Alan Trammell is the Detroit Tiger who most deserves a plaque in the Hall of Fame. He certainly isn't the most likely one to get that plaque. (Jack Morris is at over 50% which indicates that he'll probably make it in). In fact, I'd argue the opposite. At 22.4% of the vote, he's got a ways to go to get to 75%, and Trammell never seems to have any momentum? So why does Trammell deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame, and why won't he get it?
First, let's go to the indispensable Joe Posnanski, who has this to say about the archetypical Hall of Fame shortstop:
Of the 14 shortstops who were inducted into the Hall of Fame when Alan Trammell played (15 if you count Ernie Banks*), six of them were below average hitters by OPS+. Another couple were barely above average. I'd say the only two great-hitting shortstops in the Hall of Fame then (again, not counting Banks) were Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughan, and the first played in the Deadball Era, the second was so wildly under-appreciated that the writers never even gave him one third of their vote.
So it seems [a] great shortstop was expected to field the hell out of the ball, take some kind of leadership role and offer some value offensively, perhaps by stealing bases. But around the time when Alan Trammell was ending his classic great shortstop career, the rules had begun to change.
We'll get to the rules change and more below the jump.
Posnanski mentions a change in the unofficial rules of what a shortstop was expected to do, and what he meant was that shortstops have become more offensively oriented. In the past, a Hall of Fame shortstop would look more like Adam Everett than Derek Jeter. As we know, it was players like Ripken and Jeter that broke the mold. Let's see how some of these offensively oriented shortstops compare to Trammell.
Alex Rodriguez: .303/.387/.571, 613 HR, 2672 H, 101.9 career WAR (Baseball Reference)
Derek Jeter: .314/.385/.452, 234 HR, 2926 H, 70.1 career WAR (Baseball Reference)
Cal Ripken Jr: .276/.340/.447, 431 HR, 3184 H, 89.9 career WAR (Baseball Reference)
Barry Larkin: .295/.371/.444, 198 HR, 2340 H, 68.9 career WAR (Baseball Reference)
Nomar Garciaparra: .313/.361/.521, 229 HR, 1747 H, 42.6 career WAR (Baseball Reference)
Alan Trammell: .285/.352/.415, 185 HR, 2365 H, 66.9 career WAR (Baseball Reference)
For the most part, they blow him away. Tram beats Garciaparra in hits and career WAR, but his rate stats are much higher. Garciaparra isn't a Hall of Famer, so it's an unfair comparison. The most amusing fact? Tram beats Cal Ripken's batting average and OBP by roughly 10 points over their respective careers. It is quite interesting to note that Trammell's numbers can at least hang alongside Ripken's respectively.
What does this mean? Trammell is clearly not as good offensively with Rodriguez, Jeter and Ripken, three clear Hall of Fame shortstops, and Larkin beats him soundly as well. But it is important to remember that these four started their careers much later than Trammel: Larkin started his career in 1986, 9 years after Alan Trammell: Trammell should have won an MVP the next year and was two years removed from a World Series MVP award. The heart of Trammel's career was spent in the low-offense 1980s, where shortstops were not expected to hammer the ball. Trammell is a shortstop from another period, and so the modern "slugging shortstop" should not be the player we compare him to.
Instead of looking at just players from the 1990s, let us now turn to all shortstops. Posnanski notes that great shortstops before 1990 field the ball well, provide some value offensively and serve as leaders on their teams. There should be no question of Trammell's leadership capabilities: he was an undisputed leader of the mid-80s Tigers. He also was known for having a capable, above average glove, though it was nowhere as flashy as players like Ozzie Smith's. Offensively, he was more than capable (as demonstrated above: he at least hangs with Larkin and Ripken in batting average and OBP). He also had a reputation as a good base-runner.
As for overall numbers, Trammell was the 96th most valuable position player of all time and 16th best shortstop by Fangraphs WAR. He was the 72nd best position player and 11th best shortstop by Baseball Reference WAR. He was 15th all time in career batting average among shortstops, 16th all time in career on base percentage among shortstops and 12th in career slugging among shortstops. By OPS, Trammell was 13th.
The reason Trammell isn't in the Hall of Fame? Despite being very good, he was never the best at anything. Ripken was better with the stick, Smith was better with the glove. He may not have even the best middle infielder on his own team (though if any sportswriters even think of daring to use that argument I think Tigers fans will riot). His timing was pretty horrible too, considering that he decided to debut on the ballot in the era he did. It's 1987 for Trammell all over again: despite deserving a reward for stellar performance, he'll have to settle for appreciation by a select few.
Unfortunately, much like 1987, Alan Trammell deserves more than appreciation. Alan Trammell belongs in the Hall of Fame.