Lou Whitaker Hall of Fame Case

There is once again no baseball today so I wanted to take a moment to break down the atrocity that is Lou Whitaker not being in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Most in Detroit that pay too much attention to baseball (like myself) have been screaming for Alan Trammell and Jack Morris to be in the Hall of Fame (I am actually of the unpopular opinion that Jack Morris is not a HOFer, but lets focus on why Lou is).  But, in HOF voting, if a player does not receive at least 5% of the voting he drops off the ballot.

Lou Whitaker, in his first appearance on the ballot, did not receive 5% of the votes and was removed.  This is insane as by any measure of numbers, Lou Whitaker matches up with any era 2nd baseman.  It is very easy to do a search on Baseball Reference to see that according to WAR, Whitaker is the 5th best 2nd baseman of all time.  6 wins below fellow Tigers Hall of Fame 2nd baseman Charlie Gehringer (4th ranked by WAR) and 26 wins higher than Hall of Fame 2nd baseman Nellie Fox.

It has been beaten to death that Baseball Writers Association is filled with a few too many people that don’t like “advanced stats.”  Which I find hilarious and hypocritical because the game of baseball, FOREVER, has been about numbers.  So I’ll ignore the obvious WAR number and break down more traditional numbers that most writers generally accept.

Here is a quick look at 3 second baseman (hint: one of them is Lou Whitaker, guess which one):

Player Games BA OBP SLG OPS
Player A 2390 0.276 0.363 0.426 0.789
Player B 2164 0.285 0.344 0.452 0.795
Player C 2379 0.300 0.371 0.443 0.814

So, in this sheet, Player C has a higher Batting average, On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage.  HOWEVER, no player, over the course of over 2100 games played, really separated themselves that much from the others.  Player B has the lowest OBP, but highest Slugging percentage, Player A seems to be a touch away from the others as the lowest Batting Average and Slugging percentage, but in OPS, just .06 behind Player B and .25 behind Player A.

Player AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO
Player A 8570 1386 2369 420 65 244 1084 1197 1099
Player B 8385 1318 2386 403 76 282 1061 761 1260
Player C 9073 1508 2724 504 80 210 1134 1032 1140

Here, Player C has the most runs, hits and RBI, Player B has the most HR (explains his higher slugging percentage) but lowest doubles and by far the fewest walks and highest strikeouts.  Player A has the fewest hits, but is 2nd of the three in runs, doubles, home runs, RBI and has way more walks than the others, with the fewest strike outs.

Not in the two charts is stolen bases.  Player A has quite a bit fewer stolen bases than the others, with Player C having 474, B has 344 and A has 143.  But, unless you’re Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Ty Cobb or (the up and coming) Billy Hamilton, who really cares about Stolen Bases?  (HIT SOME DINGERS!!!!)

Another thing that the voters usually look at is awards, post season and defense.  Player A was rated the best defender, with a 15.4 dWAR (defensive ability above a replacement player), Player B was a 12.8 dWAR and Player C was a 2.4 dWAR.  Which is surprising because Player C won 9 gold gloves while Player A only won 3, which would be proof that a lot of post season award voting is silly and arbitrary (especially the Gold Glove, its a f*cking joke).

However, Player A won the Rookie of the Year award, Player B was a MVP and C seem to have the most top 6 finishes in MVP voting and the most All Star games.

However, looking at the stats of these three players, none seem to be head and shoulders above the others.  All played about the same amount of games, over those games they had similar results in the regular season, each leading various categories.  Each player seemed to be valuable to their team and a solid, quality baseball player.  In the post season, one player won 2 World Series, another won 1 (hint: that was Lou Whitaker), the third didn’t win any, so even there, no one really separated themselves from the others.

Many often refer to the Baseball Hall of Fame as the “Hall of FAME, not the Hall of Very Good” and use this to defend the difficulty in getting into it.  This is the category that Lou Whitaker falls into, apparently.  However, if Lou Whitaker was only “very good” and not even good enough to be considered for more than a year, how, by looking at the numbers above, do Ryne Sandberg (aka, Player B) and Roberto Alomar (Player C) get voted in so easily, yet Sweet Lou is left standing by the side of the road?

These are two Hall of Fame players that had careers that overlapped Whitaker’s and for some reason, were favored by writers enough that they were voted in while completely ignoring Lou Whitaker.  Ryne Sandberg played for the abysmal Cubs and Roberto Alomar jumped from team to team, playing the modern day equivalent of a 2nd baseman mercenary.

Lou Whitaker was never the face of a bad franchise.  He was always referred to in tandem with Alan Trammell  and was a rock for the organization.  The team starting its string of losing seasons near the end of his career, but he never had to change positions to stick around and even in a injury shortened final season in 1995, Whitaker hit 14 HRs in 84 games and had a .890 OPS.

He was even productive and valuable right up until he walked away.  There is not a single reason why Lou Whitaker should not be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

There is one other way in for Whitaker, the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee, who can vote in “long retired players.” Lou Whitaker seems to be one of the most likely to make the Hall of Fame that way, as recently, Ron Santo of the Chicago Cubs, a border line Hall of Fame candidate was voted in.

Looking at what Sandberg and Alomar did in there careers, the Veterans Committee needs to right the wrong that was done by the BBWAA by electing the great Lou Whitaker.

One last look at the charts, with the names filled in:

Player Games BA OBP SLG OPS
Whitaker 2390 0.276 0.363 0.426 0.789
Sandberg 2164 0.285 0.344 0.452 0.795
Alomar 2379 0.300 0.371 0.443 0.814

 

Player WAR AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO
Whitaker 74.9 8570 1386 2369 420 65 244 1084 1197 1099
Sandberg 67.5 8385 1318 2386 403 76 282 1061 761 1260
Alomar 66.8 9073 1508 2724 504 80 210 1134 1032 1140

 

[Originally published July 18, 2013; Re-posted January 18, 2017]

 

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