All statistical information was taken from Baseball Reference.
Known as one of the best shortstops in Detroit history, Alan Trammell was a Tiger for nearly 20 years and led them to a World Series championship in 1984. He posted a career .285 batting average, a .977 fielding percentage, was a six-time All-Star, a four-time Gold Glove award winner and a three-time Silver Slugger winner.
Detroit Tiger Jack Morris was the winningest pitcher in the 1980’s and a three-time World Series winner. Morris was one of the best big-game pitchers and might be best remembered for his battle with John Smoltz in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
After both staying on the Hall of Fame ballot for the maximum 15 years, Trammell and Morris were moved to the Modern Baseball Era ballot which gives a second chance to players who were not voted into the Hall of Fame on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. They were both two of the best players in the 80’s, but should they be in the Hall of Fame?
If Ozzie is in, Trammell should be too
Known for his backflips and fielding ability, former St. Louis Cardinal Ozzie Smith was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2002. His accomplishments are impressive — a 15-time All-Star, 13-time Gold Glove award winner, a Silver Slugger award winner and a member of the 1982 World Series championship team — but his statistics are nearly identical to Trammell’s. So why was one voted in on his first try and the other not?
A lot of it was the fact that he did backflips when the game started, and people wanted to see it. In 2,573 games, Smith had a slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) of .262/.337/.328. Similarly, Trammell posted a line of .285/.352/.415. In the 1987 season, Trammell hit 28 home runs, which equaled Smith’s career total for that statistic. Yes, they were two different players, but in a decade where players only hit 40 home runs 13 times, Trammell’s power numbers were more valuable to the Tigers than Smith’s speed and defense.
Trammell had three seasons where he scored over 100 runs. In comparison, Smith only had one, which was arguably his best season. From 1980-89, Trammell averaged 81.5 runs per season, whereas Smith averaged 70.3. Although Smith played 280 more games than Trammell, he only had 95 more hits than Trammell in his career. Smith had a career-high 75 RBI’s in 1987, and in that same year, Trammell posted 105 RBI’s. Both finished second in MVP voting, but Trammell has Smith beat out in terms of offensive statistics.
Defensively, both Smith and Trammell were two of the most reliable shortstops of their generation. Smith’s career fielding percentage was .978, and Trammell was just short of that at .977. Smith had significantly more putouts and assists, but he also had over 3,000 more chances and that led to more errors. If Trammell equaled the numbers of Smith in terms of chances, Trammell and Smith would have almost identical statistics. This also shows that Smith played more frequently near the end of his career than Trammell.
Offensively, Trammell was far ahead of Smith. Sure, Smith had more stolen bases and walks, but Trammell’s on-base percentage, slugging percentage and batting average were statistically better. Smith and his Cardinals were in the postseason more often than the Tigers throughout his career, and the case can be made that he was a factor in those postseason runs. However, his appearances in the postseason gave him an opportunity to make a name for himself, something that Trammell didn’t get to do as often. While Smith was nonetheless a great player, if he’s in the Hall of Fame, Trammell should have been in a long, long time ago.
Morris: a borderline battle
Morris is one of the most interesting careers in baseball history. As a pitcher who won 162 games in the 1980’s, he never won a Cy Young award. He won 254 games in his career, but his ERA was 3.90 and his WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) was a tick under 1.3. His ERA and WHIP are cases as to why he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, but as Jim Caple of ESPN wrote in 2014, those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Regarded as one of the fiercest competitors in baseball, Morris was one of the most dependable starters of his era. In his article, Caple pointed to a piece by Tom Verducci who said that Morris threw eight or more innings in more American League games than any other pitcher since the designated hitter era began. While an impressive stat, does Morris add up as a Hall of Famer?
I don’t think so. His individual performances in the postseason will live forever in baseball history, but beyond that, he was simply a very good pitcher, not a great pitcher. The Hall of Fame recognizes those players who were great for a majority of their career, and I don’t think Morris completely fits that bill. All of the reasons that Morris should be in the Hall of Fame are also reasons as to why he should not be.
In his postseason career, Morris was 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA and a 1.245 WHIP. All of these numbers line up with his career statistics. As someone who looks at traditional baseball statistics, 254 wins is above average, but not great. Wins are a controversial topic in baseball because a pitcher can give up seven runs, but if his team leads 12-7 after five innings and they hold the lead, the pitcher who gave up the seven runs would get the win. Morris gave up nearly four runs per game, so his run support throughout his career was pretty good to get 254 wins.
Morris shouldn’t be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but I think he will get in via the Modern Baseball Era ballot. One argument that may compel committee members to vote him in is that he seems like a Hall of Famer. When his name is brought up, people think his career was worthy of the Hall of Fame. Although it’s controversial, I think Morris has a good shot to get in, especially with Trammell, a former teammate on the ‘84 World Series champion Tigers, on the ballot as well.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.