The BBWAA Project: Shortstop
|Joe Posnanski||Jan 15, 2013|
Here is a little introduction to The BBWAA Project, if you are interested.
Now, we're talking shortstops.
Eleven shortstops have been voted in by the BBWAA, five of those on the first ballot (Ernie Banks, Cal Ripken, Ozzie Smith, Honus Wagner, Robin Yount).
Median career value: 68.5 WAR (High: Wagner 126.2; Low: Rabbit Maranville 39.4)
25th percentile career value: 60.5 WAR.
Median peak value: 41.8 WAR (High: Wagner 64.1; Low: Maranville 28.8)
25th percentile peak value: 41.1 WAR
Here are the BBWAA Hall of Famers as ranked by fans on Baseball Reference's EloRater:
No. 3: Honus Wagner
No. 17: Cal Ripken
No. 53: Robin Yount
No. 59: Ernie Banks
No. 72: Luke Appling
No. 82: Joe Cronin
No. 87: Barry Larkin
No. 93: Ozzie Smith
No. 144: Lou Boudreau
No. 166: Luis Aparicio
No. 356: Rabbit Maranville
Well, yes, Maranville is kind of an outlier. He was a little guy, good fielder, dreadful hitter who everybody loved. Put it this way -- Maranville finished third in the MVP balloting in 1913 when he hit .247 and slugged .308 (he finished ahead of, among others, Christy Mathewson). The next year, he hit .246, but his slugging jumped up to .326 and so he finished second in the MVP balloting (ahead of the baseball pitching Bill James, who not only went 26-7 with a 1.90 ERA in 332 innings but also hit for a higher average than Maranville).
Over the years, Maranville got MVP votes when he hit .240, .235 and .218. That's how much the Baseball Writers loved the guy. Well, he was by all accounts a defensive marvel at shortstop and he was also a beloved guy, a practical joker, a New York character running a sandlot program in Queens after he retired. He also -- and this is no coincidence -- died just months before the 1954 election. His candidacy was heading toward election anyway, but the emotion of his death pushed him well above the 75%. Hey, this stuff does play a part in the voting too.
The Veterans Committee, meanwhile, has elected eight shortstops to the Hall, and it's a mixed bag. The best of the Veterans Committee inductees is Arky Vaughan, who I think is probably the biggest oversight in BBWAA voting history. Vaughan had a very short career -- he "retired" to his ranch in 1943 at the age of 31 despite leading the league in runs scored … there were reports he was just sick of playing for Leo Durocher. He returned for part time duty after World War II ended, but he only got 297 plate appearances. Even so, he hit .318/.406/453 for his career, posted a 70.5 WAR career and 48.9 WAR peak -- above the median BBWAA standard even now after Cal Ripken and Ozzie Smith and Robin Young. The writer Bill James in 2001 called Vaughan the second best shortstop in baseball history behind Honus Wagner. The EloRater fans have ranked him the 30th best every day player in baseball history. The BBWAA just whiffed on him.
The Veterans Committee voted in 19th-century star George Davis (No. 66) and Pee Wee Reese (No. 85) -- both great players who played big roles in baseball history and are in line with the BBWAA general standards.
But the Veterans voted in: Joe Tinker (No. 258), Phil Rizzuto (No. 245); Travis Jackson (No. 313); Dave Bancroft (No. 216), Joe Sewell (No. 148) and Bobby Wallace (No. 122) … all either borderline or dubious choices depending on your own Hall of Fame standards.
Even with that, the lowest ranked shortstop by EloRater in the Hall of Fame is the BBWAA's Rabbit Maranville.
This year's candidate:
Career: 67.1 WAR (minus 1.4 against median)
Peak: 43.3 WAR (plus 1.5)
Ranking: No. 58
I've said this before and I'll say it again … when you compare Alan Trammell to the Hall of Fame shortstops -- REALLY compare him, and don't just fall back on the "I remember Trammell" recollections -- you realize the guy doesn't just have a Hall of Fame case but plainly belongs in the Hall of Fame. True, he might not strike your gut as a Hall of Famer. Well, your gut hasn't done the comparisons.
No, I shouldn't say that about your gut -- maybe your gut is doing spreadsheets right now. Trammell, by career value and peak value, was basically Barry Larkin who was basically Luke Appling. They did it in very different ways, and people don't think of Trammell that way. I'd say he fails the gut test for the same reason Tim Raines fails the gut test -- he happened to play in an era where his talents were overshadowed -- Raines was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson, and Trammell was double teamed, his excellent offense overshadowed by Cal Ripken and his excellent defense overshadowed by Ozzie Smith.
Here's the thing -- and it's easy to overlook this: The list of shortstops in baseball history who could hit, flash some power, run and field at a high level is very, very short. Heck, before Trammell few shortstops could hit … at all. Luis Aparicio is in the Hall of Fame; he really couldn't hit. Maranville obviously couldn't hit. Ozzie Smith, for much of his amazing career, couldn't hit. Trammell could hit.
Then, there's Ernie Banks, who could REALLY hit but moved to first base halfway through his career. And there's Arky Vaughan, who couldn't get any Hall of Fame support from the BBWAA in part, at least, because they viewed him as a defensive liability. Trammell could field.
Yes, he was a good hitter, had some power, stole some bases, he was a very good fielder, he should have won the MVP award in 1987 and he could have won the MVP award in 1984 if people had paid him closer attention,
It's really this simple: Trammell's career production and excellent peak put him right in line with the BBWAA Hall of Fame standards. So far, though, he has just not gotten the support, and he probably won't … I think he will be seen as a miss by the BBWAA.