The amazing thing about the 1984 Detroit Tigers, other than being one of the most dominant start-to finish teams in MLB history after starting 35-5, is that nobody on that squad is a hall of fame player. You start to run through the names and there’s guys who helped a lot but you know aren’t the Hall of Famers. Guys like Dave Rozema, Willie Hernandez, Kirk Gibson, and Chet Lemon. Then there’s the borderline guy, Jack Morris, who at worst is in the Hall of Fame and may have not quite accomplished what it takes. Then there is the two guys you shake your head because you have absolutely no clue why they aren’t in the Hall. Those guys are Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker (he’s a whole different article).
2016 will be Trammell’s last time eligible until the Veterans Committee has the chance to take him on many years down the road. I’m writing this article the night before the results are released, I’d be shocked if he got elected. “Tram” as most Tigers fans call him, only got 20.8% of the vote in 2014. He is easily the most underrated shortstop of all-time at this point.
To make my case, let’s compare Derek Jeter and Alan Trammell first. Now if you look at the stats plainly, Jeter looks better. He edges Trammell in hits, homers, RBIs, average, and OBP. If you dive a bit deeper you discover this though. Jeter played in 454 more games, and over 3,000 more plate appearances. Trammell only got about 75% of the plate appearances that Jeter did, so if both are all-stars, of course the guy with more PAs gets the edge.
From the award and title standpoint (which is one of the least relevant parts, I think), Jeter has an advantage with 5 rings to Trammell’s one, but Jeter also had a lot more help. Neither won an MVP, even though Trammell should have in 1987 and Jeter should have in 2006, as they both lead offensive WAR those seasons. Trammell has 4 Gold Gloves to Jeter’s 5. Jeter has 8 more all-star games, but those lost credibility due to the fan vote. Trammell has a World Series MVP to match Jeter’s ROY.
Let’s look at this from a sabermetrics standpoint. Sometimes this can be hard because sabermetrics half the time are used as predictors for the future, or to analyze what a player needs work on. However, they also measure what a player excels in. OPS+ is a simple concept, it’s like an improved version of OPS and the league average is 100, and you can use it to compare a guy from 1909 to one from 1990 because it takes park factors and such into affect. Jeter has a 115 career OPS+ compared to Trammell’s 110. Also, the seven year peak is a thing that most voters look at. It’s the player’s best span of his career. The JAWS system has been huge in letting us find how good a player’s seven year peak is. Trammell has a JAWS score of 57.5, compared to Jeter’s 57. Also in his career Trammell had a WAR of 44.6 is his best seven seasons compared to Jeter’s 42.2. In fact, in those extra games and plate appearances Jeter has, he only accumulated a career WAR of 71.8, which was only 1.4 higher than Trammell’s career WAR. Also, if you’re a fan of OBP and slugging percentage more than these more sabermetric stats, this article on Deadspin was a really good read. Now, I’m not bashing Jeter, or even saying he’s better, but this discussion is definitely one either side could win, but one guy is a first ballot hall of fame player, and the other is on his 14th try.
Now, for one more comparison. This guy is in the Hall of Fame, and was the shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds in the 90s, Barry Larkin. He was inducted just two years ago, and has similar number to Trammell too. In fact, on Baseball Reference, Trammell’s second similar hitter is Larkin. The similarities between the two are crazy too. Both won a World Series early in their career and were stuck on a bad team near the end. Neither had eye popping numbers, but they were very valuable to their team each season, especially at the shortstop position. Now into the numbers, Trammell has a career 70.4 WAR as we know, Larkin’s is 70.2. The JAWS edge goes to Tram too, 57.5-56.6. Trammell’s WAR in his best seven seasons was 44.6. Larkin’s? 43.1. Trammell was a slightly better hitter and if you look a defense, it’s a bit harder to judge because defensive metrics aren’t as far along yet, but it was pretty even. Looking at all of the numbers though, Trammell looks slightly better than Larkin, but doesn’t get nearly the same amount of love.
Let’s even compare Alan Trammell to the average Hall of Fame shortstop. His WAR is 3.7 higher, WAR7 1.2 better, and JAWS 3.1 better. He’s better than than these guys in the Hall too: Bobby Wallace, Joe Cronin, Lou Bordeau, Pee Wee Reese, Joe Sewell, Hughie Jennings, Joe Tinker, Dave Bancroft, Luis Aparicio, and Phil Rizzuto.
Trammell is a borderline Top 10 shortstop of all-time, and he needs to be treated like one. Guys like Trammell don’t come along too often and he was underappreciated. He didn’t have any glaring weakness out on the field and definitely has the credentials to be in the Hall.