinion on Will “The Thrill” Clark? HOF worthy? Close?

    • 78
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      In a cluster of recent retired first baseman who are worth mentioning, ahead of Wally Joyner and Mark Grace, about even with John Olerud and Don Mattingly, but behind Carlos Delgado, Fred McGriff, and Keith Hernandez, and way behind Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Jeff Bagwell.

      Sorry, he doesn’t quite make the cut. Let’s get Bagwell, McGriff, and Hernandez in before we even consider The Thrill.

      That my quick, from-the-gut listing, without doing any involved direct statistical comparisons.

  22. 79
    Chad says:

    Thanks for the post, John. I’m a lifelong Tiger fan growing up in the great state of Michigan – the World Series win happening when I was 9. I was as fortunate to watch Tram and Sweet Lou growing up as I am to watch Cabrera and Verlander playing in their primes.

    I am a firm believer that both Trammell and Whitaker belong in the hall, based on watching them countless times on TV and several times in person, but even more so based on statistical evidence. While I am displeased with the fact that neither is in, I’m even more upset by the fact that comparable players are not only in, but sailed in on the 1st or 2nd ballot.

    While I will readily admit that Ryne Sandberg had a higher peak than Lou (dominating black ink and grey ink tests), Whitaker was definitely the more steady and consistent of the 2. In most of the counting stats (and no, Lou was not a compiler in my eyes; at age 36 he put up a 3.8 WAR in 119 games, at 37 it was 2.4 in only 92, and at 38 he notched 1.3 in 84) Lou is either ahead or close. Sandberg dominates in steals, and has a nice 38 homer advantage. Whitaker fared better at home (tOPS of 107) than on the road, but not to the extent that Sandberg took advantage of Wrigley (tOPS of 114). Whitaker has the overall advantage in OPS+ of 117-114, thanks largely to his ability to take a walk (436 more walks than Ryno) and his OBP advantage. While Lou has the edge in dWAR, it’s Sandberg who the 9-3 tally in his favor. Whitaker is obviously hurt here by having to compete with Frank White most of his career.

    Whitaker has the edge in WAR, whether you look at bWAR (71.4 to 64.9) or fWAR (74.3-62.6). I’m not saying that Sandberg doesn’t belong in the HOF, but it’s frustrating to see Sandberg inducted on the 3rd try, while Whitaker couldn’t even get 3% of the vote. Obviously, the voters gave Sandberg’s big seasons a much heavier weight than they gave to Whitaker’s consistently stellar play.

    Moving over to the argument for Trammell, the injustice here seems even greater to me that Ozzie Smith was elected with nearly 92% of the vote on the first ballot, while Trammell’s only chance for induction lies with the Veteran’s Committee. It’s great to see his vote totals rise, but with the large number of sure-fire inductees that will soon be on the ballot, his chance of doubling his vote totals to 75% are nil.

    Ozzie’s offensive advantages over Trammell are that he drew more walks and was a much better base stealer. That’s all that I see. Trammell hit for a higher average, got on base more, and slugged quite a bit more than Smith. Trammell registered a 110 OPS+, while Smith lagged in at an 87.

    Smith’s main advantage over Trammell, or virtually anyone else in the history of the game, is in his defensive worth. Ozzie racked up 43.4 dWAR, which ranks #1 in history, and was awarded 13 Gold Gloves for that work. Alan Trammell, meanwhile, had 22.0 dWAR, which is only 33rd in history. Wait, what’s that you say? 33rd in career is really good? Why, yes, yes it is really good. Trammell’s dWAR puts him ahead of such noted glove men as Clete Boyer, Frank White, Dave Concepcion, Graig Nettles, Paul Blair, Willie Mays, and Mike Schmidt, just to name a few.

    The point, of course, is that Trammell was a tremendous fielder, just not on the level of Ozzie. Tram, though, had a pretty sizable advantage with the bat, in my estimation.

    The overall tallies for WAR give Ozzie the edge, partly because he played in 280 more games than Tram. Due to injuries, Trammell was pretty well done as an every day player at age 32. Final verdict: bWAR gives Ozzie the edge, 73-67.1 while fWAR has it closer, with Ozzie coming out on top 70.3 to 69.5

    Again, Ozzie is in the Hall because he was a legendary defender, plus he could do backflips!!! He is deserving of induction, but for him to waltz in with 92% of the vote on his 1st attempt while Trammell is going to have to wait for the Veterans to hopefully do the right thing is completely out of whack.

    • 80
      Chad says:

      “While Lou has the edge in dWAR, it’s Sandberg who the 9-3 tally in his favor. Whitaker is obviously hurt here by having to compete with Frank White most of his career.”

      9-3 edge in Gold Gloves, that should have said.

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