Whitaker and Trammell, Trammell and Whitaker. The two names are synonymous. They came up together in the Tiger organization and occupied the middle infield for the Tigers for two decades, from 1977 to 1995. They remain the longest tenured double play duo to play for the same team together in major league baseball history.
Whitaker was selected by the Tigers in the fifth round of the 1975 amateur player draft out of Martinsville High School in Virginia. He and Trammell were called up to the majors in September of 1977. They made their debut together on September 9th against the Boston Red Sox and they never looked back.
Whitaker was the American League's Rookie of the Year as the Tigers starting second baseman in 1978, hitting .285/.361/.357/.718 with three home runs, 58 RBI, and seven steals. He followed that by hitting .286/.395/.378/.774 with 20 steals in his sophomore season. He would never reach the 20 stolen base mark again, but he developed quite a bit more power.
In 1985, Whitaker set a record for Tiger second basemen with 21 home runs. In 1986, he was a member of a Detroit infield in which every member hit at least 20 home runs. He hit 20 or more home runs four times in his career, including 28 in 1986. In 1992, he recorded his 2,000th hit and his 200th home run.
By the time he was done, Whitaker compiled a career batting line of .276/.363/.426/.789 with 244 home runs, over 1,000 RBI, 1,386 runs scored, and 2,369 hits. He made five All-Star teams, won four Silver Slugger awards, and three Gold Gloves.
Both Trammell and Whitaker deserve to be in baseball's Hall of Fame based on the numbers that they put up by comparison with others in the hall at their respective positions. Both have better numbers than half of the others at their position who are in the Hall of Fame. Sabermetrics, ancient metrics, take your pick. They belong, period.
Here is where Whitaker ranks among second basemen who are in the Hall:
*Only Ryne Sandberg had a better career fielding pct than Sweet Lou among HOF 2nd basemen.
**Only Bill Mazeroski and Nellie Fox turned more double plays than Whitaker and Trammell.
Among the all-time Tiger greats, here are some of Whitaker's rankings.
|RE24 (situational hitting)||4th||283.7|
|Win probability added (WPA)||4th||192|
Whitaker did not receive enough votes in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame to be on the ballot in the second year. The voters completely whiffed on that one, but there is a good chance that the Veterans committee will take a look at both Whitaker and Trammell and do them justice by putting them in the Hall.
Bill James named Whitaker the 13th best second baseman of all-time.