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Would Alan Trammell look more impressive if Cal Ripken had never been born?

A past president of SABR, who regularly corresponds with me after receiving these e-mails asked a question which is begging to be answered more widely:

Dear John:

My man Alan Trammell would look pretty impressive if Cal Ripken had never been born!

What other players do you find in that category, as you go back over your lists?

What he is referring to is the fact that Trammell appears in 2nd place in ten of the 5-year ON DECK point subsets. (7 behind Rip and 3 behind Yount). This is in spite of running from 28-34 points in the subsets. That level of ON DECK points constitutes a Dominant average of from 5.6 to 6.67. Alan never holds clear title to a subset himself although he did tie Ripken in one.

In terms of raw AOPS leadership beginning in 1979, Alan is tops four times, 2nd three times, 3rd twice and always in the top half otherwise. All this prowess did not end up with him on top of any 5 year running period.

John Korsgaard's Response

Dear Cap:

Indeed, I became very aware of this phenomena when I was constructing the ON DECK system. I actually feared this would be a flaw in the system. As it turns out [and as your independent discovery confirms] it's an advantage of the system. It identifies several players who are commonly overshadowed by traditional methods.

We might call this the Trammell Effect or "Getting Ripped." Performing for a long time and finishing 2nd often, without ever leading yourself in spite of Dominant #s. Due to Alan's long career we can't expect to find a complete parallel. Heh! In order to finish second in ten five year subsets, you have to play 12-14 years as a regular. NO, not 14 lines in the Encyclopedia, BUT 14 years as a regular at the position in question. Those people come in just small handfuls.

Another way this happens is by performing a medium to long time at a position, which is in a "GOLDEN AGE" for that position in your league. Kent Hrbek accumulated 58 points in 13 seasons (average 4.5 ON DECK ...which Excels by our definition). He had 1 subset 3-way tie for 1st but was otherwise 2nd twice and 3rd 5 times. Here different guys were always in the way. He managed to finish behind Murray, Cooper, Mattingly, McGwire, Palmeiro and even short careered Alvin Davis.

Mark Grace, chronologically 2nd behind Will Clark twice, 4th behind Bagwell, Clark and McGriff, 3rd behind Bagwell and McGriff. He was runner up to Bagwell the next five subsets and likely to fall to third behind Bags and Todd Helton in the next several subsets to come. Career 14/69 for a 4.9 average.

Another first sacker who is a very loud case of having too much to compete with is Dolph Camilli. Dolph finished second to Jawn Mize six out of seven years and beat him in 1941. In his runner up years Dolph had AOPSs of 156-165-137-144-145-144. The worst of those would've been good enough to lead the league 10 of the previous 35 years, the "156" would've won any other non-Bill Terry year and the 165 would've won any year.

So where did that leave solid guys like McCormick and Fletcher? Hal Trosky and Zeke Bonura were having the same fate in the AL at the time, trying to match up with Gehrig, Foxx and Greenberg. As soon as Trosky got rid of those three, along came Rudy York.

Miguel Tejada faces that now and in coming years having to compete with AROD, DEREK AND NOMAR. So far, AROD has taken all 4 subsets. So, maybe Derek or Nomar will become more Trammelled than Alan. We'll see.

Caution: We are not talking here merely about long term 2nd place. Joe Judge was second behind Sisler four times and behind Gehrig three times, but in between those two heydays, Judge accumulated three leaderships of his own. Larry Doby reigned over 3 AL CF subsets before Mantle put him into a long term 2nd place status. Those examples ARE A FORM of being overshadowed but the team we are about to construct are going to hold Alan's "credentials"

A. Appears in at least 5 subsets (which requires 9-11 regular years)

B. Average for that period is still Dominant [5.2+] or high-end Excel [4-5.1]

C. No subsets leaderships of their very own [ties allowed]


Other shortstops:

Vern Stephens is the next closest AL guy but he took the 1946-50 subset, averaging over six behind Boudreau. He's in the top ten AL shortstops by career ON DECK points.


Jay Bell 5.6 ON DECK career Average...always behind Larkin

Johnny Logan had a 4.8 but was always behind Banks.

Joe Tinker 4.7 behind Wagner

Garry Templeton spent a decade behind Concepcion and several more subsets behind Ozzie but his totals are in the lower 4s.

Alan Trammell's DP partner on this mythical team is Del Pratt. First, the other candidates:

Chuck Knoblauch 5.5 and behind Alomar

Danny Murphy 5.5 and behind Lajoie and, later, 3rd vs NAP and Button Williams

Tony Cuccinello 6.3 career, but his eight years as a regular were interrupted by a non-regular year right in the middle and he led the 1930-34 subset himself. Generally behind Billy Herman.

Ron Hunt 5.4 and Davy Lopes 4.9 are the guys who had to play 2nd fiddles to Joe Morgan.

Robby Thompson 4.8 stuck behind Sandberg.

A lot of 2B candidates. Del Pratt, however, lands 2nd in no less than 10 subsets, in eight of which his 5 year average was Dominant. He is in the top ten all time AL second sackers with an average of 6 ON DECK points per season. His problem: EDDIE COLLINS.

Looking a little closer, Collins has the best AOPS among AL 2nd basemen in 1909, 1911-20, 1922-26!! Pratt finishes 2nd to him 5 times and 3rd to Eddie and Lajoie 2 more. Del is the guy who interrupts Collins' seasonal string in 1921. [AOPS 116-115]

Behind the Plate

Could easily end up a Javy Lopez or Jason Kendall behind Piazza. Notables include Spud Davis behind Hartnett, Harry Danning behind Lombardi and Ed Bailey behind Del Crandall and Smoky Burgess. A notable American Leaguer is Darrell Porter competing with both Munson and Fisk. Longer term is Manny Sanguillen, who can be faulted for weak on-base % but also he had the poor timing to be in the league at the same time as Johnny Bench and Ted Simmons. Manny twice posted a 27 in a five year subset and finished only third. The only other catcher to do that was Johnny Romano once. Instead of repeating his 3rd place, Romano was the leader in the next subset.

We'll take Manny until we see who is the most unfortunate runner up to Piazza.

Completing the up the middle picture is an easy call. Vada Pinson. Every subset from ['57-'61] to ['63-'67] had Mays first and Vada 2nd.

Nineteenth century guys Jake Stenzel and Ginger Beaumont/Cy Seymour had good totals behind Billy Hamilton and Roy Thomas respectively. Nothing as long as Pinson.


The AL doesn't really have anyone although one wonders what would've happened to an unexpelled Hap Felsch situated behind Cobb and Speaker.

I think we've already established Grace or Hrbek at 1b. Third base is pretty easy also. Ron Cey 5.8 in 13 years constantly overshadowed by Schmidt, of course. Kenny Boyer had seven runner ups behind Eddie Mathews to Cey's nine behind Schmidt, but they were more distant as well.

Closest in the AL was a contemporary of Cey's, Doug De Cinces. He not only came on to replace leader Brooks Robinson for his club, but ran right into the advent of Brett then Boggs. In spite of a career 4.8 his subset finishes read two 2nds, four 3rds and two 4ths.

Like Pratt and unlike the other five spots, the LF man comes from long ago. The career candidates are Jimmy Sheckard 12/53 4.4, Kip Selbach 11/51 4.6 and Willie Horton 9/56 5.1

Sheck was up against Fred Clarke and, later, Sherry Magee. Selbach functioned in an unreal golden age where 25 ON DECK points got him just a tie for 4th behind Delahanty, Burkett and Elmer Smith. Then 28 got him 4th behind Delahanty, Burkett and Clarke. Kip actually had only one subset when he finished as high as 2nd. The difficulty is that he spent three years in the AA. In the NL his average was actually 5.3. We can take Kip as the LF and make Horton the DH.

That brings me to the most difficult choice, right field. Here are the candidates:

Swish Nicholson: 4 2nds, one 1st place tie one third behind Ott and Dxiie Walker

Johnny Callison, lower average but had to mention a fellow who had to run up against Aaron AND Clemente....Johnny usually battled with Rusty Staub for 3rd among NL right fielders.

Larry Walker thus far has nine subsets with zero #1s... his competition has been Gwynn, Sosa & now, Vladimir G.

Hawk Dawson was behind Strawberry and Gwynn when he moved to RF but Andre won three CF subsets.

Speaking of position switches, Shoeless Joe was 4 behind Crawford in RF and 3 behind Veach in LF. Paul O'Neill had lots of competition ahead of him, but his numbers were lower than the other candidates.

Soooo, Nicholson has the ON DECK average, L Walker has the longevity and Callison the anonymity along with the toughest row to hoe.

Here's my team:

DH platoon Hrbek/Horton

This, quite naturally, brings up the "opposite" question of guys who happened to top a five year subset or two during very weak periods of hardly any competition at the position. All of the below led a subset or two with ON DECK of 19 or less. The 3.8 means that they led without Dominating or Excelling. They rank historically merely as contributors.

1b-George McQuinn 16
2b-Frank Bolling 18 NL 1961-65
SS- Don Kessinger 19 & 18 [1968-72 and 69-73]
3b-Marty McManus 16 1930-34
LF-Jim Russell 13 1942-46 NL
CF-Either Solly Hofman 15 or Andy Pafko 13/13/16
RF-Beau Bell

Bell is The Trammell (extreme case) of the bunch, 1934-8 and 1935-9 he had his own 13 and a tie with Bruce Campbell at 13, In 1933-7 Bell was 2nd with 9 ON DECK pts.

C- Nig Clarke 16 -2 early AL subsets. The amazing thing is that he accumulated these by having 8 each in the ONLY two years he was a regular. The rest of the AL catchers had trouble playing half a schedule or consecutive years. Billy Sullivan, of course, was a miserable offensive player.

There were some reputable overall players even there. I don't think there is any gigantic lesson to be drawn from this.

I DO like to caution every analyst, that there is always that bell curve. Don't let a result that is simply a function of expected random throw you off.

I DO think the first team contains some names that are consistently underrated. After all, these guys would be on the bench at all-star games. The ones from the up the middle positions would not garner many MVP votes. Headlines and numbers with exclamation points would go to their tormentors.

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