By In Stuff

The Ballot 7: Larry Walker

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Larry Walker

Play 17 years with three teams

Five-time All-Star and MVP winner hit .313 with 141 OPS+ over injury-plagued career. 72.6 WAR, 48.2 WAA

Pro Argument: He did everything well.

Con argument: Career numbers were inflated by Coors Field.

Deserves to be in Hall?: Yes.

Will get elected this year?: No.

Will ever get elected?: 5-10%

* * *

Several people have asked what I thought about Tom Verducci’s piece explaining why he will not vote for people he believes were PED users and why he thinks everyone is missing the obvious conclusion that Fred McGriff is a Hall of Famer. Well, of course, I thought it was fantastic. I didn’t agree with all that much of it. And I thought he played a few statistical games in order to make his McGriff point – buyer beware whenever someone focuses entire arguments on one or two stats that measure similar things like home runs and OPS+ and then uses an artificial cutline like 10,000 plate appearances.

You might want to keep that in mind as you read on.

But none of that matters: I loved it just the same. There were good points. There were challenging things to consider. And, more, like all of Tom’s wonderful writing, it was PASSIONATE.

It’s the passion that makes any of this fun. I have a friend who loves baseball but doesn’t care at all about the Hall of Fame, not one bit, never did. And so, we never talk Hall of Fame. Sometimes, I’ll forget and try to engage him on a topic like Edgar Martinez or Curt Schilling; he just shuts down like the robot on “Lost in Space.”

If you have a friend like that (or you are like that) you know: Without the passion, there is emptiness. The Hall of Fame ceases to become a conversation piece. I recently wrote a piece about why I think Lefty Driesell should be in the Hall of Fame. Do you know what the No. 1 reaction to that story has been?

“Oh. I thought he WAS in the Hall of Fame.”

There’s no place to go from there.

So, absolutely, I love Tom’s passion for McGriff, his passion for keeping cheaters out of the Hall.” I see it differently, of course, as I’ve written dozens of times. But that doesn’t matter. I appreciate Tom’s arguments. And, of course, I love the fury with which he argues.

All of which is to say: My Hall of Fame passion, at the moment, is Larry Walker.

* * *

I came to Walker’s Hall of Fame case a bit later, I admit. I’ve thought from that start he deserves to be a Hall of Famer, but I was busy obsessing over Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell and Mike Mussina and how to handle the PED era players to be too worried about him. Last year, the 10-man ballot crunched me … and I did not vote for Walker. I believed him to be Hall of Fame worthy, absolutely, but he was 11th on my 10-man ballot. I’ve come around to a slightly different view: It’s time to fight for Larry Walker. I am thrilled Tim Raines will be elected to the Hall this year; that has been a fight of mine for a long time (though not as big a fight as for others like Jonah Keri).

I think Larry Walker might have been a better player than Raines.

* * *

Baseball has a surprisingly small number of players who were great at everything. I remember reading Bill James’ Historical Abstract the first time around, and he called Barry Larkin one of the 10 most complete players in baseball history. That shocked me. I had covered Larkin, known him to be a fantastic baseball player, but it seemed impossible to me that he could be on a list that exclusive.

And then I thought about it and realized: There probably have not been 10 baseball players with lengthy careers who were great at EVERYTHING.

For fun, I did this a little while ago: I went to Baseball Reference and made a list of the Top 100 players in baserunning runs (including double-plays). I realize that 100 is an arbitrary number but, hey, in the end, isn’t everything at least a little bit arbitrary.

Then I compiled the list of the Top 100 players in defensive runs saved.

Then I compiled the list of the Top 100 players in batting runs.

OK? Now, you might ask: “Wait a minute, those are all just components of WAR, why don’t you just look at WAR?” Good question. For this particular exercise, I’m not focused on how GOOD a player was. There’s no question that an everyday player can contribute much more with hitting than fielding and, for that matter, much more with fielding than baserunning. Ted Williams was uninterested in playing defense and slow on the basepaths, but it doesn’t matter because his hitting was so extraordinary that he is one of the best players who ever lived.

For this, though, I was looking to see how many players were Top 100 (roughly) in more than one category.

 

Well, it turns out: Thirty-four of the 263 different players showed up in more than one category.

Here, for your enjoyment, are the players who showed up in two categories:

Top 100 in batting and fielding:

Al Kaline: He finished just outside the Top 100 in baserunning (172nd). He’s certainly one of the great all-around players ever.

Albert Pujols: Such an underrated fielder. Pujols is not fast but he has been a smart baserunner throughout his career.

Carl Yastrzemski: Yaz was not fast either and he was a liability on the bases for much of his career, though he added value on the bases in his prime.

Henry Aaron: He was an outstanding baserunner, but he just missed being on all three lists (129th) because he hit into a lot of double plays. There’s that arbitrariness again. If I had not included double plays, Aaron would have been on all three lists.

John Olerud: Here’s a nice surprise. Many people know that Olerud’s offense is wildly underappreciated (he got just four Hall of Fame votes even though he’s Top 100 in batting runs). I had no idea he would be anywhere close to this list for his defense, though he did win three Gold Gloves.

Mike Schmidt: In the Mike Schmidt-George Brett argument, Brett fans will sometimes make the case for George being underappreciated defensive. That might be so but he’s not in Schmidt’s stratosphere defensively. (See Brett comment below).

Roberto Clemente: Look how many giants are in this category. Kaline. Schmidt. Yaz. Aaron. Speaker. Clemente ranks 131st in baserunning, so if this was Top 150 (remembering that 100 is arbitrary), he’d be one of the chosen few to rank in all three.

Tris Speaker: The Grey Eagle stole a lot of bases; I’m surprised he’s not on the base running list too. Then, he was CAUGHT stealing a lot from what we can tell.

Wade Boggs: Great hitter, of course. Thoroughly underrated defender. Couldn’t run a lick.

Batting and Baserunning:

Alex Rodriguez: He was a breathtaking shortstop in his younger days but because he spent half his career as a so-so third baseman, he did not make Top 100 as a fielder.

Derek Jeter: We don’t have to say anything more about Jeter’s fielding.

Eddie Collins: Collins certainly had a reputation as an excellent fielder — Bill James rated him an A- at second base.

George Brett: He was a really good baserunner. In the never-ending argument between Brett fans and Mike Schmidt fans, the inclination is to give Schmidt the base running edge(or at least call it a draw) because Schmidt stole a few bases when he was young. It’s not a fair fight. Brett was a much better baserunner than Schmidt. (See Schmidt comment about defense above).

Joe Morgan: He was an above average fielder — and a very good fielder the four years he won Gold Gloves — but he’s not a Top 100 defender.

Ken Griffey: His defense has been the discussion point in many arguments, but what’s telling here is how good a base runner he was. He didn’t steal a lot of bases, but he stole them at a high rate. And he hit into very few double plays – probably more the uppercut swing than anything else.

Mickey Mantle: Everyone talks about Mantle’s blazing speed before he hurt his knee, but even after the injuries he still ended up being an amazing baserunner. His defense is much debated– I don’t think anyone sees him as an all-time fielder.

Paul Molitor: He is BY FAR the greatest baserunning designated hitter in baseball history. By far.* The reason for the gap is obvious: Athletes like Paul Molitor are not supposed to be DHs. They are supposed to be able to play great defense. For some reason – wear and tear on the body, maybe – Molitor was put at DH.

*Here are the baserunning runs for players who spent at least 30% of their careers as DHs.

  1. Paul Molitor, 83.1 runs
  2. Oscar Gamble, 10.1 runs
  3. Hideki Matsui, 8.8 runs
  4. Mitchell Page, 2.3 runs
  5. Ron Blomberg, 2.1 runs

Rickey Henderson: The greatest baserunner ever, one of the 25 or 30 greatest offensive players ever and an OK fielder, better than OK his first few years in the league.

Rod Carew: Even now it isn’t clear if Carew was a second baseman or a first baseman; he played almost exactly the same number of games at each. He was an average fielder at both, probably.

Ty Cobb: Defensive WAR suggests Cobb was not a good fielder. I’ve read in various places that he was an excellent defender but then people tended to credit great offensive players with great defense. This is a bit less true now with Statcast and various advanced defensive stats.

Baserunning and Fielding:

Brett Gardner: An average hitter, Gardner can fly and play some defense.

Chase Utley: Irony here – Utley is really known for his hitting, for that sthort, beautiful batting stroke. He never won a Gold Glove (and was often called an average or below average fielder) and never stole more than 23 bases (though that year he stole 23 without getting caught). And yet, here he is, Top 100 in baserunning and fielding but not hitting.

Darren Erstad: He was a great athlete – a superb outfielder and baserunner. He was a below average hitter over the length of his career, but he had one extraordinary season where he hit .355 with 240 hits.

Devon White: So happy to see him on this list … one of my favorites. Won seven Gold Gloves – and deserved at least seven – and stole 348 bases. As a hitter, he was limited. He struck out a lot, walked not at all, but he did hit more than 200 homers.

Ichiro Suzuki: Certainly one of the most complete players in baseball history. He’s not in the Top 200 in batting runs, but if you included his years in Japan, he’d be on the list.

Kenny Lofton: The only question about Lofton coming up was: Can he hit? Everyone knew he could be a fantastic defender and all-time great base runner – and he was both those things. Lofton turned out to be an above average hitter, which is why some people believe he has a compelling Hall of Fame case.

Luis Aparicio: He’s in the Hall of Fame because of his fielding and base running – Aparicio was a well-below-average hitter.

Ozzie Smith: Of course.

Pee Wee Reese: He was an average hitter, but a good hitter for a shortstop in his day.

Willie Davis: Often gets overlooked, but he was an all-time base runner – better, over the length of his career than his more celebrated teammate Maury Wills – and a terrific defender. He was a pretty good hitter, too. If I asked you how many hits he had, would you come anywhere near 2,561? But he could not quite get on base enough.

Willie Wilson: Fastest man in the history of Major League Baseball, in my view, and a really good fielder. Hit for very high averages in his prime but, like Davis didn’t walk and he slugged .376.

* * *

OK, that was a LOT of effort to get to where I was going. But I wanted to give you a long look at just how hard – and rare – it is to be an all-time great in even TWO of the three baseball categories. There are any number of AMAZING players not on any of these lists. Ruth. Williams. Musial. Gehrig. Hornsby. On and on. Even players who WERE great at all three categories, like Barry Larkin and Joe DiMaggio, still did not get on more than one Top 100 list for various reasons.

Let’s repeat the premise again: We’re not looking purely at greatness here. We’re looking at “completeness.” Gene Kelly could sing, dance and act. Humphrey Bogart could just act. I still think Bogart was greater than Kelly. But we’re  not talking about that. We’re talking about versatility and how rare it really is.

So, you look up at that list, you see players who were amazing at more than one thing, it’s kind of staggering how few there are.

And we come to the punch line. Only three players rank in the Top 100 in all three categories.

One is Willie Mays, which of course you knew.

Two is Barry Bonds, which of course you knew, even if you don’t like it.

And three is … Larry Walker.

* * *

OK, now – and only now – you can start screaming about the absurdity of Coors Field … I know you’ve been dying to do that ever since you saw where this thing was going.

Larry Walker hit .381/.462/.710 at Coors Field.

Larry Walker hit .282./.372/.500 away from Coors Field.*

*By the way … Walker’s road numbers are pretty darned good.

There can be absolutely no question at all that Coors Field helped Larry Walker put up numbers previously unimaginable. Do you know how many players since World War II have hit .360 or better for three consecutive seasons. Well, of course you know, I just used a little stat magic (.360 instead of .350; since World War II instead of since 1901, etc). It has to be Larry Walker. But it’s still true – Ted Williams didn’t do it, Stan Musial didn’t do it, even Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs and Rod Carew didn’t do it. Heck, only 23 players have hit .360 even once since World War II.

Right: One guy, Larry Walker.

But even with misdirection, it’s still true that Walker’s five-season run from 1997 to 2001 — he hit .357/.445/.658 — is pretty close to unprecedented in modern times.

So how much did Coors Field have to do with it?

A lot. Of course it did. Coors Field, in the pre-humidor days, was an absurdity. Todd Helton hit .372 with 42 homers there. Andres Galarraga hit .370 there — this after hitting .246 the previous four seasons. Coors Field was ridiculous.

Still, that said: Larry Walker did put up those numbers. And the question to ask here is: At what juncture does Larry Walker become UNDERRATED because of Coors Field instead of OVERRATED?

I think we’re at that point.

Two reasons … well, three reasons but I’ve already discussed Walker’s unique versatility which places him, unquestionably, as one of the most complete players ever. His Hall of Fame does not rest entirely on his offensive contribution the way it does for many others.

But let’s get to the two Coors Field reasons I think he’s underrated.

1. Even after you adjust Walker’s numbers … they’re still awesome.

Walker’s 141 OPS+ takes into account the time he played at Coors Field. It’s still third highest among all Hall of Fame eligible and non-PED related hitters (with 7,500 PAs) behind only Jeff Bagwell, who should get elected this year, and Edgar Martinez, who should get elected at some point or other.

Walker’s WAR – also ballpark adjusted – is certainly Hall of Fame worthy. His 48.2 Wins Above Average are also ballpark adjusted. There are only seven every day players with 45 or more Wins Above Average who are not in the Hall of Fame.

Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez you know all about.

Jeff Bagwell will go in this year.

Albert Pujols and Adrian Beltre are still playing and will be Hall of Famers.

Chipper Jones will go in first ballot.

And then there’s Walker.

Now, you could make a pretty strong argument that his numbers have not been adjusted enough. Mitchel Lichtman makes the compelling case that Coors Field really needs two ballpark adjustments (especially in the pre-humidor days), one for road players and the other for home players. The evidence suggests that playing in Coors Field all the time allows players to make batting adjustments that road players simply cannot make.

But if you want to dive that far into it, Lichtman and Tango both make the point that while Coors Field helps players immensely at home, it hurts them a lot on the road because what works at Coors doesn’t work as well anyplace else.

As Lichtman says: It’s a quagmire. And I think that’s the key. I think people see the quagmire, it’s too befuddling to figure, and they kind of give up and decide that Walker’s numbers are basically rubbish. And so Walker gets less than 25% of the vote.

2. Walker took advantage of Coors Field to put up legendary numbers — isn’t that a GOOD thing?

There are two basic ways to look at Walker. You can look at his numbers, say they are absurdly inflated, and just write him off. Or you can look at his numbers and say that Larry Walker did exactly what a great player should do: He played the cards dealt.

You know, sometimes in poker, you really will get a royal flush. A bad card player will win nothing because everyone else will fold. A good card player will win some money. A great card player will find a way to win a lot of money. Larry Walker made the most of his royal flush.

 

Yes, there are other problems with Walker’s Hall case. he played so hard that he was injury prone – he only had one season of more than 150 games. He only got about 8,000 plate appearances and so his career counting numbers – 2,160 hits, 383 homers, etc. – don’t blow anybody’s mind.

But .313/.400/.565 … three time batting champ and twice led league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage … seven Gold Gloves .. 230 stolen bases at 75% success rate …

No, maybe he’s not Bogart or Paul Newman, Charlie Chaplin, or Grace Kelly,  John Wayne or Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine or Audrey Hepburn.

But he is Gene Kelly. I think there should be a place in the Hall of Fame for Gene Kelly.

 

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163 Responses to The Ballot 7: Larry Walker

  1. Kevin says:

    Would the spaciousness of the Coors outfield cause his defensive numbers to be underrated? Kind of the other side of the inflated offense coin? Just wondering.

    • PJS says:

      The spaciousness, and the fact that not only does the ball travel farther at altitude, it also travels faster, making it that much harder to get to landing spot X before the ball does.

  2. Oilcan23 says:

    Darren Erstad??

    Even seeing the name makes me miss FireJoeMorgan

  3. jay_B says:

    Hi Joe, I’m confused by the comment about Henry Aaron. You have him on the “baserunning and batting” list but then make a comment how if you didn’t count double plays he’d be on all three lists… was he supposed to be in the “batting and fielding” category?

    “He was an outstanding baserunner, but he just missed being on all three lists (129th) because he hit into a lot of double plays.”

    • Joe Posnanski says:

      Yes. I actually had at least two in wrong sections — Brett and Aaron. Let me know if there are more under the wrong banner.

      • Bryan says:

        Olerud is 102nd by Rbat 1871-2016 and listed in the article so it’s a 1901 starting point most likely which moves Olerud up to 89th. Making the WAR batting runs cutoff 303 – Joe Torre and Hack Wilson 303.6 in and Jim Edmonds 302.6, Jose Canseco 301 and Ryan Braun 300.2 out.
        WAR fielding runs the cut-off is 86.5 – Carlos Gomez and Nap Lajoie 87 in, Max Carey 86 and Sammy Sosa 85.7 out.
        WAR baserunning + DP the cutoff is 37 – Andy Van Slyke and Rick Manning 38 and Dave Collins 37.2 in, Toby Harrah 36.7 and Chone Figgins 36.3 out.
        Ken Griffey Jr 25.0 WAR baserunning + DP isn’t even all that close to the cutoff so you likely used it as a criteria and that’s buggy, you can do “sorted by run/DP” with no known issues but as a criteria it works poorly.

      • Dave B says:

        Just wondering, wouldn’t it perhaps be to use the baserunning without double plays? I’m thinking that double playes are a combination of hitting and baserunning, and the idea is to look at only baserunning.

    • Anon says:

      Was going to post the same thing – it simply is not even remotely possible that Aaron is not in the top 100 hitters.

      Thanks for the clarification Joe

  4. Mark Daniel says:

    I can’t find these leaderboards, other than the batting one. I’m curious to see what it means to be great at baserunning and defense using these metrics. Does it mean Walker was a league leader in these areas, or does it mean it was generally above average to very good for a long period of time.
    It doesn’t matter much, he obviously provided value in these areas so it should be considered for his HoF candidacy. I believe, though, that HoF voters aren’t necessarily swayed by a guy who could go from 1st to 3rd efficiently, or who could field at an above average level. Those skills (speed, fielding) are more common than the ability to hit. So, HoF voters look at hitting first, and then supplement it with the others. Thus, I think Walker’s candidacy, at this point, rests on hitting.

    • Patrick says:

      Ultimately, Walker was a corner outfielder who played a decent amount of time (roughly 35% of his career PAs) in arguably the greatest hitting environment ever during the height of the offensive era, and he has fewer HR, RBI, and hits than Joe Carter. Obviously, there are all sorts of flaws in that statement, and of course Walker was clearly superior to Carter in lots of other ways.

      But for a lot of voters, I think that’s what it comes down to. To them, a corner outfielder who played in Colorado in the late 90s/early 2000s should have finished with more than 383 HR and 1,311 RBI for his career.

  5. Patrick says:

    What’s odd about Walker is that he’s a Saber-friendly candidate, and the increasingly saber-aware voters have, in the past few years, gotten behind other candidates with strong Saber cases—Edgar, Mussina, Raines, Schilling (before he started talking) and I guess Bagwell. Heck, there was even a desperate, final-year push for Trammell. And they haven’t done the same for Walker.

    It’s tempting to blame this on ballot glut, but Ryan Thibs’ HOF tracker has Walker listed on roughly 20% of ballots with fewer than 10 names listed. The voters just aren’t responding to his case. I mean, who knows. If they can hurry up and get Mussina and Edgar elected, maybe they’ll just take a deeper look Walker in his final two seasons on the ballot. But he just doesn’t seem to have a cachet with voters.

    • Mark Daniel says:

      I think sabermetrics is unable to account for the Coors effect to anyone’s satisfaction. Some of the home/away splits observed (such as Walker’s 1999 season) are not even close to what may be expected by park factor.

      • Patrick says:

        I agree—and I think ultimately, Walker’s counting numbers just aren’t high enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. I also think there’s something to your point that some of the things sabermetrics quantifies (like the value in going 1st to 3rd, avoiding double plays) are just things that are invisible to voters.

      • SDG says:

        Park factors don’t traditionally hurt candidates. Was Mel Ott a controversial selection? Any righty in Fenway or anyone in Ebbets Field?

        I think with Walker it’s everything. Coors + he doesn’t have the counting stats + he never made the postseason until he was in St. Louis and wasn’t great there. Plus he played at a time when we got used to crazy-high offensive numbers. He hit 23 the year of the chase. Not that that should matter but it does.

        • invitro says:

          “he never made the postseason until he was in St. Louis and wasn’t great there.” — He had a .860 OPS in the postseason. I bet that’s above the average of HoF’ers. And he was great by any measure in the 2004 postseason. And… I don’t think making the postseason in three seasons is too shabby considering how long he played with Montreal and Colorado…

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          SDG: Correction, Walker made the post-season with the Rockies in 1995. While he wasn’t great in the playoffs, he did rake (1.366 OPS) with the Cards while playing in the World Series. During the chase, he led the NL in BA and put together a 1.075 OPS for the year. His 23 HRs weren’t great, sure, but look at the rest of his numbers.

  6. Marco says:

    Joe,
    Your ‘Larry did exactly what a great player should do: he played the cards dealt’ seems to be a bit of a departure from your stance on Jim Rice. If this argument works for Walker, shouldn’t the same logic apply to Rice too?

    Also,
    One of my fondest baseball memories involves Larry Walker. On a sunny day at Wrigley, two guys sitting close to me in the bleachers brought an almanac with them to the ballpark. They spent the *entire* game quizzing Walker on facts and figures about Canada. (“Which province grows the greatest amount of Canada’s wheat? Saskatchewan, Larry, c’mon!”) Walker was good natured about the whole thing. He turned around and offered guesses, shrugged his shoulders at the ones he didn’t know, laughed along with us. He came off as a down to earth, likable guy.

    • Ed says:

      The same logic does apply to Rice. It’s just that Larry Walker was a significantly better player than Rice was.

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        …and every single player who called The Baker Bowl home (Chuck Klein, anyone?). I’m really happy that Joe points out that Fenway was a hitter’s park for quite some time, too. But what about pitchers? What do we do with the pitchers who played in pitcher’s parks like San Diego, Seattle, and of course Dodger Stadium? Do we penalize them, too? Obviously the splits there aren’t as dramatic as Coors Field, but there’s still a definite advantage to pitching in some of those parks…

        • invitro says:

          “What do we do with the pitchers who played in pitcher’s parks like San Diego, Seattle, and of course Dodger Stadium?” — Use ERA+, I guess? Or WAR?

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            Oh I get that, lol, but will voters actually penalize Kershaw, King Felix, and others beyond those equalizing stats (ERA+ & WAR) as they seem to be doing with Walker? Edgar’s case is probably not quite as good as Walker’s (or they’re close, if nothing else) and yet Walker is getting a fraction of the votes that Edgar is.

          • invitro says:

            I don’t think any (recent?) park is nearly as extreme as Coors was. Or even half as extreme. And I don’t buy that Coors is the dominant factor… games missed is. See some posts below… I think Walker will be as historic for his games missed as his Coors games (and more so if Helton gets in). I think Joe just got the “Con argument” wrong.

        • Brad says:

          How about MLB mandate that all parks be the same size? 330 down the lines, 410 in center with ten foot high fences. Yes, it’d take away some of the personality of various parks, but all other major sports – NFL, NHL, NBA, even pro soccer and tennis have identical dimensions from city to city. I’m not in favor of it, but it would make some of the park’s size advantage null and void.

          • moviegoer74 says:

            This would be like cutting off your foot because you have a broken toe.

            Also, even with identical dimensions, some parks would play differently than others due to altitude, weather, sun light patterns, etc.

            Also, pro soccer fields are not all the same. The length is generally the same but they have a range of widths.

          • Cooper Nielson says:

            Umm, Coors isn’t different because of its SIZE.

          • KHAZAD says:

            Nothing to do with Size, man. It’s the air.

          • Brad says:

            Oh, I understand about the air. I’m talking about standardizing the field size to eliminate things like huge outfields you find in places like SD and Denver, or the wall in Boston or the short RF fence in Yankee stadium. I’m not in favor of it, because I like and appreciate the differences of various ballparks. I’m just suggesting it as it would eliminate some argument about hitters parks or pitchers parks. And soccer was my bad. I don’t consider it a major sport. It could disappear tomorrow and most sport fans wouldn’t even know it was gone. Or care.

          • Mr Fresh says:

            Are you going to make them tear down the Green Monster?

          • Vladimir Smirnov says:

            Perhaps you have the cash necessary to allow the City of Boston to take Lansdowne Street by eminent domain, thus permitting left field to be pushed out to your specs. I’m guessing about $100 million would do it, exclusive of bribes.

  7. Scott says:

    I forget where I saw it, but I remember someone making an argument that playing in Coors hurt a player’s Hall chances not because writers discount the single-season and rates stats, but rather because playing at the high altitude increased injuries. This resulted in missed games, which limits them from reaching the counting stats that are needed to get in. The argument was being made at the time Tulowitzki was breaking down, and used Walker and Helton as examples. Without 3,000 hits or 500 home runs, more traditional voters simply dismissed them with a hypothetical argument, “he played half is games at Coors and couldn’t even get 500 home runs”

    • SB M says:

      And, of course, he actually only played less than 1/3 of his career games in Coors because he didn’t play with them for his whole career.

      • KHAZAD says:

        His OPS+ in years he played with other teams: 112(rookie), 127,141,120,151,144,130. (The last two are age 37 and 38.)

        I think he was pretty damned great everywhere. Never had an OPS+ under 110.

  8. Bryan says:

    Looking at all around excellence and sticking with around a Top 100 you have 110 players who have at least 7 seasons of 2+ WAR baserunning runs. Among those 110 you have 27 players who have at least 7 seasons of 20+ WAR batting runs. Among those 27 you have 13 players who have at least 7 seasons of 2+ WAR fielding runs:
    Hank Aaron 19 bat, 11 run, 12 field
    Barry Bonds 18 bat, 9 run, 15 field
    Rickey Henderson 16 bat, 19 run, 13 field
    Willie Mays 16 bat, 15 run, 17 field
    Alex Rodriguez 15 bat, 11 run, 8 field
    Jeff Bagwell 13 bat, 8 run, 10 field
    Al Kaline 12 bat, 11 run, 13 field
    Ken Griffey Jr 11 bat, 8 run, 9 field
    George Brett 11 bat, 9 run, 10 field
    Larry Walker 9 bat, 12 run, 11 field
    Robin Yount 8 bat, 12 run, 7 field
    Carlos Beltran 7 bat, 9 run, 9 field
    Bobby Bonds 7 bat, 7 run, 9 field
    ***
    You can use different cut-offs and get different results. Spoiler alert: Mays will appear on basically any list of great position players by any criteria for some reason. But this is likely far more reflective of which players were above average at all three aspects than career totals which can reflect at what age a player retired as much as they can reflect how well they played in their prime.

  9. Zach says:

    My sense with Walker is that voters (for whatever reason) have been looking for reasons NOT to vote for him, and you don’t have to work all that hard to find a few, as Joe mentions. The Coors field factor, the relatively injury-plagued career, and so on.

    That said, to me there are four outfielders on the ballot with roughly equivalent cases, who were more or less contemporaries: Walker, Sheffield, Guerrero, and Manny. Each obviously had their own strengths and weaknesses (well, maybe not Walker), but they’re fairly comparable. Yet, they’re not, not really. Walker is the only one of the four who contributed real value beyond the bat, and he hit about as well as the rest. though you could certainly argue Manny was a better hitter.

    By WAR, Walker had two seasons that were superior to what any of the others managed, and accumulated more career value. Vlad actually had the least-impactful career by that measure, yet seems likely to be a first-ballot inductee (and is certain to get in soon regardless). Given that Walker also has an MVP award, and it’s not like there are post-season heroics to distinguish the two, I’m with Joe: doesn’t make sense to me how quickly Walker is being dismissed.

  10. Anthony Calamis says:

    It’s very interesting to see you take up Walker’s candidacy. I hope that you’ll be a Jonah Keri-type for Walker his final three years on the ballot. Just elevating him into the 40% range would be huge for his Today’s Game case.

    I think 5-10% undersells his eventual chances. He was a special player and eventually these Vets Committee’s are going to be populated more by players of his era.

    It’s interesting that Bobby Grich (43.4 WAA) just misses your WAA cutoff. It’s a pretty telling case for him, too.

    I’m very interested to see who your 10th guy is going to be. I suspect Manny, but Vlad would be fun too. I imagine Raines/Ivan Rodriguez are your next two.

  11. Peter Unger says:

    I don’t get the comparison with Gene Kelly. Second only to Fred Astaire, Gene was the greatest male dancer ever to have a substantial career in American film. As well, he was likely a greater influence on the development of dance than was the great Fred.

    It MIGHT be apt to say that there should be more folks than just Fred Astaire in a Hall of Fame. There should also be Gene Kelly.

    But what is not appropriate is to compare Gene with, say, Grace Kelly, far more good-looking than Gene – and than almost anyone else – but also far less versatile and far less Creative than the Artistic Genius who was, among other things, the heart of Singin’ in the Rain,

    • Dan says:

      Larry Walker : “complete ball player” :: Gene Kelly : “complete entertainer”

      “It MIGHT be apt to say that there should be more folks than just Fred Astaire in a Hall of Fame. There should also be Gene Kelly.”

      I think that’s exactly Joe’s point, as he states in his final paragraph: there should be a place in the Hall of Fame for Gene Kelly (and by extension, for Larry Walker, the Gene Kelly of baseball).

  12. Rob Smith says:

    Walker has all the numbers and even an MVP to be in the HOF. Beyond being a product of Coors Field, could it just be that he didn’t FEEL like a HOFer. When I went into BBR, I was thinking that there would be some major flaw in his numbers that would pop. There isn’t. Even the park adjusted numbers say HOF. The only thing that’s sub optimal is his comps. There are quite a few Hall of Very Good members (like Moises Alou and Jim Edmonds) on that list, along with some actual or future HOFers like Duke Snyder and Miguel Cabrera. That does suggest a bit of a borderline case if you put any stock in such things.

    I’ll make a deal. Write a piece on Dick Allen’s HOF case & I’ll buy off on Walker. Deal?

    • invitro says:

      Have you read Bill James’ historical article on Dick Allen? I can’t imagine there’s much more to be said. I think it’s in the 1990 Baseball Book or some year close to that, and maybe/probably in the Historical Baseball Abstract.

      • Rob Smith says:

        Yes, as I recall, James didn’t like Allen because he was kind of cancer in the clubhouse, and a drunkard. And there’s a story about him being late for a game because he was at the horse track. There are different stories about that incident. I have seen other accounts that are much kinder & dispute James’ characterization. But, since I did follow his career, it’s fair to say that he wasn’t Mr. Congeniality & wasn’t buddy, buddy with his teammates, and was difficult to handle for a Manager. He had some run-ins with fans, as well, though he was beloved by kids during his career.

        He was also not friendly with the press (to say the least). That may have been the bigger problem in terms of HOF voting.

        It’s also true that in a 10 year period from 1964 to 1973, Allen had the highest OPS+ in the majors. Just ahead of a few gentlemen named Aaron, McCovey, Robinson, Killebrew, Stargell, Clemente, Mays & other HOF types. It’s sort of a cherry pick of stats, I know, but it also coincides with a very low offensive era. That makes it even more impressive.

        Anyway: if we’re arguing for DH’s based purely on hitting, then Allen should be in. His defense was terrible, but that doesn’t seem to count too much against a lot of guys. Yeah, it’s weighed, but offense is king.

  13. ajnrules says:

    We’re getting down to it. Only five more days until the announcement, three more spots, seven more players left to profile:
    -Vladmir Guerrero
    -Jeff Kent
    -Tim Raines
    -Manny Ramirez
    -Ivan Rodriguez
    -Gary Sheffield
    -Sammy Sosa
    Who would get the last three spots. I’m thinking Raines, IRod…and Sheffield?

    • Anthony Calamis says:

      Would definitely think Pudge is #8 and Raines #9. My *guess* would be Sosa is #14, Kent #13, leaving Manny, Sheff and Vlad to duke it out for 10-12. On pure numbers, that’s Manny. I know Joe supports Bonds & Clemens, but I’m unsure how he would treat Manny, who was not nearly as great and was caught during the testing era. I hope he goes Vlad with the tenth spot, but I think it’ll be Manny.

      • invitro says:

        I think I predicted Manny at #7. We know Joe doesn’t care about PED’s or a really bad dWAR… so I think Manny’s a lock for Joe’s top ten. (My wish is only that he doesn’t give Vlad a vote.)

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        I agree, Anthony: Pudge will probably be #8, Raines #9, and then I’m guessing Vladdy gets #10. I can’t see Sheffield ranking that high, but Manny might be a possibility. Will Joe value the all-around game of Vladdy more than the cumulative totals of Manny? I think he will and I think Manny will end up being #11 on Joe’s ballot.

  14. Paul White says:

    Great points, Joe, as usual, though I can’t be quite as generous with Verducci as you were. Some of his points were good, some were bad, and some were pretty uninformed (“WAR…is a measurement of nothing”), but overall he came off as a cranky “get those damn kids off my lawn” type. Whenever a writer throws out things like “I’ll try to dumb it down as much as possible”, he’s pretty much flashing his inflated opinion of himself in neon. Not my particular cup of tea.

    • invitro says:

      I didn’t get any of the “damn kids” from the article at all. But I think I consciously ignore that and look for the logical argument. I think his opinions on PED’s are reasonable, and his stat arguments were so cherry-picked that they were insulting. Verducci definitely has a massively high opinion of himself, but so what… it’s the soundness of his arguments that matters most.

      • Paul White says:

        I think his opinion of himself matters in this case because he chose to use it to “dumb down” his argument. By doing so, it undermines the sort of logical argument you (and I) looked for. Maybe if he’d bothered to treat his readers like intelligent baseball fans, he would have been forced to think through his own argument in more depth and provide a more cogent explanation. Instead, as you correctly noted, we got insulting cherry-picking, and fundamental lack of understanding of some measures (WAR) of player performance. I’m not sure we’d have gotten that if he hadn’t handled it all so arrogantly.

  15. Mike says:

    Verducci’s analysis of McGriff’s numbers w/ BALCO crossed me as … dubious. We have no idea how much BALCO inflated Bonds’ numbers, least of all that this could be applied to McGriff. As a fan of Verducci, I was extremely disappointed to see him flogging such stuff.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Really? We don’t know how BALCO inflated Bonds numbers? There are these things called Stats that we can use to measure before/after (which is well defined in the narrative). There’s also hat size.

      • Mike says:

        That assumes that every player has a predictable aging curve which every player does not. And certainly not one as unique as Baryr Bonds. Henry Aaron also hit a career high in home runs at 37.

        • invitro says:

          You just made Hank mad… now he has to put another thank-you tip in the Launching Pad’s jar…

        • Rob Smith says:

          Look, I don’t mean to jump down your throat here, but are you seriously arguing that Barry Bonds had his own unique “aging curve” just because. And we can’t know how much was natural. If that’s your argument, it’s a very lazy argument. It just throws out the obvious evidence & just says “we can’t know how it would have worked out”. Because, you know, anything’s possible. Maybe Barry Bonds was born to be greater than everyone else from age 35-40 base on pure luck, and hey, one guy (Henry Aaron) hit 47 HRs at age 37. Come on. Try a little harder than that. If you want to argue honestly, just say you don’t care about PEDs and leave it at that. That’s an honest argument. I don’t agree with it, but it’s not trying to rewrite what actually happened. People are entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

        • Sonny says:

          Aaron played a good portion of his prime in a pitchers park, and once he moved to a favorable hitters park in ’66, well that was getting into the height of the pitchers era. His hitting a career high in homers at age 37 was likely a combination of finally being in a hitters park, in a hitters era.

      • SDG says:

        You think hat size has a correlation with baseball ability? And of course, using your foolproof “looking at stats” argument, I can definitively state that Henry Aaron used steroids. 46 homers at age 37? 40 at age 39? Who does he think he’s kidding with that shit. Ted Williams posted the second-highest SLG of his career at age 38. Clearly, he used PEDs (and a time machine, which if you ask me is a much bigger violation of the rules). And who knows what Satchel Paige was using. Your method is scientific and foolproof.

        Yes, I think Bonds used PEDs. I’m not arguing that. (Although it hasn’t been proven. He went down for perjury in the BALCO scandal, not using). but we don’t know what he would have done without them. Virtually everyone thinks he would have had a HoF career if he’d stayed skinny, early-career Bonds.

        • Rob Smith says:

          Look, it’s not opinion that Bonds used steroids. He never denied it. He took the tact of saying he didn’t “knowingly” take them. He went to the absurd to say that he thought “The Clear” was Flaxseed Oil. His whole argument was, although he took The Cream and The Clear (which objectively were steroids via other testimony), his trainer told him they were legit substances. So, “hear no evil” was his defense, not that he didn’t take anything. Had he made that argument, the evidence clearly contradicted it. So, he went for a nuanced argument that you often see when people are caught doing something they shouldn’t have been doing. And the reason he made that nuanced argument was that he had already testified that he hadn’t taken steroids. The only argument he could make to get him off the hook was that he had said that he hadn’t taken steroids because he believed, at the time, that he hadn’t… even though evidence is to the contrary now. He had no basis to argue that he didn’t take steroids, that was clearly wrong, so he had to go to the “I didn’t know” defense. So, if he didn’t know the truth, then he wasn’t lying in his testimony.

          So, to your flimsy stat story. I never stats told the whole story. It’s stats around the timeline of when he went to Balco and started on their steroids concoctions. There’s a documented time line for that, which if matched up to the stats, shows a correlation between going to Balco, during his mid 30s and a jump in his numbers. Now correlation is not causation. But it’s pretty generally accepted that steroids improve performance. So, moving to causation doesn’t require a leap of faith. Steroids improve performance AND Bonds performance jumped when he started taking them. Look, this isn’t that hard. I can’t even believe I took the time to write the obvious.

          • SDG says:

            You should have spent some of that time reading what I wrote, where I said, and I quote, “Yes, I think Bonds used PEDs.” My point was also obvious – that you can’t say what he would have done without them. It is the consensus among people who care about these things that he (and Clemens) would be locks for the Hall regardless, which makes them different from players like McGwire.

            If you want to say that anyone who used shouldn’t be in the Hall, that’s fine. That’s valid. But it’s impossible to sat even how the various PEDs he used changed his stats.

          • moviegoer74 says:

            So if PEDs are the reason Bonds hit 73 HRs in 2001 why did he never hit more than 49 in any other year, including the other years when he was also taking steroids?

            I’m not saying PEDs didn’t help Bonds, of course they did, but the lines of causation are not as clear as you seem to believe they are.

          • Sonny says:

            Moviegoer, the reason why he never hit more than 49 is obvious: Teams stopped pitching to him.

          • moviegoer74 says:

            If that were the only reason then his SLG would have remained the same, no? Or, to look at it another way, in his 73-HR season, Bonds hit a HR every 6.5 ABs. (Using ABs rather than PAs to remove walks). He never had another season in which his ratio was better than 1 HR every 8.3 ABs (that was 2004, his highest Walks year).

            So froget the raw totals. Why did he never come close to that HR pace again on a per-AB basis?

          • Sonny says:

            Moviegoer, my answer to that question would be that in 2001 he was absolutely trying to hit homers, trying to break the record. His strikeout rate was 1 K every 5.11 AB, which was a career high, outside of his rookie year. His rates the years following 2001: 1/8.27, 1/6.72, 1/9.1, 1/7.2, and 1/6.3 for the final 5 years of his career. My guess is he stopped swinging as hard.

      • Nick S. says:

        We have an excellent idea *that* Bonds’ performance was affected, but we don’t know by how much. Right now, with the tools we have, it’s impossible to tell how PEDs affected any given individual player.

        • Rob Smith says:

          Please don’t make the “we can’t know” argument. It’s not an argument. As noted above, you can make a VERY persuasive argument that the timing of Bonds taking Balco steroids caused his performance uptick. Just saying “we can’t know” is just a way to simply disregard the evidence and call everything “unknowable”. We have brains that we should use to weigh the evidence. Using the “we can’t know” argument, juries would have to let every criminal go that wasn’t caught on tape with a smoking gun in their hand, standing over the body. That’s not the way these things work.

          • Patrick says:

            You’re not listening to what people are saying. We can say that Bonds performance was affected. Okay, fine. But how many extra home runs/RBI did he get from them? How much higher did his BA/OBP climb as a result of it? Okay, he doesn’t get to 73 HR without them. Does he get to 45? 50?

      • McKingford says:

        Using that logic we must conclude that Roger Maris – who never hit 40 HRs before hitting 61, and only ever hit 30 once again after – must have been juicing.

        Using a player’s stats as evidence they were juicing is not only the worst kind of begging the question fallacy, it’s cherry picking: should we conclude that Griffey’s 50 HR seasons were the product of PEDs? Or only players with bad attitudes…

  16. Mark says:

    I thought Frank Robinson was going to be in any list.

    • SDG says:

      I always heard he had a reputation for being slow. When people talk about his game it’s eye-popping hitting stats and then the tough Ty Cobb attitude. I don’t think he ever had a rep as a Willie Mays complete player.

      I was surprised Mantle wasn’t on the all-three list. Everyone knows about Mantle’s hitting and baserunning, but I expect he’s a bit underrated as a fielder, because he was compared to Mays all the time. But I think he was pretty good in that area as well, at least in his prime.

  17. denopac says:

    Sorry, name police here again. It’s Katharine (not Katherine) Hepburn.

  18. Dr. Baseball says:

    “Without the passion, there is emptiness.”

    Beautiful Joe, beautiful!

    • invitro says:

      Blah… passion is what causes most crimes, murders, rapes, wars, etc. It’s vastly overrated as a positive thing. I’d say without logic, reason, and facts, there is emptiness.

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        What about a nice combination of both passion AND logic?

        • invitro says:

          Well, I’d like to think that I have a passion for logic/truth/reason, but who knows. They serve different purposes. I’d like to have logic in the rock music I listen to, but passion is what I’m usually going for. And logic is what I’m looking for in the mathematics books I read. But OK, sure, a combination of them is best. Heck, that’s why Bill James is my favorite recent author. More of both passion and reason than you can shake a stick at. (Joe’s pretty good at both, too.)

        • ben says:

          Crazy Diamond: Fantastic name.

      • SDG says:

        Passion and logic are not mutually exclusive, nor are they inversely correlated. Logic, reason, and facts have also been responsible for plenty of crimes and wars. They’re still immeasurably valuable, but let’s not make them to be more than they are.

  19. Brent says:

    Honus Wagner wants to know where he falls short in baserunning and defense.

    • Bryan says:

      Honus in career fielding is +85, just missing the +87 cut-off. Career baserunning +33.5 (DP adjustment does not exist that far back) is also just short of the +37 cut-off. Joe probably ignored the first 4 years of his career and Honus is probably 75 and 31 on Joe’s lists. Fred Clarke and Billy Hamilton (not that one) would be listed as double threats if Joe used 1871 as a starting point.

      • Brent says:

        Thank you for your answer. I tried to go to bbr.com myself to figure it out, but couldn’t. I am guessing those lists would have to be generated off the play index, because the leaderboards don’t do Rbaser or Rfield, that I can see.

  20. Richard says:

    Loved the comparison to Gene Kelly!

    By the way, Kelly also directed – most notably “On the Town” (with Stanley Donen) and “Hello Dolly!”

  21. Crazy Diamond says:

    I grew up in Denver during the Blake Street Bombers heyday and yet even I go back and forth about whether Walker belongs in the HOF. Sentimental reasons always pushed me to vote (on my fake ballot) for Walker, but without having a personal connection to Denver and the Colorado Rockies during Walker’s peak, I’m not sure he’d make the cut. But admittedly, I’m more a fan of compilers than high-peak guys, with some exceptions such as Dale Murphy. Walker’s case, like Edgar Martinez’s case, isn’t easy. They’re both much more rate-oriented than compilers and that’s tougher to navigate, IMO.

    Still, Walker and Martinez are the only Hall-eligible players not tainted by PED allegations to retire with that elusive 300/400/500 slash-line and not be in the HOF.

  22. chris says:

    so Verducci picking an arbitrary number of 10,000 is bad but you picking an arbitrary number of 100 is good?

    • invitro says:

      The reason why Verducci’s 10,000 PA was bad is not that it was arbitrary (which I think is rather a meaningless buzzword), but because it was insensibly chosen. It ignored piles of all-time greats who had 9,000 PA, for no reason other than it made McGriff look good (as I detailed in the McGriff article comments). Are there piles of players that would make the club if 110 (a 10% change) was used? (Also bad in Verducci’s article: an OPS+ of 140 being used as a threshold.)

    • Bryan says:

      10000+ PA = 86 players in baseball history, McGriff is tied for 27th in career OPS+ at 134. The 26 players above him are 19 in the HoF, Barry, Pujols, Thome, Ortiz, Chipper, A-Rod and Sheffield.
      **
      9000+ PA = 161 players in baseball history, McGriff is tied for 40th in career OPS+ at 134. The 39 players above him are 28 HoF, the players listed above, Miggy, Manny, Bagwell and Vlad.
      **
      8000+ PA = 275 players in baseball history, McGriff is tied for 53rd in career OPS+ at 134. The 52 players above him are 32 HoF, the players listed above, Edgar, Walker, Giambi, Bob Johnson, Delgado, Will Clark, Jack Clark, Reggie Smith and Sherry Magee.
      **
      Or to compare more directly to another Blue Jay first baseman:
      Delgado: 8657 PA, 138 OPS+
      McGriff 1986-2000: 8583 PA, 136 OPS+
      McGriff 2001-2004: 1591 PA, 123 OPS+
      Is Delgado and roughly average hitting for a 1B/DH for an extra 2.5 full-time seasons a Hall of Fame hitter? Their defense and running is also quite similar per baseball-reference.com.

  23. invitro says:

    Well Walker should be in, of course, and Joe should’ve put him at #6, ahead of Edgar, if he’s really passionate about him. I think Walker was the better player. But #7 is still a little higher than I expected, and I didn’t expect Joe to make a case out of Walker (though this particular article ironically seems pretty dispassionate to me, even boring). But I guess he figures he doesn’t need to spend it on Raines.

    I think Walker’s injuries are as much to blame for his low HoF showing so far as Coors is. But who knows, until Helton gets on the ballot, then we’ll know more. I really hope writers aren’t being so lazy that they’re just ignoring Walker, because they don’t want to deal with neutralizing his stats. But I suppose this kind of thing happens a lot… maybe if Walker’s stats had been somewhat lesser, he’d have more votes by now? But that’s crazy talk… I think Joe has been somewhat influential in the cases of Blyleven, Morris, and Raines, and hopefully he will in Walker’s case.

    This is the first I’ve heard about the Coors park factor being too low for Walker. I may track down those articles, except that it sort of sounds like they might be advocating having a different park factor for each player, which sounds tremendously unfair to me. If a player was able to maximize how he played in his home stadium, he should be rewarded for it, not penalized. It’s kind of how lots of people want to penalize Wilt for scoring 50 pts/game and shooting 60%. It’s too good, therefore it must be tainted.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      This all begs the Q: does anyone think Helton should be in the HOF? I don’t. I think he was a great player but I don’t see him being all that much better than Will Clark, John Olerud, Robin Ventura, and Dick Allen. But if Helton doesn’t get much support, which I suspect will be the case, how much do we blame it on anti-Coors bias from voters vs. voters simply not deeming Helton worthy of the HOF regardless of Coors???

      • Anthony Calamis says:

        Think you’re underselling Helton. I think he’s better than all of those players except perhaps Allen, who I believe will soon be in the Hall.

        • Patrick says:

          I agree. Helton’s got a great, HOF worthy peak, but not much else. The slash lines are great, but 61 career WAR isn’t in obvious territory, and his HR/RBI totals are just okay, even before factoring in Coors

  24. Gabe says:

    Having some trouble finding these lists…which stats were looked at exactly?

  25. Jim says:

    Which is the better measure of defensive ability – Total Zone Runs, as cited here, or dWAR?

    I looked at the alltime top 100 for both, and was surprised at the low level of overlap I saw. Only 45 are on both lists, including 31 of the top 50 TZR. Walker’s career dWAR is barely positive, so he is only on the TZR list. (also on TZR but not dWAR: Clemente, who is within shouting distance of top 100 dWAR, and Bonds and Yaz, who are not).

    • invitro says:

      dWAR contains the positional adjustment… does Total Zone Runs? Then note the positions Walker, Bonds, Clemente and Yaz played…

  26. Zeke Bob says:

    David Ortiz’s season averages for his home/away splits for just the Boston portion of his career are:
    Home – .312 BA, .410 OBP, .593 SLG
    Away – .268 BA, .360 OBP, .545 SLG

    Larry Walker’s last Montreal season averages are:
    .322 BA, .394 OBP, .587 SLG

    Yeah, Walker’s stats were aided more by Coors Field than Ortiz was helped by Fenway Park, but still they each got an advantage at home, and in Walker’s last pre-Coors season he basically hit like Ortiz did for his career at Fenway – and Ortiz only had to worry about hitting most of the time.

    I definitely think Walker belongs in the Hall.

  27. Ericanadian says:

    He was pretty great in Montreal before he went to Colorado and pretty great (in very limited sample size) after he left and went to St. Louis. He played about 30% of his games in Coors Field (597 of 1,988), not half.

    Compare him to Jim Rice. I get that Jim Rice is a fringe HoFer, but Walker is better than him in every way. Rice got no less of a boost from Fenway, because he actually played half his games there.

    Rice Home .320/.374/.546
    Rice Away .277/.330/.459

    Now compare just Rice’s numbers in Fenway to Walker away from Coors. I won’t go into counting stats because Walker had a PA lead of roughly 5,500 to 4,500, but slash line is:

    Walker Not Coors .282/.372/.500

    Walker away from Colorado was basically Jim Rice in Fenway. The difference is that Rice got singles where Walker got walks. Sure, it’s a lot of singles, but it’s also a lot of walks and doesn’t even factor in the superior baserunning and fielding of Walker.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      “Walker away from Colorado was basically Jim Rice in Fenway.”

      Are you sure? Because to me Rice’s 38-point advantage in BA and 46-point advantage in SLG seems to indicate that he was quite a bit better than Walker in this comparison. Now obviously Walker was a better overall player than Rice but let’s not be disingenuous about the numbers =)

      • ericanadian says:

        As I said, the difference is singles vs. walks. How much more value does a single add vs a walk? How does that additional value compare to Walker’s superior fielding & baserunning?

  28. Chuck says:

    Hey Joe, I looked at the years 1995-2003, when Walker had his whole seasons in Colorado, and compared his hitting at home to how the NL hit in Colorado. (Walker’s home stats were subtracted from that.) Pro-rated to his PA’s each season here’s how he compared to other NL hitters there:

    AVG 25% better
    OBP 25% better
    SLG 41% better
    OPS 34% better

    ISO 65% better
    HR% 68% better (HR-to-batted ball rate)

    BB+HBP% 41% better
    SO% 23% below league average
    SB rate* 67% better
    *For steals I looked at SB/(1b+BB-IBB+HBP), which would be most, but not all times on 1st base.

    One of the ways that he took advantage of hitting in Colorado was by being able to strike out much less there than other NL hitters.

  29. Anon says:

    Ultimately the injuries are what are going to keep him out since they limited him to 383 HR and 2,160 hits which for (too) many voters are still the primary numbers they consider. Walker managed 8,030 PA in 17 seasons. Throw out his 56 PA cup of coffee in 1989 and he averaged 498 PA per season – his average season doesn’t even qualify for the batting title.

    THe only post-WWII HOF players whose primary position was RF who have fewer HR are Clemente and Gwynn (both with 3,000 hits) and Enos Slaughter (who was elected 30 years ago by the VC and not the writers).

    THere are no post-WWII HOF right fielders with fewer hits and he is 223 hits behind Slaughter who currently has the fewest. He’s 424 hits behind Reggie who has the next fewest.

    Stretch it to CF and LF and you bring in a couple more people – Puckett, Duke Snider, Ralph Kiner, Jim Rice, Monte Irvin – but they all have special circumstances or were borderline candidates who made it on their last couple ballots (Snider and Rice for example)

    I’d vote him in but I just don’t think he’s getting in via the writer’s vote.

  30. Darrel says:

    Walker should be in no doubt. Where I have always found fault in Joe’s HoF position is not so much in the blind eye he turns to the cheating but in the inconsistent way he has applied the logic of inflated stats. Bonds, Sosa, and the like used steroids to basically turn every park into Coors field. In previous years Joe has voted for those guys but then dismissed Walker due to the “inflated stats” of Coors. Glad to see he has starting to come around on the inconsistency. I’d rather he did it by not voting for the PED cheats but to each his own.

  31. Brent says:

    One factor not mentioned is what I will call the Vern Stephens factor (in honor of Bill James whom I lifted it from). Had Walker’s Coors’ numbers just been Todd Helton good instead of Ted Williams good, we might be more likely to accept them at face value, but his numbers are SO good that we cannot process them and assume that they are “fake”, just as Vern Stephens’ 159 RBI season was SO high that fans naturally assumed that they were somehow not reflective of how well Stephens hit in 1949 and rated Phil Rizzuto as the better player

    • Patrick says:

      Yeah, but if they were simply Todd Helton good, his counting numbers would be even more borderline than they are for a corner OF who played in the 90s. His H/HR/RBI totals are essentially equal to Joe Carter’s. You start taking stuff away from that, it’s going to hurt him all the same

  32. Otistaylor89 says:

    “Now, you could make a pretty strong argument that his numbers have not been adjusted enough. Mitchel Lichtman makes the compelling case that Coors Field really needs two ballpark adjustments (especially in the pre-humidor days), one for road players and the other for home players. The evidence suggests that playing in Coors Field all the time allows players to make batting adjustments that road players simply cannot make.”

    This statement is why Larry Walker is not a HOFer.

    • TheHammer says:

      On the one hand, people scoff at the numbers put up by Rockies players in their home park. On the other hand, no one seems to give any weight to the adjustments that those players have to try to make whenever they go on the road. Trying to guage breaking balls and pitch movement in road parks like SD & LA after a home stand in Denver has to require some level of adjustment that non-Coors Field players don’t have to deal with. So while Coors Field is obviously a big advantage as a home park, it clearly also requires a greater degree of adjusting to new conditions on the road, which probably makes their road stats suffer more than the typical “home/road” splits.

  33. Brian Schwartz says:

    I really don’t see the case for the claim that Walker was a great hitter because of Coors Field. Before signing with the Rockies, Walker was the cleanup hitter for the best team in baseball, the 1994 Expos. He was worth 30 batting runs before the strike ended the season in early August. After being traded from the Rockies, he was the #2 hitter for the best team in baseball, the 2004 Cardinals, and had a .953 OPS for the Cardinals even though he was 37 years old and about to retire because of injuries.

    In Larry Walker’s 1997 MVP season, he hit .384/.460/.709 at home, and .346/.443/.733 on the road.

    • Brent says:

      Larry Walker’s SLG in his last year (.502) would put him in the top 100 all time of SLG if it was his lifetime SLG. And that was done while playing exactly 3 games at Coors, wherein he went 1 for 11.

      Chuck Klein at his peak and Walker at his peak are essentially the same hitters, both of whom have their stats inflated for similar reasons. Klein wasn’t as good as Walker in his non-peak, wasn’t a particularly good outfielder or baserunner. And he is in the HOF. Putting Walker in wouldn’t diminish the Hall at all.

    • Otistaylor89 says:

      “After being traded from the Rockies, he was the #2 hitter for the best team in baseball, the 2004 Cardinals, and had a .953 OPS for the Cardinals even though he was 37 years old and about to retire because of injuries.”

      Doesn’t pass the smell test as he totalled 150 AB in the 2004 season, 44 games that’s less than 1 1/2 months.

      • Brian Schwartz says:

        He was also great for the Cardinals in the ’04 postseason, and very good during the ’05 regular season. I think the fact that late in his career, he was a big contributor on a pennant-winning team, certainly helps his HOF case.

    • Patrick says:

      “I really don’t see the case for the claim that Walker was a great hitter because of Coors Field.”

      The fact that his career average at Coors Field was .381 and his career average everywhere else was .282 doesn’t do it for you?

  34. Sinister Six says:

    Walker hit .278/.370/.495 over his entire career in road games, so he was hardly a Coors Field creation. Heck, if Walker had done that over his ENTIRE career, that might be Hall-worthy — how many guys in Cooperstown have an .865 career OPS?

    • invitro says:

      Among RF’s, that .865 would rank #10 among 24 HoF’ers. Just for fun, here’s the complete list of RF’s with at least 200 career PA with a higher OPS+ than Walker’s 141 who aren’t in the HoF: Shoeless Joe (170), Gavvy Cravath (151), Giancarlo Stanton (142).

    • Patrick says:

      Except that a Walker who hits .278/.370/495 also has much worse counting numbers, and that’s (in addition to Coors) what is holding him back.

  35. Wes Tovich says:

    He’s Chuck Klein but did it better on the road. Of course you put him in, there’s just too much.

    Personally a big fan of the Big Cat too. I enjoyed seeing him play so well in Coors then in Atl after.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      I loved Big Cat! People too often dismiss his resurgence as a Coors creation (nevermind his success in ATL…smh…) but forget that Don Baylor totally changed Cat’s batting stance. I mean, he RADICALLY changed it. Cat had problems with his eyes and by opening his stance, he could see the pitcher with both eyes instead of just predominantly his left eye. That + increased confidence = success. That or he was juicing, lol.

  36. Benjamin Wildner says:

    I wonder if the Rockies in that era had ever truly been considered a pennant threat then the narrative around the whole team would have been more serious and less circus freak show permitting Walker to accumulate the respect from the electorate to really compete.

  37. moviegoer74 says:

    Someone mentioned above that he was expecting a stat to pop (in a negative way) that would explain Walker’s lack of HOF support thus far. And the BR was surprised that no stats popped in that way when he looked at Walker’s numbers. To me, there is a stat that pops in that negative way: Games Played.

    Catchers aside, are there any other HOF position players (in the 162-game era) with only 1 season of 150+ GP? How about with only 4 seasons of 140+?

    As another BR put it in a different comment, his AVERAGE complete season does not have enough PAs to qualify for the batting title.

    I’d vote him in, but I think that is fairly damning and I think that, more so than his “low” counting stats per se, explains his relative lack of HOF support (combined with the Coors Field concerns, or course). To put it another way, if he’d gotten his 8030 PAs over parts of 14 or 15 seasons (say by spreading his 1989, 2004 and 2005 PAs around throughout his career) instead of parts of 17, and put up the same exact counting stats, I think they’d be viewed more favorably.

    • invitro says:

      “Catchers aside, are there any other HOF position players (in the 162-game era) with only 1 season of 150+ GP? How about with only 4 seasons of 140+?” — Good question. I’ve looked a bit, and I’m going to bet that the answer is “no, and it’s not even close.” I think the closest I can find is Barry Larkin, who missed a pile of games — he averaged only 494 PA per season (skipping his first, partial season), fewer than Walker. But Larkin had 4 seasons of 150+ games, and 7 of 140+ games. (Can anyone find a better example than Larkin?)

      • moviegoer74 says:

        I suspect Larkin is the closest we’ll find. And he played the most important defensive position (and one that is considered much more physically taxing than a corner outfield position).

    • KHAZAD says:

      I think everyone know about him being injury prone. I don’t know why this would be any more of a negative than it already is. It hurts his career counting stats, and some people look at the number of PAs and want to see a higher one.

      • moviegoer74 says:

        I don’t think it’s simply the totals.

        Kirby Puckett breezed in with 200 fewer PAs than Walker. But Puckett’s 7,831 PAs were accumulated in fewer seasons (i.e. more games per season). Kirby Puckett had 8 seasons of 150+ games played (and one other of 146).

        I think if Walker had the same exact 8030 PAs that he has, but they were spread over fewer seasons, and his totals and rates otherwise remained the same, he’d have a more compelling case in the minds of the voters.

    • Anthony Calamis says:

      Willie Stargell *never* played 150 games in a year and had roughly the same number of 130-game years despite playing 20+ years.

  38. This one reminded me of a fun trivia question: since 1939 1 player has put up a season with at least 35 HR, 15 SB, 10 3B, 100 BB. Hint, he’s in the list of 2 x top 100 players.

    • invitro says:

      My first guess was 7 SB away of making this exclusive club once, and 8 HR and 10 SB away from making it a second time. (But I’m sure he could’ve gotten those 7 SB if he’d really wanted or needed to.)

    • nightfly says:

      My guess would be Henry Aaron.

    • KHAZAD says:

      Without giving it away, I know the answer. People forget about the steals early in his career. In 1975 he came one steal away from being the first 30/30 guy with 100 walks. There have been 3 since, all of whom did it more than once: Barry Bonds (the first one was in 1992, which most people say is before he supplemented) Jeff Bagwell, and a third guy who is very underrated and that few would guess without looking it up.

      • invitro says:

        I thought I got it from your hint, but I just got another close-but-no-cigar, 1 HR and 15 BB away. I’m getting a feeling that there are a whole lot of guys just short of this club.

      • Sonny says:

        Your “people forget about the steals” was the clue that did it for me.

    • invitro says:

      I altered the numbers a little. Three players have done this: 25 HR, 20 SB, 8 3B, 80 BB. Hints: one of Khazad’s 30/30/100 guys is in the club, but for a different season (!). But the guy who’s the answer to fivetwentyone’s question didn’t do it, none of the three are in Joe’s lists, but two of three are mentioned in some other comment on this page. And two of the three are among my all-time most favorite players. 🙂 Those two are probably easy; the third might be quite hard.

      • KHAZAD says:

        My guy is still the most underrated player of this century. One of yours followed his season up with one of the best post season performances ever – without even making the World Series.

      • good one. I looked it up and found a different slice; at least 35 HR, 35 SB, 95 BB, 5 3B. Two players have done it.

  39. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    I’m not sure I care much for the royal flush analogy. Sure, a great poker player, when dealt a royal flush, will make more money than a bad poker player. But, then, the same is true of the poker player who is dealt a lousy hand: she to will do better than her peers in an identical situation. So if Larry Walker is such a good pokerball player, why aren’t his road stats elite-level as well?
    To be clear, I think Walker is a Hall of Famer based on the 140 OPS+. I just don’t think the poker analogy leads us anywhere helpful. Walker’s case demands that we discount significantly his performance at Coors. If his OPS+ had come in about 10 points lower, I would argue against his induction, irrespective of how well he “played his hand.”

  40. ben says:

    As is so often the case, wonderful stuff.

  41. Wes Tovich says:

    Guess I gotta be the Friday Nite Jerk here, so sorry ahead of time. I am All For Larry Walker getting in. He belongs. If you don’t put him in, who exactly is ever going to be acceptable from Colorado? Helton? I just donno. You have to accept that the home stats are going to be goofy 1930 2001 looking things and try to go from there.

    Here’s the thing–if Walker gets a pass for what he did in Denver, why not Bichette, Big Cat or Castilla? Big Cat is the one that always gets under my skin. The mantra was he was a joke product of Denver, but then you see what he did in Atlanta in 1998 and 2000, everyone Should have shaddap about it.

    I get it. I do. Road stats for these guys suck. They’re going to. They’re going to look even worse because of how gaudy their home stats look. Just deal with it. Keeping a Larry Walker out of the Hall because he didn’t hit .354 on the road is an idiotic standard that was created for just him and no one else. Can’t be done. He was a complete player and should be acccepted for what he was-a great all time talent, period. Good luck on getting that done, mind, but–there it is. He deserves better.

    I think Big Cat does too. No he’s not a Hof. No he’s not in Walker’s class. But you can see where this is going.

  42. Cliff Blau says:

    Galarraga’s .37 batting average was in 1993, when the Rockies played in Mile High Stadium.

  43. Rick Rodstrom says:

    For someone who plays in Coors Field, I just throw away their home stats and double their road stats. I mean, if someone played their home games on the moon, they would lead the league in homers every year because the ball would just keep traveling. Coors Field during the steroid era is the closest we’ve come to playing baseball on the moon, so I just discard those stats.

    Larry Walker hit .282./.372/.500 away from Coors Field, which as Joe said are pretty darn good numbers. Except for one thing—they are numbers compiled during the heart of the steroid era. Other outfielders from that era who are not getting in the Hall whose career numbers are as good as Walker’s road numbers include Moises Alou, Bobby Abreu, Ellis Burks, JD Drew, Magglio Ordonez and Tim Salmon, great players all, but just a tick below HOF standards. Then you get the paltry counting stats compiled during Coors in the steroid era, and I just don’t see Walker getting in.

    • Gordo says:

      Every player has superior home stats to road stats: sleeping in the same bed, get used to the back drop, not out partying….

      Not a fair analogy.

      • invitro says:

        It’s been shown that home field advantage is due to referees/umpires, in all sports. (It should be dwindling in baseball due to increased policing of umps.) There was a great Sports Illo article about it a few years ago.

    • John Autin says:

      You’d disregard a big chunk of a great player’s career, simply because it was in an extreme park.

      Problems with that approach:

      — The 597 games Walker played in Coors Field were real major-league games. The environment changed how many runs were needed to win a game, but you still had to score more than the other team. So the relative performance of individual players still mattered the same as in other parks. And Walker was the best hitter ever to bat 300 times in Coors Field. Out of 79 players with 300+ PAs in Coors (including Bonds), Walker leads with .381 BA, .710 SLG and 1.172 OPS. That helped his team win 56% of the games he started there. Why should his major contribution to those wins be thrown out?

      — Most parks have quirks, and many HOFers built their resume on taking advantage of their home park, by accident or by design. Bobby Doerr, Hank Greenberg and Chuck Klein all had larger OPS gains at home than Walker. Not far behind were Earl Averill, Ron Santo, Jimmie Foxx and Wade Boggs.

      — Boggs on the road had a .781 OPS. The only modern third baseman in the Hall with a lower OPS is Brooks Robinson, a supreme glove who played forever. If you double Boggs’s road stats, he loses the 3,000-hit distinction (2,774), his runs drop from 1,1513 to 1,328, and his doubles drop from 578 to 432. He’s not getting in the Hall that way.

      Boggs took advantage of Fenway, hitting many soft flies off the Monster, so that he averaged 55 doubles per 162 games there (just 29 on the road). Those were the conditions he was dealt, and he made more of it than almost anyone. I say kudos. Real games were played in those conditions, and he helped win a lot of them. Same with Walker.

      • Rick Rodstrom says:

        Some players, like Wade Boggs and Mel Ott, tailored their game to the parks they played in, which is fine. It’s not the stadium so much in Denver, it’s the atmospheric conditions, which among other things force Denver to build a park with a huge outfield, because fly balls travel so far. Not having the ball move as it travels to home plate seems to be a far greater advantage than any placement of the fences, however. It’s a different game.

        Besides, Boggs finished with 3010 hits. Mel Ott, who benefited from the short porch in the Polo Grounds, finished with 511 home runs. Larry Walker, whose numbers were wildly inflated by the conditions he played in, finished with 2160 hits and 383 home runs. So if his peak totals get an asterisk, and his career totals are unimpressive, is Larry Walker really a Hall of Famer?

  44. Rick Rodstrom says:

    There are home field advantages and then there are home field advantages. It’s sherpas vs tourists at Mile High. It’s a different brand of baseball played at Coors Field—the ball travels farther, the fielders are more widely spaced, the breaking balls don’t break—other than setting it up on a tee, these are ideal conditions for a hitter. Square it by the steroid era and suddenly people become Rogers Hornsby. It’s misleading and unfair to compare achievements under one set of conditions with achievements under a different set of conditions. Like baseball on the moon.

  45. invitro says:

    OK, one more club. Four players did this: 50 2B, 10 3B, 20 HR, 5 SB. One is an all-time superstar and mentioned on this page. Another is a Hall of Famer and mentioned three times on this page. The other two aren’t HoF’ers and won’t be; they aren’t mentioned on this page; one did it in the 1970’s, the other did it in the 2000’s.

    • that’s an interesting list. One is an all-time season for an all-tine team. One is an all-time park effect guy. One happened in a year when expansion + possible juiced ball caused a spike in HR. And the last one I would never have guessed.

  46. invitro says:

    Sorry, I’m an addict now, but just one more. The club is 190 hits, 100 walks, 20 stolen bases. So simple and easy! Nope. Joe Kelley and Billy Hamilton did it in the 1890’s. Ty Cobb did it in 1915. And… one other guy has done it since. This guy didn’t win the MVP for his efforts, but he did finish second. He didn’t win the World Series in his club-making season, but did get to the Series, and had a great one. He’s not a HoFer and won’t be, he’s not mentioned on this page. C’mon… 190 H, 100 BB, 20 SB… so simple… I really wouldn’t have guessed that this had been done only one time since Cobb…

  47. Sonny says:

    Not a Hall of Famer in my book. Nice player though.

  48. Pete R says:

    First line of the Verducci piece:
    “A jarring thought occurred to me recently: Many people who never covered a day of the Steroid Era [because they are too young] are voting for the Hall of Fame.”

    Well, I remember the Steroid Era. Most of Verducci’s generation weren’t covering the Steroid Era. They were just writing about baseball. You know what I mean?

    It was only at the end of the era that writers decided that steroid-cheating was far, far worse than amphetamine-cheating or on-field-cheating.

    I’m not making a case for or against any players, but if one generation of journalists starts making claims, well…

    • moviegoer74 says:

      Is this even correct? I mean, it will eventually be true, but it’s not true now, I don’t think. You have to be a BBWAA member for 10 years to get a Hall vote. So for this year that means since at least 2006. And the BBWAA doesn’t make you a member the very day you start covering baseball. The publication you write for has to nominate you (or something like that…there’s a process for getting into the BBWAA, you can’t just sign up). So virtually everyone with a vote this year had to have started covering baseball before 2006, most likely well before 2006 in order to have become a BBWAA member by 2006. That means there just can’t be many HOF voters yet who are too young to have covered the steroid era.

  49. Dave Glass says:

    #1 Darin Erstad, not Darren. I only know, because I named my son after him 🙂

    #2 For those who think Coors disqualifies him, I have one response: Mel Ott. I know that Joe knows this, but for others – go check his home/road splits. Check Wade Boggs’ splits when he played at Fenway.

    Walker hit like an All-Star on the road, and broke the game at home…moreso than anyone else ever has been able to do at Coors. That’s enough for me.

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