Posted by Andy on October 26, 2010
I know, I know, you Alan Trammell fans are angry that I'm doing a poll on Whitaker and not on Trammell. Deal with it.
Lou Whitaker played his entire 19-year career with the Detroit Tigers as their second baseman. Despite playing almost entirely prior to the recent high-offense era and at a position not normally associated with offensive production, Whitaker was an above-average hitter for his career, to the tune of a 116 OPS+ and peak years in the 130-140 OPS+ range.
Whitaker was AL Rookie of the Year in 1978, a 5-time All-Star, 3-time Gold Glove winner, and a 4-time Silver Slugger winner.
He walked more than he struck out and got on base a lot usually as the Tigers' leadoff or #2 hitter.
However, in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility, Whitaker received just 2.9% of the vote and was removed from the ballot. Was this an oversight? Let's discuss and vote in the poll.
For Lou Whitaker in the Hall of Fame
- Whitaker has played the 4th-most games in history at second base. He's just behind Roberto Alomar. You might think Alomar was a much better offensive player than Whitaker but in fact they have identical career OPS+ of 116.
- Among 2B, minimum 5000 career plate appearances, Whitaker's OPS+ is in the top 20, ahead of Ryne Sandberg and Alfonso Soriano.
- Whitaker's defense gives him a boost in WAR. Despite having very little in the way of Gray Ink or Black Ink, Whitaker's WAR of 69.70 is 84th all-time among position players. That puts him ahead of a lot of HOFers including Brooks Robinson, Tony Gwynn, Carlton Fisk, and Eddie Murray.
Perhaps the best argument is that Whitaker's career totals were not achieved through a few great seasons or a really high peak. Rather, he was consistently good for a long, long, time. Check out the leaders among most career seasons with a WAR of at least 3:
|1||Barry Bonds||20||1987||2007||22-42||Ind. Seasons|
|2||Ty Cobb||20||1907||1927||20-40||Ind. Seasons|
|3||Hank Aaron||19||1955||1973||21-39||Ind. Seasons|
|4||Willie Mays||19||1951||1971||20-40||Ind. Seasons|
|5||Tris Speaker||19||1909||1927||21-39||Ind. Seasons|
|6||Frank Robinson||18||1956||1974||20-38||Ind. Seasons|
|7||Eddie Collins||18||1909||1926||22-39||Ind. Seasons|
|8||Stan Musial||17||1942||1962||21-41||Ind. Seasons|
|9||Mel Ott||17||1928||1945||19-36||Ind. Seasons|
|10||Rickey Henderson||16||1980||1995||21-36||Ind. Seasons|
|11||Mickey Mantle||16||1952||1968||20-36||Ind. Seasons|
|12||Babe Ruth||16||1918||1934||23-39||Ind. Seasons|
|13||Lou Whitaker||15||1978||1993||21-36||Ind. Seasons|
|14||Joe Morgan||15||1965||1983||21-39||Ind. Seasons|
|15||Al Kaline||15||1955||1971||20-36||Ind. Seasons|
|16||Ted Williams||15||1939||1958||20-39||Ind. Seasons|
|17||Rogers Hornsby||15||1916||1931||20-35||Ind. Seasons|
That's right: this list of 17 players, a virtual who's who of the greatest baseball players of all time, includes Lou Whitaker.
Against Lou Whitaker in the Hall of Fame:
- The best argument against Whitaker is that while nobody would argue against him being a good player, he was merely good for the majority of his career. He had 3 or 4 standout seasons (1983, 1989, and 1991 certainly) but at his peak was regarded as among the best few second baseman in the game. He certainly never carried the reputation that Joe Morgan, Jeff Kent, or Roberto Alomar carried at times as a major offensive force in the game.
- As mentioned above, Whitaker rarely was among the league leaders in anything. He was a steady offensive player but cracked the top 10 in the AL in RBI, HR, runs, hits, doubles, and triples just 9 times total (with zero first-place finishes.) It's tough to put a guy in the HOF when he wasn't great at anything, just good at most things.
Let's debate and vote!