Detroit Tigers History

Detroit Tigers: Bill Freehan should be in the Hall of Fame

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DETROIT- SEPTEMBER 27: A general view of Tiger Stadium prior to the final baseball game played at the 87 year old Tiger Stadium as the Detroit Tigets host the Kansas City Royals on September 27, 1999 in Detroit, Michigan. There was 6,873 games played at the corner of Michigan and Trumbul streets. The Tigers won the game 8-2. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Gettyimages)
DETROIT- SEPTEMBER 27: A general view of Tiger Stadium prior to the final baseball game played at the 87 year old Tiger Stadium as the Detroit Tigets host the Kansas City Royals on September 27, 1999 in Detroit, Michigan. There was 6,873 games played at the corner of Michigan and Trumbul streets. The Tigers won the game 8-2. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Gettyimages) /
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Detroit Tigers’ catcher Bill Freehan is among the team’s greatest players, yet he has not received his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Detroit Tigers’ fans will watch as two of the team’s icons, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, finally get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29. While it’s great to see two legends get their due, the mind always wanders to who else is being left out.

Lou Whitaker has been mentioned most often in this debate, not only due to his close connection with Alan Trammell but because he flat-out deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

However, Whitaker is not the only Tigers’ player who should be in Cooperstown. Another tragic misstep by the BBWAA and the Veteran’s Committee has been the omission of Tigers catching legend Bill Freehan.

Bill Freehan and the Hall of Fame

Catchers, more than any other position, need to be solely evaluated against other catchers when determining Hall of Fame credentials. Freehan’s offensive numbers don’t stand up to the Hall of Fame’s typical offensive profile, but among catchers he compares quite favorably.

First, the hardware. Freehan was an 11-time All-Star and a five time Gold Glove winner. He finished second, third and seventh in MVP voting. He also led the league in intentional walks once and hit by pitches three times.

His 11 All-Star nods ties him for sixth all-time among catchers, along with Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, Bill Dickey and Del Crandall.

Digging deeper, Freehan compares favorably to catchers already in the Hall of Fame by the JAWS system, a metric created by Jay Jaffe to help determine Hall of Fame candidates. JAWS measures a player by three categories: WAR, 7-year peak WAR, and JAWS.

There are 15 Hall of Fame catchers. Among all catchers, Freehan ranks 18th in WAR (44.8) 15th in 7-year peak WAR (33.7) and 15th in JAWS (39.3).

In each instance, he has a higher ranking than at least four catchers who are in the Hall of Fame. There are a handful of catchers above him who also deserve consideration in Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson and Gene Tenace.

Related Story: Top 10 Catchers in Franchise History

Overall, Freehan’s numbers are right on the border of Hall worthy. However, he should get a bump because of the influence and dominance he displayed during his era. There’s no doubt that Freehan was the best or second best catcher in the league while he was playing. Ten consecutive All-Star game appearances and three top-ten MVP finishes in a five-year span speak for themselves.

Next: 2006 Tigers: Where are they now?

Freehan is not quite the slam-dunk that Trammell and Morris were, and that Whitaker should be. Still, there’s no doubt he should be in the Hall of Fame alongside his Detroit Tigers teammate Al Kaline.

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