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Why Not Lou?

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A good friend of Stat of the Week, ESPN Chicago radio host Mike Murphy, presented us with a question as to why Lou Whitaker has not been elected to the Hall of Fame when he had better numbers than his recently elected Tigers’ teammate, Alan Trammell. Lou Whitaker hit .276/.363/.426 with 2,369 hits and 244 home runs in 9,967 plate appearances. Trammell hit .285/.352/.415 with 2,365 hits and 185 home runs in 9,376 plate appearances. Whitaker won rookie of the year, was a five-time All-Star, and won three Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. Trammell was a six-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers. He was also named World Series MVP in 1984.

Bill James presented his reconfigured Hall of Fame Monitor in The Bill James Handbook 2018 that was released this past November. The system tracks accomplishments that are more common among Hall of Fame players than among non-Hall of Fame players. It doesn’t determine who should be in the Hall of Fame, but rather how each player’s career stacks up when looking at what Hall of Fame voters may consider to be a Hall of Fame career. By using this system, Whitaker has 65 points and Trammell has 70. Generally, if a player has more than 100 points in the Hall of Fame Monitor by the end of his career, he likely will be selected for the Hall of Fame. If he has less than 100, he likely will not. James defines the range of 70 to 130 as a gray area. By this standard, we see that Trammell was at the lowest point of the gray area and Whitaker was just below. Teammate Jack Morris's recent selection was predicted by the Hall of Fame Monitor with a score of 112.

So, why might it be that Trammell squeaked by in the eyes of the voters whereas Whitaker did not? In looking at the components of the Hall of Fame Monitor calculations, we found that the biggest discrepancy between the two players was in the points awarded for batting average. In seasons with at least 400 plate appearances, Alan Trammell had seven seasons with a batting average greater than or equal to .300, whereas Whitaker achieved this feat only once. Even though their career batting averages were close—only .009 apart—maybe voters were looking more closely at individual season totals.

Here are some other players with similar Hall of Fame Monitor scores to Lou Whitaker who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame:

Player Position HOF Induction Year HOF Monitor Score
Larry Doby* CF 1998 69
Lou Boudreau SS 1970 69
Phil Rizzuto* SS 1994 68
Edd Roush* CF 1962 67
Pee Wee Reese* SS,3B 1984 66
Lloyd Waner* CF 1967 65
Ross Youngs* RF 1972 64
Gabby Hartnett C 1955 63
Bill Mazeroski* 2B 2001 60

*Note: a player with an asterisk next to his name was voted in by the Veteran's Committee.

We can see fellow second baseman, Bill Mazeroski, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001 with five fewer points than Whitaker. His batting line was worse than that of Whitaker, .260/.299/.367. However, he won eight Gold Gloves and was a ten-time All-Star.

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