Alan Trammell should be in the Hall of Fame.
Detroit Tigers fans have been singing this song for over 15 years, rallying behind their longtime shortstop despite year after year of missing the cut until he was no longer on the ballot.
But the case was there.
Now, thanks to the Era Committee’s Modern Baseball vote, Trammell has another chance to have his case reviewed.
By The Numbers
For the purists who prefer traditional stats, Trammell posted a highly respectable career line of .285/.352/.415, notching 2,365 hits while driving in 1,003 runs and scoring 1,231 runs of his own. He exhibited an impeccable eye at the plate, drawing 850 career walks against 874 strikeouts (9.1 percent walk rate, 9.4 percent strikeout rate), never whiffing more than 71 times in a single season. For those not satisfied by the statistics of yesteryear, Trammell also registered very solid advanced numbers, including a .298 BABIP and .343 wOBA, as well as 111 wRC+. He was valued at 62.5 offensive wins above replacement based on his numbers.
In 2,139 games at shortstop Trammell posted a .977 career fielding percentage, making 227 career errors in 9,790 career chances. On the side of sabermetrics Trammell also posted very respectable numbers, including a career 4.71 range factor per nine innings. He also registered 81 total zone runs above average and an overall value of 22 defensive wins above replacement.
Overall for his career, with both offense and defense considered, Trammell comes in at 70.4 wins above replacement, 62nd all-time among all position players.
In the hardware department Trammell is the proud owner of four Gold Gloves, three Silver Slugger awards, a second place finish in the 1987 MVP vote, the 1984 World Series MVP award, and is a six-time All-Star.
Trammell faces a smaller field of competition this time around, being one of just ten names on the ballot. Besides Tram, the rest of the group is as follows:
Marvin Miller (non-player)
Looking from an analytical standpoint, Trammell can be viewed as the valedictorian of the class. He has the highest WAR value of any player on this list. He does just as well when viewing each players’ career through the lens of Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, which assigns points for various statistical accomplishments and awards to create a kind of scoring system for Hall of Fame voting. The JAWS system allows for comparisons between players and those already enshrined in Cooperstown at the same position.
Trammell registers a JAWS score of 57.5, nearly three points higher than the Hall of Fame average. The next highest on the list? Tiant’s 55.6, which is still 6.5 points lower than the Hall of Fame average for starting pitchers. Trammell is the only name on the ballot that comes out on top of the Hall of Fame JAWS score at his position. The next closest? Simmons, who finishes just 1.5 points lower than the Hall of Fame average for catchers.
The JAWS score is by no means the be-all, end-all of Hall of Fame determination, but it has become something of a standard in the industry over the past decade. Some alternate methods of Hall of Fame measurement can be found here.
Trammell is the only player on the ballot whose career WAR and 7-year peak WAR also exceed Hall of Fame averages. Also promising is the increase in Trammell’s support on the regular ballot as time went on. He drew upwards of 20% of the vote in each of his last seven years of eligibility, including a high mark of 40.9% in his final campaign for the 2016 class.
But, by no means does he face light competition. When it comes to traditional numbers the rest of the group is able to hang with Trammell quite comfortably. And as we’ve seen via the exclusion of Lou Whitaker from the ballot, the committee doesn’t seem disposed to revisit players of that era through a modern lens.
Garvey didn’t post a .294 average and nearly 2,600 hits by swinging and hoping something happens. Tommy John didn’t win 288 games due to luck — though an innovative surgeon was certainly helpful, if not essential. Morris doesn’t strike out nearly 2,500 batters and win the World Series with three different teams because he was in the right place at the right time. Trammell is up against some very good players. More importantly, for these purposes, reputation during their playing days may still play a primary role over statistics in how the committee decides to vote on these 10 players.
However, with a resumé that reads like one who should already be in Cooperstown, Trammell’s case is as good, if not better, than ever. The legendary Tigers shortstop stands head and shoulders above the pack in career numbers from a variety of perspectives The rest lies in the hands of the voters, who we all hope will finally do the right thing, and give one of the greatest shortstops in baseball history his rightful place among the game’s elite.