Skip to content

Derek Jeter’s great, but let’s compare to Alan Trammell

Feb 15, 2014, 7:05 AM EST

Image (1) Trammell.jpg for post 3064

SOCHI, Russia — Well, the overwhelming thing that is the Winter Olympics has completely thrown me off my 100 greatest baseball players ever schedule. So it goes. We’ll pick up where we left off after I return and recover and get back on U.S. time. I predict this will be sometime in July.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about one big mistake I made in the Top 100 list, I’m sure I’ve made dozens of mistakes but one in particular stands out to me. And it relates pretty directly to the biggest baseball news of the last week.

I left Alan Trammell off my Top 100. That’s just not right. And I’ll need to correct that.

When Derek Jeter announced his retirement a couple of days ago, I wrote about how amazing it is — in these times of Twitter and 24-hour sports talk and mean-old defensive statistics and smark-aleck bloggers who invent words like Jeterate — that Derek Jeter will walk away from the game almost universally admired. It is a happy fate that eluded almost every great player of his time. Derek Jeter was a fantastic player, a sure Hall of Famer, a man who played hard every day. For the next six months, people will come to dedicate a portion of baseball immortality on him. It is altogether fitting and proper that they should do this.

But in a larger sense …

In the last last few days someone wrote how there will never be a Yankee who mattered more than Derek Jeter. Someone wrote this tripe about how stat nerds need to shut up because Derek Jeter was, like, the awesomest thing ever. Someone wrote that the Hall of Fame shouldchange its induction rules because Jeter should go in early with his buddy Mariano Rivera. Red Sox players were effusive, Bud Selig, after spending months breaking Alex Rodriguez, wrote the most glowing statement about him. Albert Pujols said he was “pretty close” to Jesus.

And I it hit me: Oh yeah, THAT’S why I invented the word Jeterate.

He was a fantastic baseball player. But you know what? Alan Trammell was just about as good.

Here are Alan Trammell’s and Derek Jeter’s neutralized offensive numbers.

Trammell: .289/.357/.420
Jeter: .307/.375/..439

Jeter was a better hitter. But it was closer than you might think. They had similar strengths offensively. At their best, they were .300 hitters with some power and some speed. Both lost deserving MVP awards to players who hit a lot of home runs and had a lot of RBIs. Jeter played in a historically high scoring time which inflated his numbers. Trammell played in a low-scoring time, which depressed his. So their actual numbers diverge. Plus Jeter was much more dependable which is no small thing. Jeter played in 300-plus more games. He played 140-plus games in 15 seasons. Trammell because of injuries and such managed only eight 140-game seasons.

But Trammell has his advantages too — namely defense. Trammell was a much, much, much, much, much, much — can’t put “much” in here enough times — much better defensive shortstop.

By Baseball Reference’s defensive WAR Trammell was 22 wins better than a replacement shortstop. Jeter was nine runs worse.

By Fangraphs, Trammell was 76 runs better than a replacement shortstop. Jeter was 139 runs worse.

You can buy those numbers or you can partially agree with them or you can throw them out entirely, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Trammell was a better defensive shortstop. It’s only a matter of degree. And where Jeter’s offensive strengths and longevity give him a cushion over Trammell, the defense unquestionably cuts into the lead.

More: They were both widely respected players. They were both leaders on excellent teams. They both had great years. It’s fascinating to look at their five best years by Baseball Reference WAR.

Jeter: 8.0 (1999); 7.5 (1998); 6.6 (2009); 5.5 (2006); 5.1 (2001).
Trammell: 8.2 (1987); 6.7 (1990); 6.6 (1984); 6.3 (1986); 6.0 (1983).

And by Fangraphs WAR:

Jeter: 7.4 (1999); 6.8 (2009); 6.2 (1998); 6.1 (2006); 5.5 (2002).
Trammell: 7.7 (1987); 6.9 (1984); 6.2 (1990); 5.7 (1986); 5.6 (1983).

By both of those measures, Trammell was at least as good, and perhaps a tick better, than Jeter when they were both at their best. That’s because Baseball Reference and Fangraphs WAR weigh defense pretty heavily. Like I say, you might not think Trammell’s defense makes up that much ground. You might not even think Trammell was a better defender than Jeter. Baseball is fun to argue about.

All of this can lead to the easy conclusion that Derek Jeter was wildly overrated … and when people are saying he’s pretty close to Jesus or that he belongs on Yankees Mount Rushmore(worst tourist attraction EVER!), yeah, it’s hard to argue. But my point is different. My point is that Alan Trammell was criminally underrated.

There are only a handful of shortstops in the history of baseball who transcended the position. You look at the Hall of Fame shortstops — many of them couldn’t really hit. Aparicio … Ozzie … Pee Wee … Scooter … all of them were, in total, below average hitters. Cal Ripken is viewed as one of the most powerful offensive shortstops ever … but he had lower slugging percentage than Ruben Sierra and Eric Karros. The position is so demanding defensively, so demanding physically, so demanding mentally that very, very few players could play the position and stay on top of their games daily and be great offensive players and run the bases and lead their teams.

Jeter deserves to be celebrated for being one of those shortstops. He was probably the best player on four of the five Yankees World Series champions he played on (he wasn’t in 1996; there’s an argument that Jorge Posada or Bernie Williams was better in 2000). He helped his team in countless ways. I wouldn’t say he was the best modern shortstop but his career has been wonderful.

And so was Alan Trammell’s. Criminally underrated doesn’t even do his career justice. And I’m one of the people who underrated it.

Latest Posts
  1. Rob Manfred not concerned about uneven DH rule

    Jan 27, 2015, 9:41 PM EST

    mlb logo large

    If you expected new Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred to either expand the DH rule to the National League or eliminate it altogether, you can probably stop now.

  2. Orioles acquire outfielder Travis Snider from Pirates

    Jan 27, 2015, 8:28 PM EST

    travis snider pirates getty Getty Images

    Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles have completed a trade for Pirates outfielder Travis Snider. Pittsburgh’s return is a player to be named later and 21-year-old pitching prospect Stephen Tarpley.

  3. Phillies still talking to the Brewers and Blue Jays about a Jonathan Papelbon trade

    Jan 27, 2015, 7:44 PM EST

    jonathan papelbon getty Getty Images

    Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Saturday that the Brewers’ negotiations for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon were “definitely on life support, at best,” but it sounds like there has been some rekindling of that fire early this week.

  4. Rangers acquire right-hander Anthony Ranaudo from Red Sox for left-hander Robbie Ross

    Jan 27, 2015, 6:39 PM EST

    rangers logo

    The Rangers and Red Sox have swapped 25-year-old pitchers.

  5. Orioles “closing in on” trade for Pirates’ Travis Snider

    Jan 27, 2015, 6:19 PM EST

    travis snider getty Getty Images

    The Orioles have failed in their pursuit of several free agent outfielders this offseason, so they might now be turning to the trade market to fill the need.

  6. Giants, Brandon Crawford avoid arbitration with one-year deal

    Jan 27, 2015, 4:40 PM EST

    Desmond Jennings Brandon Crawford AP

    Crawford requested $3.95 million and the Giants countered at $2.4 million.

  7. Five minor leaguers suspended for drugs

    Jan 27, 2015, 4:13 PM EST

    say no to drugs

    They’re coming in bunches lately.

  8. GM says Rockies are “highly, highly unlikely” to trade Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez

    Jan 27, 2015, 3:55 PM EST

    troy tulowitzki rockies getty Getty Images

    Tulowitzki is owed $114 million for the next six seasons and Gonzalez is owed $53 million for the next three seasons.

  9. The Nats and Astros need a change in Florida law to get their new spring training facility

    Jan 27, 2015, 2:22 PM EST

    Woman Drinking Glass of Water

    Specifically, a reduction in size of an area of land protected in order to help keep drinking water clean

  10. Royals and Jarrod Dyson settle, avoid arbitration

    Jan 27, 2015, 2:01 PM EST

    jarrod dyson getty Getty Images

    Dyson requested $1.6 million and the Royals countered at $900,000.

  11. MLB, not the federal government, is keeping Yoan Moncada from signing a deal

    Jan 27, 2015, 12:30 PM EST

    cuba hat

    The league now requires Cuban players to get a much more difficult to obtain clearance to sign than even the federal government requires.

  12. Not so fast on the Bud Selig Hall of Fame talk

    Jan 27, 2015, 11:33 AM EST

    Bud Selig AP

    One Hall of Fame expert argues that Selig should have to cool his heels before waltzing into Cooperstown

  13. The 14th greatest GM of all time has been a GM for a long, long time

    Jan 27, 2015, 11:03 AM EST

    Brian Sabean phone

    So long that he’s one of the few GMs who rocked a flip phone after he already had the top job.

  14. Angels “optimistic” Garrett Richards will be ready for April

    Jan 27, 2015, 10:50 AM EST

    Garrett Richards AP

    As of six weeks ago Angels manager Mike Scioscia was telling reporters that the team didn’t expect Garrett Richards back from knee surgery until May.

  15. Why “Deflategate” would never happen in baseball

    Jan 27, 2015, 8:10 AM EST

    Kenny Rogers Pine Tar

    No, it’s not “because the balls don’t have air inside them in baseball.” Though that is a good point.

  16. Jake McGee plays catch for first time since elbow surgery

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:45 PM EST

    Jake McGee AP AP

    McGee is expected to begin the season on the disabled list, but he’s hoping to return by late April or early May.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Papelbon (5028)
  2. J. Shields (4861)
  3. R. Vogelsong (4737)
  4. I. Suzuki (3586)
  5. J. Gomes (3247)
  1. J. Hoffman (3074)
  2. G. Soto (2871)
  3. J. Montero (2818)
  4. Y. Moncada (2761)
  5. D. Fowler (2739)