Larry Walker received only 20.3% of the Hall of Fame votes on the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot, yet he is third in career WAR on the 2012 HOF ballot, behind Jeff Bagwell and Barry Larkin. Walker was pegged as a 5-tool player when he came up with the Montreal Expos in 1989 and he had a great run in Canada until he joined the Colorado Rockies in 1995, in which he shattered record books. He was still good when he retired at age 38 in 2005.
|162 Game Avg.||162||654||110||176||38||31||107||19||6||.313||.400||.965||140|
|COL (10 yrs)||1170||4795||892||1361||297||258||848||126||40||.334||.426||1.044||147|
|MON (6 yrs)||674||2690||368||666||147||99||384||98||35||.281||.357||.839||128|
|STL (2 yrs)||144||545||95||133||27||26||79||6||1||.286||.387||.908||134|
The Case for Larry Walker’s Hall of Fame Candidacy
Larry Walker was always one of the most talented players in the National League. I don’t use the term “five-tool player” lightly, but he truly had power, contact, speed, defense, and a good eye. Simply based on his talent levels and his potential, it always seemed the sky was the limit for him. True enough, when he went to the Rockies it was surely realized, as he won the NL MVP in 1997 with this sick line: .366/.452, 49HR, 46 doubles, Gold Glove, All-Star, and Silver Slugger. From 1997-1999, he had an OPS over 1.ooo.
- 5-time All-Star (1992, 1997–99, 2001)
- 7-time National League Gold Glove Award winner (1992–93, 1997–99, 2001–02)
- National League MVP award (1997)
- 4-time Top 10 MVP (1992, 5th; 1995, 7th; 1997, Won; 1999, 10th)
- 3-time Silver Slugger Award (1992, 1997, 1999)
He meets the standards. According to Bill James’ Hall of Fame Standards, Larry Walker scored a whopping 58, in which around 50 is a Hall of Fame player. Walker easily exceeds James’ Hall of Fame Monitor with a 147 (100 is average). Because Walker meets the Hall of Fame’s existing standards so much, it would be odd if he wasn’t elected. Sans PED users, there’s no precedent for keeping a player out with a line of .313/.400/.565.
Best right fielder of his time? Walker has the 16th best career OPS (on base plus slugging) of all time, higher than Jim Thome, Johnny Mize, A-Rod, and some of the biggest names in history, like Ty Cobb and Willie Mays. Even his adjusted OPS+ (due to his advantage playing in Colorado) puts him in the Top 100 players of all time (72nd), tied with Gary Sheffield, Duke Snider, and Ryan Howard.
He’s 69th in WAR for hitters all time. From 1989-2005, Larry Walker ranked 6th in all of baseball in WAR total for hitters. For right fielders, he’s first. Don’t think it’s fair for me to sort by the years he played? Wanna be as equally arbitrary and choose a decade? Let do the 1991-2000 (the 1990s): Walker is 14th in WAR for all batters but still #1 for RFs. He’s third in OPS+ in the 1990s, and 4th from 1989-2005.
Baseball-Reference.com users who vote in the greatest players of all time poll currently rank him in the 70′s, in other words, he is considered to be one of the best 100 Baseball Players of All Time by stat heads.
Looking at traditional counting stats, he had the most doubles of any right fielder in that time frame and was in the Top 4 for hits, hr, and RBI.
Walker’s MVP season was deserved. In 1997, when Walker won the MVP with the Rockies, he actually hit 29 HRs on the road and ”only” 20 HR in Coors Field. His OPS was slightly higher on the road. This is exceptional, and something that needs to be taken into consideration when analyzing the Coors Field effect on Walker when he won the MVP.
His defense was great. Larry Walker’s defense and fielding is ranked very high using many different defensive metrics. He also could play 1B.
Memorable moments in the post-season: In the 2004 playoffs, he hit 2 homers each in the NLDS, NLCD, and World Series.
Versatile Larry Walker: 300 HR, 200 SB, and .300 BA club. Because Walker was so versatile, many fans and writers looked past him and focused on one dimensional HR hitters like Sammy Sosa. Walker did everything right. Is he the most underrated player of his time?
He’s better than guys already in the HOF. If Andre Dawson and Jim Rice are in the Hall of Fame, so should Larry Walker- especially since was a better hitter and fielder than they were. It’s amazing how Dawson and Rice don’t get penalized by writers for playing in hitter’s ballparks, but Walker pretty much has a “tainted” record for playing in Coors. Oh, and how the F- did Willie Stargell get voted in the Hall of Fame? Because of “We are Family”?
If Walker had hit just 7 more HR a season, he would have over 500, and we would not be debating this. When you consider how many games he lost due to injury, this is important to think about. Just 7 more per season.
League leader: Batting Crown: 3 times, On Base %: twice, Slugging %: twice, Doubles: once, Total Bases: once, Homeruns: once.
Player comparisons. Walker was genuinely a great player, and although he benefited from Coors Field, the other hitters who did were exposed when not in Coors: Castilla, Gallaraga, Burks, Bichette, etc.
Using his raw totals, similar players include Hall of Famers Duke Snider, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize, and Chuck Klein.
Personality: gritty, got injured playing hard, intense, cool, funny, likable, down to earth, scandal-free, with no steroids link. Why penalize him for getting injured when guys like McGwire and Palmeiro took drugs to stay healthy and get the magic counting numbers?
The Case Against Larry Walker’s Hall of Fame Candidacy
Injuries. Walker played at least 140 games in a season only four times in his 17 years. Teams had better have had a good backup because most of the time Walker would break down. 162 game averages don’t apply to Larry Walker. He averaged 117 games a year. ’nuff said.
No magic numbers. You can blame these injuries or the fact that he loved to walk on not reaching any magic numbers that sportswriters love, such as 3,000 hits and 500HR. Walker has less than 400 HR and around 2,000 hits. Is that Hall of Very Good or what?
The Coors Effect. This may be Reason #2 for most writers that have not voted Larry Walker for the HOF. Although Walker held his own on the road in 1997, his other years were totally skewed by Coors. In fact, if we look at Walker’s career home vs road splits, we see two separate players:
In his home ballparks, Walker hit 215 homeruns and batted .348/.431. On the road, he hit 168 homeruns and batted .278/.370.
Larry Walker was Albert Pujols at Coors Field, in the greatest hitting era of all time. You HAVE to downgrade him for that. And once you do, using neutralized numbers, Walker’s career totals are even less: 365 HR, .293/.384, 2092 hits. He never had 100RBI with the Expos. That is the Hall of VERY Good, or maybe a Veteran’s Committee pick 20 years from now.
Let’s talk WAR (Wins Above Replacement): Larry Walker, RF : 17 seasons: 14 were at least good. Of the 14, one was MVP-type, and 3 were All-Star Caliber. Only 4 truly outstanding seasons. Is that a Hall of Famer?
Who would you rather take at RF: Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Vladamir Guerrero, Ichiro Suzuki, Tony Gwynn, or Sammy Sosa? How about Bobby Abreu, Paul O’Neil, Magglio Ordonez, Tim Salmon, or Dave Justice? Those are Larry Walker’s contemporaries; let’s take a look at other RF in history and how do you think Larry Walker stacks up against Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Al Kaline, or Paul Waner. What if you through Roberto Clemente into the mix. Or even Rusty Staub? My point is that a right fielder really ought to stand out and be totally dominant to make be in the Hall of Fame.
No rings. Part of spending the bulk of your career with the Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies means that you face obscurity and you don’t get a lot of chances to make the post-season. Walker only went to the post-season once with the Rockies before reaching the playoffs two years at the end of his career with the St Louis Cardinals. His post-season totals through 26 games were: .230/.350 with 7HR and 15RBI. That’s OK, I guess, but nothing to write home about. His best performance was in the World Series vs the Red Sox in 2004 (.357/.438). Yet one year later he couldn’t buy a hit against the Padres (.000) and Astros (.158).
The other player comps. Using his raw totals, similar players include non-Hall of Famers Vladamir Guerrero, Ellis Burks, Moises Alou, Jim Edmonds, Todd Helton, and Edgar Martinez.
He’s a healthy Nick Johnson on steroids. Is this the Hall of Fame or the Hall of Stats aka Baseball Think Factory’s Hall of Merit? Because if it’s the Hall of Fame, a player out to have durability, longevity, and real career milestones. Do we let guys who do have great stats in BA, OBP, and OPS in because they create runs even though they have no real fame or counting numbers? Must we ignore where a player ranks in hits, RBI, and HR?
So would I vote Larry Walker into the Hall of Fame?
Well, my first reaction to the Larry Walker Hall of Fame debate was that was that due to his injuries Walker had not achieved enough to be enshrined, although he had a great career.
However, comparing his OPS, OPS+, and WAR to other right fielders, he ranks high and was arguably the best right fielder when he played. It goes without saying that he probably would have been elected already if he was with a popular team his whole career.
I am on the fence because I believe dominance should pay off.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t vote for Walker this year, but I may or may not would vote for him within his 15 years on the ballot. I know how hypocritical it sounds- it’s not like Walker’s stats will get any better every year he’s on the ballot. Yet right now I would say NO. Just like how I didn’t vote for Jeff Bagwell yet.
I’m not sold on Larry Walker in the HOF because he missed so many games and has heavily skewed home stats. I don’t think the writers are snubbing him like Barry Larkin has been jobbed out so far.
I’m not buying that Larry Walker was the best RF in baseball. I think Gary Sheffield and Manny Ramirez had better bats and longevity and have the counting stats to prove it. Sammy Sosa rewrote history books. And if you consider that Vlad has the most similar stats to Larry, consider that Vlad didn’t play in Coors. So is there a place for the 5th best rightfielder of his era (and year to year it all depended on how healthy he was).
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Anyway, please help my little buddy Simon Decarvalho, who is waiting for a bone marrow transplant:
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