Trammell, Yount, and the Value of Career Length

Hall of Fame ballots are due at the end of the week, so this time of year, a lot of attention turns to which players belong in Cooperstown. The expectation this year is that Barry Larkin is going to get in, making him the 22nd shortstop (minimum 50% games played at the position) to get enshrined. I’m in full support of Larkin’s induction, and think he’s an excellent candidate who should have gotten in a year ago. But he’s not the only shortstop on the ballot who deserves legitimate consideration.

This year will be Alan Trammell‘s 11th year on the ballot, and given how little momentum he’s garnered since debuting in 2002 (going from 15.7% to just 24.3% last year), he likely has no real chance of getting elected by the BBWAA. Unfortunately for Trammell, he didn’t hit any of the big milestone numbers that make voters take notice, and he excelled in the areas that aren’t generally valued all that highly by the voters. With just 2,315 hits and secondary numbers that aren’t overly exciting, Trammell is generally seen as a Hall of Very Good guy, a quality player who just wasn’t quite great enough to get a plaque in upstate New York.

However, I think Trammell has a better case than is generally accepted, and his candidacy points out why looking at career totals is not the best way to evaluate a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness.

Perhaps the most relevant example to Trammell is Robin Yount, a contemporary who also came up as a shortstop and was elected into the Hall the first year he was eligible. Because Yount had a long career as an everyday player, he ended up with 3,142 career hits, passing the magic line that basically guarantees induction in the Hall of Fame. By traditional counting stats, Yount blows Trammell out of the water – 800 more hits, 70 more home runs, 400 more runs scored, 400 more runs batted in, and 60 more stolen bases.

However, those career totals were essentially garnered through longevity rather than a significant gap in performance when on the field. The numbers get a lot more interesting when you view each player’s peak (arbitrarily defined by me as their 10 best seasons) side by side.

Season Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Fld WAR
1982 Robin Yount 704 0.331 0.379 0.578 0.418 167 8 10.5
1983 Robin Yount 662 0.308 0.383 0.503 0.389 147 -3 6.9
1980 Robin Yount 647 0.293 0.321 0.519 0.373 133 6 6.6
1988 Robin Yount 696 0.306 0.369 0.465 0.371 133 2 6.1
1984 Robin Yount 702 0.298 0.362 0.441 0.359 126 5 5.8
1989 Robin Yount 690 0.318 0.384 0.511 0.400 152 -14 5.8
1981 Robin Yount 411 0.273 0.312 0.419 0.331 116 19 4.8
1978 Robin Yount 545 0.293 0.323 0.428 0.340 113 8 4.6
1987 Robin Yount 723 0.312 0.384 0.479 0.372 125 -14 3.5
1979 Robin Yount 626 0.267 0.308 0.371 0.302 84 8 2.9
Total   6406 0.302 0.356 0.475 0.368 131 25 58

A 131 wRC+ in over 6,400 plate appearances for a player who played an up the middle position is certainly impressive, and Yount’s peak is likely Hall of Fame worthy even if he hadn’t hung on long enough to get 3,000 hits. Now, though, here’s Trammell’s totals from his 10 best seasons.

Season Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Fld WAR
1987 Alan Trammell 668 0.343 0.402 0.551 0.413 156   7.9
1984 Alan Trammell 626 0.314 0.382 0.468 0.378 137 15 7.3
1990 Alan Trammell 637 0.304 0.377 0.449 0.364 129 11 6.5
1986 Alan Trammell 653 0.277 0.347 0.469 0.358 123 8 6.1
1983 Alan Trammell 581 0.319 0.385 0.471 0.386 140 -1 5.9
1988 Alan Trammell 523 0.311 0.373 0.464 0.367 133 6 5.7
1980 Alan Trammell 652 0.300 0.376 0.404 0.349 112 2 4.7
1982 Alan Trammell 556 0.258 0.325 0.395 0.325 100 10 4.2
1981 Alan Trammell 463 0.258 0.342 0.327 0.315 100 15 3.9
1993 Alan Trammell 447 0.329 0.388 0.496 0.388 136 -1 3.8
Total   5806 0.302 0.370 0.452 0.365 127 65 56

The numbers are only slightly worse, primarily due to him possessing a bit less power, but they’re pretty darn close. Trammell’s peak produced 10 seasons with a 127 wRC+, and while he did so in 600 fewer plate appearances, all of his “peak” years came at shortstop, while Yount had moved to center field for two of the seasons we’re counting as part of his best 10 years. In terms of peak value, it’s hard to argue that Yount was substantially better than Trammell.

Yount’s career totals are essentially propped up by how long he played rather than how great he was. In his 10 “non-peak” seasons, he accumulated just +16.9 WAR, but he managed to stay on the field for another 1,388 games, collecting 1,402 of those hits that eventually got him inducted. Meanwhile, Trammell’s 10 non-peak seasons resulted in just 901 games played and 824 hits, despite the fact that he produced a similar +13.4 WAR during those years. Trammell wasn’t actually much worse during his decline years than Yount – he just didn’t play as much, and thus, didn’t rack up the counting numbers that would have gotten him more votes.

When trying to identify Hall of Famers, should we really depend on quantity of playing time beyond the time when a player was actually an impact talent? During Yount’s 10 non-peak seasons, he was a below average hitter (wRC+ of 97) and he was never an excellent defensive outfielder, so the overall package was that of a below average player. Do we really want to say that the difference between a Cooperstown-worthy player and a guy who can only get 25% of the vote is how long he sticks around as a role player?

When trying to balance peak value versus career longevity, I believe we should lean much more heavily on how good a player was in his prime, and far less on how many times he took the field as just another guy in the line-up. While I agree that we want to see sustained greatness for a decent period of time before we consider a player for election, I believe that Trammell’s 10 best seasons clear the bar of reasonable expectation for what a Hall of Famers peak should look like. That he didn’t add on a long stretch of mediocrity shouldn’t diminish his value in our eyes.

In the 20 years that Trammell played, spanning 1977 to 1996, only 11 players accumulated more WAR than the +69.5 mark that he posted. Nine of them are in the Hall of Fame, and one of the two who is not is Barry Bonds. At his best, Trammell was among the very best players in the sport. If the Hall of Fame is for honoring those who excelled at their positions, then Trammell’s career is deserving of induction.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

67 Responses to “Trammell, Yount, and the Value of Career Length”

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  1. olethros says:


    Now compare Lou Whitaker and, say, Ryne Sandberg. Or Robbie Alomar.

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      • olethros says:

        Biggio’s not in the Hall yet, but his chances are one hell of a lot better than Whitaker’s.

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      • TomG says:

        True, but Biggio’s seen as this slam-dunk first-ballot HoFer while Whitaker fell off after one ballot. At his peak, Whitaker was every bit as good as Biggio.

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      • olethros says:

        Agreed, and Biggio is probably more analogous to the principals of this article given the counting stat component, I was just looking at current HOF 2B who were more or less contemporaries of Whitaker.

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      • reillocity says:

        Just some hypotheticals related to Whitaker vs Biggio…

        1. Whitaker plays almost exclusively as a platoon player his final 4 years (87% of PA against RHP), probably helping his club’s overall offensive performance. Biggio plays against all comers his final 4 years in his quest for 3000 hits, probably hurting his club in the process. Don’t the same events boost Whitaker’s offensive performance stats (incl. WAR) while hurting Biggio’s offensive performance stats and ultimately make them more similar offensive performers career-wise? Weren’t Whitaker’s PAs at the end of his run cherry-picked in their own right?

        2. Do you believe that Whitaker was as good defensively as Biggio was bad defensively? A fair portion of their WAR similarity is rooted in how dissimilar the defensive metrics of WAR view them statistically, and many would question the validity of those metrics.

        3. If a righthanded-hitting second baseman (named whatever) and a lefthanded-hitting second baseman (named whatever) post identical Offensive WAR totals over their equally long careers, does this mean that were equally good hitters? I ask because the everyday lefthanded hitter is facing a lefthanded pitcher only in about 33% of his plate appearances, whereas the righthanded hitter is facing a righthanded pitcher in 66% of his plate appearances. As far as I know, metrics like WAR don’t account for the platoon advantage. I’d argue that in the above case that the righthanded hitter is the better hitter in spite of what WAR says.

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      • AA says:

        Actually, I think it is even more impressive when a player who plays one of the RH-dominant positions (C, 2B, SS, 3B) hits left (or switch) instead of being fully dominant.

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    • reillocity says:

      Not saying that I am entirely serious in what I am about to post, but here goes…

      So how does Lou Whitaker morph from a .096 ISO and 102 wRC+ hitter during his 1st 5 full MLB seasons (age 21 to 25, 1978-1982) to a .192 ISO and 134 wRC+ hitter during his final 5 seasons (age 34 to 38, 1991-1995)? How many hitters historically have posted an ISO over their final 5 campaigns that is roughly 2 or more times higher than their ISO in their 1st 5? Can Whitaker’s playing time bias towards being a platoon player at the end of his career alone explain such a dramatic shift? While admittedly I have never seen Lou Whitaker eating lunch with Ken Caminiti, don’t we now inherently suspect anyone who shows such a late career boost in offensive production of being a performance-enhancing drug user?

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  2. Ben says:

    Excellent article. Newer statistics and metrics have allowed us to focus on the contributions of players throughout their careers in newer ways. This article demonstrates that new ability. I agree that the magic numbers (3,000 hits, 500 HR, etc..) that HOF voters look for need to be done away with. Those exclusive clubs include some of the best players ever, but exclude a number of worthy hall of fame caliber players, like Trammell, who deserve more consideration.

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  3. Rob says:

    Dave, how would Lou Whitaker compare? His career was remarkably tied to Trammell’s and as a Tiger fan I can tell you their contributions were also remarkably similar. Trammell should have won an MVP in ’87 so that seems to have elevated him above Whitaker but among 2B’s of his time Whitaker had to be in the top 3 or so.

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  4. Patrick says:

    Another excellent analysis Dave!

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  5. Patrick says:

    There definitely has to be some lower limit to the time factor though. Would we automatically elect a 10 WAR/year player who plays three seasons then tragically commits suicide at the young age of 26 (obviously hypothetical).

    This person would almost certainly not make the HOF. Would he make it if he plays 8 seasons and accumulates 70 WAR? Good chance…

    There is something to be said about longevity but I like Dave’s argument about needing to play games as a role player (instead of impact performer) in order to get hall of fame numbers….as this does not necessarily benefit their team in hall of fame fashion.

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    • Josh says:

      In either of those scenarios you just gave, the player would NOT make the Hall because Hall rules dictate that a player must have been in MLB for at least 10 years (with an exception for Negro League players).

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      • Ian R. says:

        Ah, that’s not necessarily true. There is precedent for considering truly excellent players who passed away before hitting the 10-year threshold for the Hall. One player, Addie Joss, is even in the Hall despite only playing 8 1/2 seasons.

        So in Patrick’s example, the 3-year 30-WAR player probably would not make the Hall. The 8-year 70-WAR player, though, almost certainly would.

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  6. Jeff says:

    I totally agree on Tram and Lou as HOF caliber players. Although, now that Santo is in the HOF, Dale Murphy is the best player not in the hall.

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  7. stan says:

    I agree that Trammell (and Lou for that matter) should have gotten a better shot than they did. However, I do have to take issue with one pet peeve in these HoF debates that is shown here.

    There are two types of players in the hall: Accumulators and Icons. The accumulators are guys like Molitor who are in because they reached a magic number. The Icons are guys like Ripken, who really put a shiver down the spine of opponents, won multiple Cy Youngs/ MVPs.

    Yount is arguably an icon but here it is being assumed that he’s an accumulator. That’s fine. However, if that’s the case then you can’t compare his rate stats over a cherry-picked time period to a guy who’s not an accumulator too. For all we know, if Yount’s career had been nothing but that cherry-picked time period he might not have gotten in either.

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    • Caleb W says:

      I don’t think it is fair to call Cameron’s use of Yount’s best 10 years a “cherry-picked time period.” By selecting the 10 best years, in fact, he ensures that the stats are NOT cherry picked. It’s a fair way of looking at a player’s peak.

      I like the accumulator vs. icon framing, though. The weighing of peak vs. career numbers is the dimension in question here.

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      • stan says:

        Why isn’t 10 years “cherry picking”? The last I checked the HoF was all about measuring a player’s entire career. An examination of anything less than that is “cherry picking”, in my opinion. If Trammel was unable to continue to play as long as Yount (or more likely, was unable to play another position), that counts for something.

        More precisely, my point was about choosing 10 years. If you look over Trammel’s career, choosing that number seems to be the best way to show him in the most favorable light.

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      • Nick44 says:

        The argument is that it is ok to cherry-pick as long as you are picking a player’s 10 best years.

        I guess playing as a below average player for years in your late 30’s and 40’s after performing at a higher level in your 20’s and early 30’s counts for something. It counts for overpaying someone to do something that a younger player could do.

        In my book, that counts as a negative and a bad opportunity cost. It’s the reason why the last couple of years on Pujols contract will be bad even if the whole thing nets out positive.

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      • olethros says:

        The only way that Pujols contract is a net positive for the Angels is if the HOF makes his the only Angels cap in Cooperstown. And even then I doubt it.

        Or if he packs it in sometime around year 7.

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    • Greg says:

      Here’s an additional question on the Yount versus Trammell argument. If Yount had remained a shortstop for his entire career, would he have achieved the career milestones that got him elected to the Hall of Fame? Yount didn’t play one game at shortstop after he turned 29. Trammell’s career was shortened by injuries which began manifesting after he turned 30. Given the demands of playing shortstop versus the outfield, I think it is safe to conclude that Yount was able to play a lot more games and remain productive a lot longer into his 30s because he was no longer playing the far more demanding position of shortstop.

      Who would have thought that the BBWAA would underappreciate the most important position on the diamond aside from the pitcher? And yet each year they pass on Trammell and Larkin. I can comprehend the inanity of giving Morneau or the Texas Ranger flavor of the month underserving MVP awards, and basing the Cy Young Award on wins. But overlooking all-time great shortstops for the Hall of Fame makes no sense at all. Even in Little League, the best players (at least the righthanded ones) play shortstop. Shortstop weeds out players like no other position. If you’re big and have a lively arm, they will stick with you at pitcher. If you have the requisite desire and toughness, you have a shot at catcher, because nobody wants to play that position. But only the strongest survive at shortstop. And yet the BBWAA do not seem to distinguish shortstop from left field.

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      • Robbie G. says:

        I disagree that HOF voters are leaving out very many deserving shortstops. Barry Larkin came relatively close to getting voted in on just his second year on the ballot and is expected to get in during either his third or fourth year on the ballot. After Larkin gets in, how many deserving shortstops are being left out? Alan Trammell is one, Bill Dahlen is another, but who else? Those are the only two, by my count. Further, there are quite a few shortstops who are in the HOF but don’t necessarily deserve the honor (Joe Tinker, Joe Sewell, Hughie Jennings, Dave Bancroft, Travis Jackson, John Ward, Rabbit Maranville).

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    • Joe Bob says:

      That isn’t a ‘cherry picked time period’. It is each player’s ten best seasons of their careers (regardless of when they ocurred). You will see that there are some years missing (’85 and ”86 for Yount, ’85, ’89, ’91, ’92 for Trammell).

      As Caleb pointed out, they are the 10 peak seasons for each, regardless of when they happened. And the numbers in those peak seasons show that the players were pretty comparable–maybe even slightly more impressive for Trammell, who was an everyday shortstop. And the non-peak seasons are very similar too, in terms of production–Yount just has more of them, at a less physically demanding position, which allowed him to reach a Holy Grail number by virtue of longevity.

      And, FWIW, I’m not taking anything away from Yount for playing a long time. Players have long careers because they have some intrinsic vale, whether it be defense, production, versatility, the ability to stay healthy–or a combination of it all.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      We can talk about how it is, but I’m more interested in talking about what should be. And my argument is that we shouldn’t really care about the career totals of “accumulators”. Robin Yount was a really good player for about eight years, an above average one for a few more, and then a mediocre role player for a decade. I don’t see much value in nearly half of his career, nor do I really care about the counting stats he “accumulated” during that phase of his career.

      To me, the Hall of Fame should be about recognizing great players. Yount wasn’t any greater just because he was able to stick around as a bit part for a long time. I’m suggesting that peak value should play a much, much larger role in determining HOF worthiness than career longevity.

      As for whether or not the data was cherry picked, that’s essentially a question of motive. I didn’t actually know what their career totals for their best 10 years were when I ran that query, so I’d argue that the numbers weren’t cherry picked. I determined the criteria before knowing what the conclusion would be – if I had selected data specifically to skew the results towards Trammell, that would be cherry picking. I didn’t do that.

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      • Cecil Cooper's Twin says:

        Why do we look down on accumulators? Obviously, they have some value or they would not be offered a roster spot. Longevity/durability is almost as important, if not more important, than peak value. Yount was better in both areas. That is why he is in the HOF.

        I would like to see Ripken in this analysis as well. He would be better than Yount on the defensive stats and better than Trammell offensively. Yount and Ripken were more reliable and sturdy that is why they are and should be in the Hall.

        I believe that Trammell is HOF worthy based on the position that he played and his relative performance to the other shortstops of his era, but I don’t think he compares favorably to either Yount or Ripken on peak or career value. That is why he should struggle for HOF support.

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      • stan says:

        But Dave, the Hall is what it is. There are players like Yount, Molitor, Sutton, Perry, Brock and Yazstremski who got in solely because they got to a milestone. They’ve chosen to recognize longevity in a way that’s on par with the shorter term excellence you’re citing. I’m kind of with you on the fact that I appreciate those “accumulators” as players less that the guys who were elite for a shorter time and hung it up before they really faded (the icons). However, if we’re going to have an argument about the Hall of Fame, we have to argue about the Hall that exists, not the Hall that you’d like to create. When fangraphs starts its “best 10 years” Hall Trammell can be right there. Maybe if he’d leaned into a high fastball like Puckett, he’d already be there.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        There are no set standards for HOF induction. Historical precedence was set by the opinions of human voters, many of whom placed incorrect values on differing aspects of a player’s performance. I’m sorry, but the status quo is not canon, nor should it be treated like an unchallengeable edict. HOF voters have gotten a lot of choices wrong, and challenging the electorate to think in new and different ways is how many of these mistakes can be corrected.

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    • AA says:

      Um, Ripken was as much of an accumulator as anyone. He was clearly reliant on counting stats (especially H and HR) offensively and, of course, the consecutive games played streak. The place where Ripken actually shined the most was defensively.

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  8. Otter says:

    I think a question that should be seriously considered is should the tail end of guys careers—where they’re clearly not as good and probably hurting the team (ala Ripken’s last five years*)—hurt players HOF chances? And on the flip side, should players who play less near the end because of injuries be penalized (assuming the skill set hasn’t been greatly damaged)? And then finally how much is consistency valued?

    So… should Jeter be penalized for the last two years? Should Trammell get credit for being injured so often those last nine years? Should we place more value on Jeter’s consistency, especially when comparing him to the other three?

    *We could extend this to the last 10 years of Ripken’s career if we start questing some of those crazy Fld numbers he was racking up.

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    • Al Dimond says:

      One approach within the WAR framework that I’ve seen suggested is to take some number (maybe around a league-average starter’s single-season production), subtract it from each season’s WAR total, and disregard any season that comes out below zero. Rather than penalizing or rewarding players for below-average seasons, this formula just disregards those seasons.

      The formula is not the One Great Number of HoF-worthiness — I don’t think one can exist. I think it’s a fine way to objectively measure a player’s excellence, at least as far as you trust the player’s single-season WAR totals, which is different than trusting career WAR totals (especially as regards defensive metrics, especially for players with a lot of seasons within a few WAR of average). If you believe the difference between average and replacement-level in a player’s long-tail seasons has real importance to his HoF case, this formula is not quite right for you. If you think that difference is important but less important than the difference between average and excellence in the peak, you might want a formula whose derivative is something other than a step function. You’d have to tune a formula based on single-season WAR numbers to your own ideas.

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  9. JayT says:

    Great article Dave. I’ve been saying pretty much this same thing to anyone that would listen for the last 20 years.

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  10. Drew says:

    Maybe we should throw WPA into the equation over the “non-peak” years.
    Bottom line, though, is there has to be a cut off somewhere. Like Dave said, if the difference between the HOF and 25% of the vote is how long you stick around as a role player, then that makes sense to me. Role player years vs. no player years isn’t even arguable. It’s some WAR value vs. zero WAR.

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  11. Pig.Pen says:

    I agree and so does Will Clark.

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  12. Socrates says:

    Don Mattingly had 45 WAR in his top 10 seasons. Obviously, that is clearly inferior to Yount and Trammell.

    You just have to love a guy though that has a career K% of 5.8%. Unfortunately his career was sabotaged by injury. Of course, that happened right at the same time that other guys where choosing to extend their careers with steroids. Ironically, he would probably be in the HOF if he had chosen that route.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      Steroids fix a broken back?

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    • goblue says:

      Yes Don Mattingly was the only one who had injuries and yes he would not have had injuries if he had used steroids which he did not and we know this because he had injuries.

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  13. Jon L. says:

    I would agree that the Hall of Fame overvalues accumulators, but there is also great value in a player that can stay on the field and avoid injury. It may not show up in WAR, but the dependability of a player that plays 150+ games adds value by increasing the team’s roster flexibility. Over his 20-year career, Yount averaged 143 games and 612 plate appearances. It’s not quite fair to try to do this with Trammell, but for the sake of making a point, his 20 seasons average 115 games and 469 plate appearances. Another way of looking at it is that Yount filled a premium defensive position for a complete game for his team for 2427 times, Trammell, just 1940 times. Throw in your own analysis that Yount was worth a little bit more during his peak seasons, and a little more in his non-peak seasons, and we can all agree: Robin Yount was a better candidate for the Hall of Fame than Alan Trammell. The gap in their voting support probably exceeds the gap in their performances, but that’s what 2 MVP awards (as well as those 3,400 hits) will do for you.

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  14. Brad says:

    Who is the other one (besides Bonds)?

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    • matt w says:

      Ninja’d! But you saved me from triple-posting with my answer: It’s his double-play partner, Lou Whitaker.

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      • reillocity says:

        Whitaker also shares a commonality with Bonds in that each posted much higher slugging and power numbers over their final handful of seasons than in their first handful of seasons. Whitaker’s early vs late differences are even more dramatic than Bonds’ in terms of ISO.

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  15. matt w says:

    Who’s the one who isn’t Barry Bonds?

    Also, if you’re counting only WAR accumulated from 1977 to 1996, obviously that comparison’s going to favor Trammell, since it catches all of his active years and will miss some active years for most of the comparison class (and catch some inactive years, too). Bonds accumulated 82.9 WAR during that time, if my math is correct — but that’s because he didn’t start playing until 1986. His real value is a lot more than that, and if we want a fair comparison we should probably look at the career WAR totals of people who overlapped with Trammell for ten years, or something like that.

    Not that I disagree that Trammell should be in.

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  16. BoSoxFan says:

    by the way this is Dave’s 1400th post. Congratulations to Dave

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  17. It’s also possible that accumulates were on the roster because they were close to milestones.

    Is a GM really going to release Robin Yount when he has 2850 hits and 3000 gets him into the HoF? Not if that GM cares about his legacy, and I doubt owners would appreciate the act as well. Having HoF players in your org ups the prestige.

    In the past, players have been better off being really good at one or two aspects rather than being above average in many. That’s where metrics like WAR can show that a guy that is good at many facets can be more valuable than a guy that’s dominant in one.

    I’m 50/50 on DET’s DP combo. I prefer peak to everything else. In the past it seems that quite a few guys became institutions where they “eearned the right” to decide when they would relinquish their starting role. I don’t think the same situation exists today. A few decades ago Pujolscould have named his price and StL would have been obligated to sign him. A couple of decades before that, the team would have named the price and he’d accept it or not play.

    The accumulator or team icon aspect became an unwritten rule, so to speak. I agree with throwing out seasons that are below a certain level.

    For HoF voting I also favor WAA, or other measures that show just how dominant a player was among his peers. Did the player dominate his position during the years that he played?

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  18. The Nicker says:

    First off, amen.

    Second, a short way to do this would be to just recalculate WAR above 3.0 for each season. If it’s below 3 it doesn’t count against the player but rather just rounded to 0. This would be a quick and dirty way to look at greatness.

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  19. Adam S says:

    Robin Yount was a really good player for about eight years, an above average one for a few more, and then a mediocre role player for a decade.

    That’s not really fair or accurate. His 9th to 15th best seasons were 2 WAR or better, which is league average as I understand it. That’s 4 or 5 years as a decent contributor and 2-3 years as a league average player. He only had 5 years I’d describe as “mediocre role player”.

    The problem I have with Trammell as HoF is much of his value is based on the +75 fielding runs that FanGraphs WAR gives him. BPs data shows him -25 fielding runs. That’s 100 runs different over his career and 10 wins is probably the difference between good case and very good not Hall of Fame player. Maybe I just don’t understand the numbers, but it suggests to me we really don’t know how to measure his defensive value.

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  20. Brian S. says:

    Derek Jeter will be another ‘accumulate by sticking around forever’ hall of famer won’t he? His prime isn’t all that impressive.

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  21. Chris Cody says:

    It’s not so much that Yount hung on long, he started early, he played 107 games as an 18 yr old. Then played full seasons after that. Now Trammel was 20 when he had his first full season but that is young compared to most players. Has anyone looked at whether attending college cost a player enough seasons to keep him out of the HOF number range? Just a thought.

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    • It should also be pointed out that in Trammell’s worst three seasons, he “accumulated” -1.7 WAR (two negatives and a 0). In Yount’s worse three seasons he accumulated 2.4 WAR (never had a 0 or worse season).

      Between these two players, it’s Trammel whose teamed suffered for his accumilation of stats time, not Yount.

      To answer overriding question: Should the Hall of Fame just focus on a player at his best? My answer is “no”. It should focus on the entirity of their career. You should have a great peak, and a long career. That’s how you accumulate “fame”.

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  22. Chris Cody says:

    I was wondering why Yount won the MVP in 89, the only thing he led the league in was MVP votes; well nobody really had a great year, Henderson and Boggs led the way in WAR but it was far from their best seasons. I guess someone has to get it. It would have been a good year for McGriff to get it, and that may have put him over the edge to be a HOFer with a MVP award.
    Speaking of Trammel on this post, him getting robbed of the MVP in 87 may have cost him the HOF, he would probably have gotten more traction with the award under his belt.

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    • Robin Yount played center field and had 103 RBI’s. Henderson and Boggs combined for 111 RBI’s, and McGriff didn’t crack 100, all from corner positions. Keep in mind that in the 80’s and 90’s sports writers didn’t even consider walks an important stat, it was more of a curiousity. Writers basically looked at RBI’s, home runs, stolen bases and how your team finished in the standings.

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      • RandalS says:

        Actually, Yount wasn’t a bad pick in 1989. Rickey Henderson was the best position player by a wide margin, but was traded midseason … pretty much the kiss of death for an MVP candidate.
        Otherwise, he had about the best offensive numbers (including offensive WAR first, OPS third, adjusted OPS third) of a group of players including Boggs, McGriff, Ruben Sierra, Glenn Davis, Paul Molitor and Julio Franco … all corner hitters and none known for their defensive prowess, in an era before advanced defensive stats were even available. And in addition to 100 RBI, he also scored 100 runs. I know counting stats are passe, but 200 runs are 200 runs. Oh yeah, and it wasn’t a winning team, so that argument falls down. Henderson or McGriff look better in 20/20 hindsight, but Yount wasn’t a BAD pick.

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  23. Drew says:

    Yeah the ’87 MVP voting was the worst ever, actually.

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  24. Jim in NC says:

    “players like … Yazstremski [sic] who got in solely because they got to a milestone”? Not true! Yastrzemski (the z comes later in the name) had a great peak, with batting titles, the last triple crown and the MVP in 67, 40 hrs 3 of 4 years 67-70, 7 gold gloves, a willingness to play hurt, and the kind of high obp (398 from ages 23-34) that we didn’t appreciate enough at the time. He was also in the top 20 for MVP 13 times.

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    • stan says:

      Oh come on. Look at his entire career. He had a great four year peak which you cited but aside from that he wasn’t special at all. He never even had 30 homers again outside of his peak, never hit for a high average again. Outside of that peak he’s Mike Greenwell-lite.

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  25. Jim in NC says:

    Trammell’s stats do look a lot like those of Derek Jeter (70.4 WAR in 17 seasons so far–if in using BBReference I’m using the same WAR). Trammell falls just a little short of him in most offensive categories, but was a better SS. Both had a final offensive splurge at age 35 after a decline, and if Jeter puts up another couple of mediocre to poor years, they will look even more alike.

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    • Jim in NC says:

      oops, of course BBRef WAR is not what you were using; by BBREf Trammell is 66.9 and so lower than Jeter by more. Need more caffeine.

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  26. El Jefe says:

    If Trammell gets in then so does Dewey.

    He was the best offensive player in the AL during the ’80s.

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  27. AJS says:

    Dave, I think one thing you’re ignoring is that HOF voting isn’t linear, and that voters are individual actors who often think alike.

    You seem to be making the case that just a few WAR shouldn’t be the difference between 75% of the vote and 25% of the vote — and it seems like you’d be okay with it if Trammell didn’t ultimately make the Hall but got, say, 65% of the vote.

    But it’s not like guys with 90 WAR deserve 90% of the vote, guys with 80 WAR deserve 80% of the vote, and so on, with the line for HOF induction set at 75 WAR (and 75% of the vote). Individual voters cast individual ballots, and they obviously draw a line somewhere on who deserves entry to the Hall and who doesn’t.

    If Yount — who you seem to admit is slightly better than Trammell — comes just above this line for most voters, he’ll get his 75%. If Trammel comes just below this line for most voters, he’ll get 25%. Individual voters don’t get to make the gradations that we do; they don’t get to give a guy 50% of the vote. In other words, HOF voting is Rotten Tomatoes (a simple Fresh or Not Fresh), not Metacritic (a nuanced analysis of all the reviews)

    Recent voting history seems to bear this out. The last player to be knocked off the ballot after 15 years while garnering more than even 40% of the vote was Ron Santo, in 1998. That means it’s generally pretty clear-cut for most voters who is in and who is out. Guys are either above the line, and they get a vote, or below the line, and they don’t. That’s the simple reason Yount is in and Trammell is out — and it would hold true even if we’re only looking at their career peaks.

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  28. Sailor Sam says:

    The Hall of Fame is such a special place. I would hope that the entry qualifications are not watered down by manipulating numbers for canidates who would otherwise not be considered.

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  29. Will says:

    10 peak seasons – WAR

    Yount – 58
    Trammell – 56
    Ripken – 72


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  30. John says:

    So the argument against cherry-picking is that we should look at the entire career?

    But in reality, cherry picking is looking at more of the “entire career” then simply the end result, is it not?

    Great article, and I agree.

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  31. RandalS says:

    The problem with this argument is that it doesn’t address the reality of their careers. Yount only had three years of decline at the end of his career before he retired: In 1989, at 33, he had a WAR of 5.7 and won the MVP. The year before that, he was a 5.5 WAR. Then he ran out the string with WARs of 2.9, 1.2, 2.3 and 2.6. He was also the everyday centerfielder, never playing fewer than 117 games in the field through this stretch.
    His other extended spell of mediocrity came in the first four years of his career, with WARs of 1.1, 0.1, 1.0, 2.6 before “finally” having a big year of 4.4 … at the age of 22.
    Trammell’s early career WAR starts a year later, at 19: -0.6, 2.6, 0.7.
    So Yount has an advantage of 2.1 WAR before Trammell even gets started. Hard to penalize a guy for being able to break in at 18, although the OP characterizes this as just “staying on the field.”
    The big difference is the tail end of the career. Trammell’s last “big” year was at 32, with a WAR of 6.8; then he went 3.0, 0.9, 4.4, -0.2, 0.7, -1.1.
    And in his last 5 years, he never played more than 63 games at SS; only once did he play more than 100 games in the field.
    So who hung on? The guy who played everyday CF and retired with a final season WAR of 2.6 or the guy who sat on the bench, pinch-hit, and finished up -0.2, 0.7, -1.1?
    I like Trammell, a lot. But trying to prove he belongs in the Hall by belittling parts of Yount’s career is misguided.

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  32. Harv says:

    Totally agree that Trammell should be in the HOF

    But Randal nails it on the uninformed comments surrounding Yount.

    The guy played at 18 because he was the organization’s best option at SS. The previous guy was Tim Johnson who stunk. Yount then evolved into a MVP topping at an amazing 11 WAR season in 1982. He tore up his shoulder which required not only learning a new position but adjusting his hitting style. Yount was the early adopter of the opposite field HR as he could not pull like he could in the past. Yount was very good thru 1989 and after his bat refused to bounce back after several frustrating seasons he retired at age 37. He would have retired after 1991 but management begged him to stay so they could pick up some bucks on a valedictory tour.

    Yount had almost no interest in stats. When the game stopped being fun he said goodbye.

    The Brewers were ready to pay him just to be on the bench and play on Sundays.

    Role player and accumulator tags are complete horsesh&t

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  33. Garrett says:

    Longevity is a skill. Health and injury prevention is something that the lazy player (Griffey) doesn’t address and shows up when compared to a more diligent and hard working contemporary (Bonds).

    I don’t see why we should diminish the accomplishments of someone who cares about their craft to perform it at a high level for an extended period of time.

    Also, if we wanna compare peaks we shouldn’t use arbitrary years. We should use a measurement such as Wins Above Top 10% or something similar. Using years is just as absurd.

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