Shortstop Alan Trammell will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the 13th time this season, but against an overloaded ballot, odds of election are stacked against the former Detroit Tigers star this season. He earned just 33.6 percent of the vote last year, down from 36.8 in 2012, and this year Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Mike Mussina join the mix to add more obstacles to Trammell's path to Cooperstown. Still, Trammell's case is much stronger than the voting record might indicate.
Why he's a Hall-of-Famer
In many ways, Trammell is a classic example of the type of player that gets underrated in the Hall of Fame voting process. He is tied with Hall of Famer Barry Larkin for seventh all-time in WAR for shortstops with 70.4, just 1.2 wins behind Yankee legend Derek Jeter, who is almost certain to be inducted on his first ballot. Despite a level of production that easily exceeds the bar set for Hall-of-Fame shortstops, Trammell has maxed out at just 38.6 percent of Hall of Fame votes primarily because he was good at just about everything but never elite in any one area.
His career OPS+ comes in at 110, which is the 17th best rate for any shortstop with at least 3000 plate appearance and just a hair below first-ballot Hall of Famer Cal Ripken who has a 112 wRC+ for his career. During his 1983-1990 peak he averaged an OPS+ of 124, an excellent level of offensive production for any position, but particularly impressive from a shortstop. Trammell didn't post a .300 batting average over his full career, but he topped that mark seven times thanks to a strong combination of patience and contact ability. He walked 9.1 percent walk of the time over his career and struck out just 9.3 percent of the time. He topped 20 home runs just twice in his career, but he averaged 13 per 162 in 20 years in the majors. His highest single season stolen base total is just 30, but he stole 17 bases per 162 games.
On defense, Trammell doesn't have the kind of reputation that has encouraged voters to overlook lesser hitters like Ozzie Smith, but he was firmly above-average there as well. Total Zone credits him with saving five runs per season with his glove, totaling 81 runs saved for the Tigers in his 20 years of service. He also impressed the managers who watched him play regularly, and picked up four Gold Gloves for his efforts.
Trammell lacks the kind of league-leading statistics that make for easy election, but he was clearly well-regarded in his own day. He never won an MVP but he received votes nine times and finished in the top ten in votes four times. He finished first in rWAR in 1987 with 8.3 but finished behind Toronto left fielder George Bell despite a difference of just .004 in OPS between the two players. He came close to a batting title that season as well, but was beat out by Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Paul Molitor.
Why writers won't vote for him
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Apart from the lack of awards and his general absence from the leaderboards, Trammell fails most, if not all of the automatic-election criteria. He doesn't have 3000 hits. His career batting average of .285 isn't close enough to the magic .300 number to push him in. He didn't top even 200 home runs or 300 stolen bases, let alone reaching 500 in either. He won Gold Gloves, but his defense wasn't legendary. For many voters, it is easy to simply look at a him as a strong player who was never truly elite. His WAR suggests that is far from true, but it may take a more detailed look than many voters are willing to grant him to understand his true impact as a player.
The lack of awards and his varied skill set may have hurt him in past votes, but now the biggest obstacle is the competition on the ballot. By Jay Jaffe's JAWS system, which combines career WAR with peak WAR, Trammell ranks 10th on the current ballot. Even if he has a strong case, it is difficult to see where the Trammell contingency is. Voters have failed to see his value 12 times already, and this year's ballot is packed with worthy candidates. Many of them have flashier resumes, and even if voters continue to take a hard line on steroid users, there are many more obvious candidates to pick from.