Larry Walker and Responsible Park Factoring

Larry Walker

Larry Walker, courtesy of iccsports on Flickr.

This post was inspired by a comment by a HHS reader a few weeks back. Artie Z, talking about Larry Walker, said:

Walker wasn’t just posting a .300/.370/.500 line in Coors – it was a .381/.462/.710 line in Coors. That’s a higher batting average than Cobb and a higher slugging percentage than Ruth. I think the numbers are so disorienting that it makes people think that Rbat isn’t doing its job, but then when you (1) look at how Rbat adjusts other Coors hitters and (2) look at how much better Walker was than those other hitters (other than Helton) it makes a little more sense.

Now, when Rally’s WAR (which was the basis for Baseball-Reference’s WAR) originally was published, I was a bit surprised by Walker’s ranking. I knew he was great, but I think I just did what everybody else did and dismissed him as a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate based on his home park.

The more I’ve looked into his case, the more I realized he’s a Hall of Famer—and not just by a little bit. We now have the ability to adjust offensive numbers based on thier context (era, park, etc.). Even after adjusting Walker’s numbers, he’s Hall-worthy. Actually, if we didn’t adjust his numbers, he’d basically be Stan Musial. People are dismissing his numbers as being more like Dale Murphy. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between.

But Larry Walker did more than hit.

Baseball-Reference’s WAR components say that Walker was 40 runs above average as a baserunner and 94 runs above average as a defender. These numbers certainly don’t face as much skepticism as his batting totals. He was a bonafide force on the bases, stealing quite a few bases (230) at an exceptional clip (a hair over 75%). He also receives extra credit in the advanced categories like taking the extra base. In the field, he received seven Gold Gloves, so he was obviously rated quite highly according to the sniff test.

How many players in history can boast base-running and defensive totals like these? Just thirteen (including Walker). As a hitter, Walker trails only Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron, and Willie Mays on the list.

Rk Player Rbat Rbaser Rfield
1 Barry Bonds 1128 44 175
2 Hank Aaron 876 42 98
3 Willie Mays 808 75 183
4 Larry Walker 420 39 95
5 Kenny Lofton 141 80 104
6 Ichiro Suzuki 138 55 96
7 Willie Randolph 121 43 114
8 Willie Davis 42 61 104
9 Pee Wee Reese 32 44 117
10 Devon White -9 40 135
11 Willie Wilson -57 120 108
12 Ozzie Smith -118 79 239
13 Luis Aparicio -198 92 147
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/18/2013.

Back to the hitting…

Inspried by Artie Z., I want to take a look at each of Walker’s five best seasons by the batting compoent of WAR (Rbat). I’m using the Top 5 because his sixth and seventh best seasons actually were with Montreal.

1997

1997 was Larry Walker’s MVP season. He hit .366/.452/.720 for an OPS of 1.172, OPS+ of 178, and wRC+ of 177. He also had 99 extra base hits (49 homers, 46 doubles, and 4 triples). He had 409 total bases. I think the only way to describe this season is “Holy shit”. Babe Ruth actually had a 1.172 OPS one season (in 1928). That year, he had 380 total bases (154 game schedule), 54 homers, and a .323/.463/.709 line.

Both played in high offensive eras. Want to see what park factors do to Larry Walker? Ruth gets credit for 85 runs above average. Larry Walker? Just 70.

There have been 17 seasons in history where a batter had between 69 and 71 batting runs above average.

Rk Player Rbat Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS ▾
1 Larry Walker 70 1997 30 COL 153 664 568 143 208 46 4 49 130 78 90 .366 .452 .720 1.172
2 Jim Thome 70 2002 31 CLE 147 613 480 101 146 19 2 52 118 122 139 .304 .445 .677 1.122
3 Ed Delahanty 70 1896 28 PHI 123 574 499 131 198 44 17 13 126 62 22 .397 .472 .631 1.103
4 Jimmie Foxx 69 1934 26 PHA 150 652 539 120 180 28 6 44 130 111 75 .334 .449 .653 1.102
5 Arky Vaughan 71 1935 23 PIT 137 609 499 108 192 34 10 19 99 97 18 .385 .491 .607 1.098
6 Barry Bonds 70 1996 31 SFG 158 675 517 122 159 27 3 42 129 151 76 .308 .461 .615 1.076
7 Albert Pujols 69 2004 24 STL 154 692 592 133 196 51 2 46 123 84 52 .331 .415 .657 1.072
8 Mike Piazza 70 1997 28 LAD 152 633 556 104 201 32 1 40 124 69 77 .362 .431 .638 1.070
9 Stan Musial 69 1951 30 STL 152 678 578 124 205 30 12 32 108 98 40 .355 .449 .614 1.063
10 Stan Musial 69 1949 28 STL 157 722 612 128 207 41 13 36 123 107 38 .338 .438 .624 1.062
11 Shoeless Joe Jackson 70 1911 23 CLE 147 641 571 126 233 45 19 7 83 56 43 .408 .468 .590 1.058
12 Frank Robinson 71 1966 30 BAL 155 680 576 122 182 34 2 49 122 87 90 .316 .410 .637 1.047
13 Carl Yastrzemski 69 1967 27 BOS 161 680 579 112 189 31 4 44 121 91 69 .326 .418 .622 1.040
14 Shoeless Joe Jackson 69 1912 24 CLE 154 653 572 121 226 44 26 3 90 54 19 .395 .458 .579 1.036
15 Al Rosen 69 1953 29 CLE 155 688 599 115 201 27 5 43 145 85 48 .336 .422 .613 1.034
16 Dan Brouthers 69 1886 28 DTN 121 555 489 139 181 40 15 11 72 66 16 .370 .445 .581 1.026
17 Ty Cobb 71 1917 30 DET 152 669 588 107 225 44 24 6 102 61 34 .383 .444 .570 1.014
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/18/2013.

Walker’s OPS is 50 points higher than anyone on the list. The second player on the list (Jim Thome) still played in the steroid era. Let’s take a look at all players with an OPS between 1.142 and 1.202 (30 points above or below Walker) in 600 or more plate appearances. There have been 19 such seasons.

Rk Player Rbat OPS PA Year Age Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
1 Babe Ruth 97 1.195 663 1931 36 NYY 145 534 149 199 31 3 46 163 128 51 .373 .495 .700
2 Lou Gehrig 95 1.194 703 1930 27 NYY 154 581 143 220 42 17 41 174 101 63 .379 .473 .721
3 Rogers Hornsby 95 1.181 704 1922 26 STL 154 623 141 250 46 14 42 152 65 50 .401 .459 .722
4 Lou Gehrig 93 1.172 690 1934 31 NYY 154 579 128 210 40 6 49 165 109 31 .363 .465 .706
5 Lou Gehrig 88 1.174 719 1936 33 NYY 155 579 167 205 37 7 49 152 130 46 .354 .478 .696
6 Ted Williams 87 1.164 672 1946 27 BOS 150 514 142 176 37 8 38 123 156 44 .342 .497 .667
7 Ted Williams 87 1.147 671 1942 23 BOS 150 522 141 186 34 5 36 137 145 51 .356 .499 .648
8 Stan Musial 85 1.152 698 1948 27 STL 155 611 135 230 46 18 39 131 79 34 .376 .450 .702
9 Babe Ruth 85 1.172 684 1928 33 NYY 154 536 163 173 29 8 54 142 137 87 .323 .463 .709
10 Sammy Sosa 84 1.174 711 2001 32 CHC 160 577 146 189 34 5 64 160 116 153 .328 .437 .737
11 Mickey Mantle 84 1.177 623 1957 25 NYY 144 474 121 173 28 6 34 94 146 75 .365 .512 .665
12 Mickey Mantle 84 1.169 652 1956 24 NYY 150 533 132 188 22 5 52 130 112 99 .353 .464 .705
13 Jimmie Foxx 81 1.153 670 1933 25 PHA 149 573 125 204 37 9 48 163 96 93 .356 .449 .703
14 Norm Cash 76 1.148 673 1961 26 DET 159 535 119 193 22 8 41 132 124 85 .361 .487 .662
15 Hack Wilson 76 1.177 709 1930 30 CHC 155 585 146 208 35 6 56 191 105 84 .356 .454 .723
16 Hugh Duffy 75 1.196 616 1894 27 BSN 125 539 160 237 51 16 18 145 66 15 .440 .502 .694
17 Jimmie Foxx 74 1.166 685 1938 30 BOS 149 565 139 197 33 9 50 175 119 76 .349 .462 .704
18 Larry Walker 70 1.172 664 1997 30 COL 153 568 143 208 46 4 49 130 78 90 .366 .452 .720
19 Todd Helton 63 1.162 697 2000 26 COL 160 580 138 216 59 2 42 147 103 61 .372 .463 .698
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/18/2013.

Walker would have ranked dead last, but one of his teammates (Helton) came in just below him. Ruth, Gehrig, Williams, and others were getting 85 runs or more for similar production. Sammy Sosa, playing in the same era as Walker and in a hitter’s park himself, gets credit for 84 runs for similar production.

Walker isn’t just getting dinged for his home park. He’s getting slashed.

2001

In 2001, Larry Walker hit .350/.449/.662 for an OPS of 1.111, OPS+ of 160, and wRC+ of 163. He had 38 homers, 35 doubles, and 329 total bases. 31 players have had a season with an OPS within 20 points on either side of Walker. Among those, Walker ranks dead last in batting runs above average—a full 10 points behind #30. In 1931, Lou Gehrig rode a 1.108 OPS to 85 batting runs. That’s #1. Hank Greenberg is #30 with a 1.122 OPS in 1938. Walker’s 1.111 ranks a full ten runs behind.

1999

This one’s my favorite.

Walker hit .379/.458/.710 with an OPS of 1.168, an OPS+ of 164, and a wRC+ of 167. He hit 37 homers and collected 311 total bases. The ridiculous part is that he did all this in just 513 plate appearances. He was given credit for 48 batting runs.

48. Let me remind you—he hit .379/.458/.710 in 513 plate appearances. There have been 40 seasons where a player has been worth 48 batting runs in 500 or more plate appearances:

  • Walker’s OPS is first on that list.
  • It is first by one hundred and three points.
  • There have been four players within 30 plate appearances of Walker with the same number of batting runs. Walker’s OPS is 62 points ahead of Ruth’s 1922, 102 points higher than Ty Cobb’s 1925, and a full 245 points higher than Pete Browning’s 1885.

16 players have hit .370 while slugging .700 in a season. Walker’s season is dead last by a large margin (15 runs behind Al Simmons’ 1930 and 35 runs behind the next match).

1998

The last two seasons on the list for Walker are also injury-shortened ones. He still had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, which he won in 1998 (and two other times). In 1998, he had 524 plate appearances while hitting .363/.445/.630 for an OPS of 1.075, OPS+ of 158, and wRC+ of 159. His slugging dipped because of “just” 23 homers, but he also had 46 doubles. His RBI total also took a tumble from 130 to 67. He still scored 113 runs (in 130 games). For this effort, he was given just 43 batting runs.

  • Jacoby Ellsbury’s .321/.376/.552 showing in 2011 was worth 43 runs.
  • Ty Cobb (.382/.440/.515 in 1918) and Shoeless Joe Jackson (.341/.393/.495 in 1916) had 43 batting runs despite only three home runs each.
  • Jose Canseco had 43 batting runs while hitting .266/.359/.556 in 1991.
  • Walker actually doesn’t have the highest OPS among players with 43 batting runs. Al Simmons had a 1.081 OPS in 1927 while Ken Griffey, Jr. had a 1.076 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994. While many players on this list had more plate appearances than Walker, Simmons and Griffey actually didn’t. They just played in high-offensive eras as well.

2002

At age 35, Walker had his final truly magnificent season (though he was exceptionally productive right up until the day he retired). He made 553 plate appearances while hitting .338/.421/.602 with a 1.023 OPS, 151 OPS+, and 150 wRC+. This was worth only 38 runs.

To show how big the park adjustment is, I should just compare Walker to the other player who was +38 runs in 2002:

  • Larry Walker: 553 PA, .338/.421/.602/1.023 OPS, 40 2B, 4 3B, 26 HR
  • Bernie Williams: 699 PA, .333/.415/.493/.908 OPS, 37 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR

While both players accumulated the same number of batting runs, their raw stats are clearly different—particularly when it comes to slugging. It also took Williams 146 additional plate appearances to reach 43.

Comparisons to Larry Walker

Using OPS and plate appearances, I tried to find hitters comparable to Walker. Only six players come within 1,000 plate appearances of Walker with an OPS 25 points higher or lower.

Rk Player Rbat PA OPS From To G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
1 Dan Brouthers 686 7676 .942 1879 1904 1673 6711 1523 2296 460 205 106 1296 840 238 .342 .423 .519
2 Mark McGwire 547 7660 .982 1986 2001 1874 6187 1167 1626 252 6 583 1414 1317 1596 .263 .394 .588
3 Joe DiMaggio 530 7673 .977 1936 1951 1736 6821 1390 2214 389 131 361 1537 790 369 .325 .398 .579
4 Johnny Mize 505 7370 .959 1936 1953 1883 6443 1118 2011 367 83 359 1337 856 524 .312 .397 .562
5 Todd Helton 430 9011 .964 1997 2012 2123 7565 1360 2420 570 36 354 1345 1295 1088 .320 .419 .545
6 Lance Berkman 425 7520 .953 1999 2012 1806 6235 1119 1843 412 29 360 1200 1163 1248 .296 .409 .544
7 Larry Walker 420 8030 .965 1989 2005 1988 6907 1355 2160 471 62 383 1311 913 1231 .313 .400 .565
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/19/2013.

Walker, of course, is last in batting runs. The two players closest to him are Todd Helton and Lance Berkman, peers who were also aided by hitter’s parks in the steroid era. Helton, of course, has played in Coors his entire career. Berkman played in Minute Maid Park while it was favoriting hitters by quite a bit. Both of these players are generally seen as hovering around the Hall of Fame borderline. But Walker actually has the defense and baserunning going for him, making him a much better candidate than both.

Brouthers’ OPS was astronomical for his day. That’s why he has 686 batting runs. McGwire’s career more or less overlapped Walker’s. McGwire’s OPS is 17 points higher, but he had almost 400 fewer plate appearances. Still, his 127 batting run advantage on Walker is a clear indication of the hit Walker is taking because of park factors.

My Verdict

If Larry Walker was a weak-fielding first baseman, I would say that his offense, once park-adjusted, would make him a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. But he played right field. He was a force on the bases. He was an even bigger force defensively, both by the new metrics and by the awards of his day.

By Hall Rating, Walker’s 151 ranks behind only Barry Bonds (364) and Jeff Bagwell (164) among hitters outside of the Hall of Fame. That’s ahead of Pete Rose (150), Shoeless Joe Jackson (129), McGwire (123), and many, many more.

Larry Walker should be in the Hall of Fame. Yes, his park aided his numbers. But his park didn’t completely erase his numbers.

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165 Comments on "Larry Walker and Responsible Park Factoring"

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RJ
Guest

I’ll go get the popcorn.

RJ
Guest

Seriously though, this is a great piece Adam. You make a very persuasive case.

SocraticGadfly
Guest

God, he is NOT a HOFer. Is this place turning into fricking ESPN, or is it already there?

John Autin
Editor

Funny, that doesn’t sound Socratic. 🙂

Dr. Doom
Guest

THANK YOU ADAM! I love how you pointed this stuff out. Great analysis. I especially liked the comparisons to people of the same OPS or Rbat. Awesome, awesome work.

Andy
Admin

Great stuff, Adam. Thanks.

Bryan O'Connor
Editor

Adam, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time, but I’m glad I never got around to it, becuase you just did it far better than I could have.

John Autin
Editor
Re: that table of baserunning and fielding WAR runs — Using Walker’s totals as the minimum might give the false impression that the table was cherry-picked to make Walker shine. Not so, not so at all. Dropping the threshold to 30 Rbaser and 70 Rfield — about 75% of Walker’s totals — yields just 24 players besides Walker, including: – 10 HOFers – 4 more with 60+ career WAR (Bonds, Whitaker, Lofton, Randolph) – 3 more with 50-59 WAR, two of them still active (Ichiro and Utley, plus Willie Davis); and – 5 speed-and-defense OFs who were weak with the… Read more »
bstar
Guest

Willie Wilson is the only player in MLB history with 100+ Rfield and Rbaser, with 108 fielding runs and 120 Rbaser runs (second only to Rickey Henderson in the baserunning department).

Nick Pain
Guest

He’s also 7th all-time in bWar for those players with an Rbat below 0. First would be the Wizard.

Pat
Guest
Whoa, Larry Walker is Stan Musial if we don’t adjust for park? Let’s see, Musial 12,717 PA’s, which is 58% more than Walker and Musial missed a season to military service. Musial led the league in runs 5 times, hits 6 times, 2B 8 times, 3B five times, RBI twice, BA/OBP/SLG/OPS 7/6/6/7 times respectively, OPS+ 6 times and Total Bases 6 times. Walker led the leauge in 2B once, HR once, BA/OBP/SLG/OPS 3/2/2/2 and Total Bases once. Rbat? Musial has 10 seasons above 50, Walker has one. Walker is nothing like Musial. A plus baserunner he was, but 75% is… Read more »
Bryan O'Connor
Editor
Part of adjusting for park is adjusting for era. That Musial had more black ink says everything about their relative accomplishments in comparison to their leagues and very little about their raw numbers, and raw numbers are the only basis by which Adam compared Musial to Walker. Part of coming to a reasonable conclusion about Walker’s actual talent is establishing a pre-adjustment baseline. By hitting .313/.400/.565 over his career, Walker had a similar amount of success with the stick to Musial, who hit .331/.417/.559. Adjusting for park and era, Walker was worth 443 adj Batting Runs, to Musial’s 957. So… Read more »
mosc
Guest
I’m sorry to be critical here Adam but I really don’t see much information! I see a lot of talk and charts basically saying that his RBAT was reduced substantially to account for his environment. What I don’t see is much evaluation if it was justified, or sufficient, or overkill. It’s just accepted as a valid statical approximation and justified by showing how much it slashed his stats. Walker’s road numbers and his RBAT-road x2 would not be that stellar. That gives some contradictory statistical proof you should address in this discussion. As does his performance before going to colorado… Read more »
birtelcom
Editor

mosc: One way to deal with your position adjustment concern is just to focus on comparing to other right fielders. Walker’s career WAR (b-ref version) has him significantly behind Aaron, Ott, Clemente and Kaline, but essentially tied with Paul Waner and Sam Crawford, a bit ahead of Reggie Jackson, Harry Heilmann and Tony Gwynn, and well ahead of Dave Winfield. That’s a good number of consensus Hall of Famers to be tied with or ahead of, all of whom are essentially treated the same way from a position adjustment point of view.

Dr. Remulak
Guest

Walker’s career “away” slash of .278/.370/.495 is solid but unspectacular.

birtelcom
Editor
The conceptual problem, though, is that looking only at away numbers treats his home park performance as if it never happened. If a player’s talents are so well-tailored to his home park that he is responsible for 50 extra wins for his team when they play at home but only 20 when he is on the road, how do we deal with that? Do we say that if he had played for some other team playing in a neutral park he wold have produced only 40 extra wins (20 away and 20 at home)? Or do we evaluate him based… Read more »
RJ
Guest

I’m not really sure I understand the ‘park adjustments break down in Coors’ argument either. If Walker should be even further penalised for playing in Denver, should Dante Bichette’s H/HR/RBI/SLG/TB leading 1995 season be worth even less than its current value of 1.0 WAR?

bstar
Guest
Yes, birtelcom, the concept should always be the same. But here’s why Coors Field is not the same. Not just Larry Walker but in fact a large portion of the hitters to pass through Coors Field in that era didn’t just post great raw hitting stats. No, they saw a sustained increase in Rbat and thus WAR in their time with Colorado. Before then, and for the most part after Colorado, these guys were not nearly as valuable as they were when playing for the Rockies. So it’s not just Walker who exhibited this pattern. It’s Bichette, and Galaragga, and… Read more »
Owen
Guest
Using your examples of Bichette, Castilla, Galarraga, and Burks, I would still disagree that the Coors effect is not properly accounted for, or at least assume that it is very close to accurate. Bichette: Starting in 1990 at the age of 26 he played 100 or more games every season. In 1991 his OPS+ was 84, in 1995 it was 130, in every other season it was between 102 and 117. During his Rockies years his OPS+ was 112, in the final two seasons of his career, outside of Coors, it was 104. Before Coors he was at 91 in… Read more »
Owen
Guest

* Burks’ OPS+ with the Rockies should read 128, not 126.

bstar
Guest
I guess we can both weave our own stories. You did certainly go into more detail than I (although I would add it’s hard for me to follow your paragraphs because they’re so long.) OPS+ overrates power and undervalues OBP. It’s not a part of WAR. You did certainly go into more detail than I (although I would add it’s hard for me to follow your paragraphs because they’re so long.) I’d forgotten Galaragga wasn’t a part of the comment I linked you to, so that was my mistake to list him in this latest comment. And you forgot the… Read more »
Ed
Guest

But he did take off right away Adam! His first year in Colorado he had a 1.131 home OPS but was “held back” by his road OPS of .845. His second year was even more extreme…a 1.248 home OPS and a road OPS of .523 (!!!).

So Walker did rake at Colorado right from the beginning.

BTW, the .336 OPS difference between Walker’s home OPS vs. his overall OPS in 1996 (1.248 vs. .912) is the greatest in MLB history for anyone with 150+ at bats at home.

Ed
Guest

Adam – Sorry to keep quibbling with you but Dante Bichette isn’t knocked down to replacement level by Coors Field park factors. He had a positive Rbat every year in Coors field (which of course is based on average not replacement). Bichette was done in by poor baserunning and poor fielding.

Bryan O'Connor
Editor

Re: #s 69, 71, and 73: There doesn’t seem to be consensus that the Coors Field hangover effect is real, but doesn’t it seem possible, if not likely, that in his first season in Colorado, Walker would struggle at normal altitudes after playing home games at Coors, and that he’d gradually adjust?

Ed
Guest

Re: Bryan #91 – But he didn’t struggle his first year on the road. His road OPS that year was.845 which is entirely consistent with his road numbers with Montreal. It was his second season where he was dreadful on the road.

Ed
Guest
Owen – Looking at those same players/numbers, I have to come to a different conclusion: Bichette: Definitely the strongest case of the 4 players Bstar mentioned. Never had a positive Rbat before joining the Rockies. He then turned in a positive Rbat every single season he was with the Rockies, even though he was “past his prime”. Galarraga: A decent case though not as strong as Bichette. Had one big year in Montreal but that was it. He had 37 Rbat that year but -1 Rbat for all his other pre-Colorado years combined. Then he went to the Rockies at… Read more »
John Autin
Editor

bstar —

Augie Galan
Brady Anderson
Maury Wills
Tony Phillips
Paul O’Neill
Jorge Posada
Julio Franco
Cecil Cooper
Bill Terry
Jose Cruz, Sr.
Art Fletcher
Jeff Kent
Fred Tenney
Brett Butler
Fielder Jones
Red Schoendienst
Gary Sheffield
Luis Gonzalez

All those guys had 20+ WAR for ages 30-35 combined, and no more than 15 WAR for ages 24-29. All played at least 500 games in the younger period. And none, as far as I can tell, ever played for the Rockies.

BTW, that’s 11% of the total pool of 161 guys who had 20+ WAR age 30-35. It’s unusual, but not freakish.

bstar
Guest

It wouldn’t be freakish if you found four or five guys from the same team and the same time frame on that list, playing in the same park?

John Autin
Editor

bstar @64 — Give me a few minutes to compare the rates of WAR and Rbat for those other Rockies. Can you give me the names, again?

John Autin
Editor
bstar @64 — Some anecdotal notes on the other Rockies “suspects”: – Galarraga’s 2 best Rbat years came in Montreal (age 27) and Atlanta (37). – Burks did have his best Rbat year in Colorado (by a 48-45 margin), but his next 7 best years were elsewhere, 4 of those *after* he left. – Castilla’s 4 best Rbat years came at age 27-30 and averaged a whopping 16 Rbat. Before that, he had just one year as a regular (105 games). He was never a regular before reaching Colorado. He stunk in his last year there (-17 Rbat). His regular… Read more »
Ed
Guest

John – I’m glad you raised the confidence issue because I do think it could have some merit (though impossible to prove). I do wonder if hitters in hitters’ parks might “overperform” simply because they start feeling more confident.

birtelcom
Editor
To the extent that there is a “Coors Effect”, in which a certain group of hitters who join the Rockies actually become better hitters there beyond what the park factor itself would explain, one plausible hypothesis would be that a certain type of hitter thrives there and that some hitters may even adjust their approach on joining the Rockies to take advantage of that. Suppose, for example, that hitters who hit more fly balls do better at Coors. A fly ball hitter traded to the Rockies will in fact tend to have better hitting stats as a Rockie than he… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
bstar, let me put a different spin on the angle I took @61: (1) Larry Walker’s rate of WAR per 650 PAs for age 30-35 was 44% above his rate for age 24-29. There are 138 players who (a) had 20+ WAR age 30-35 and (b) had 500+ games age 24-29. Out of those 138 players, 26 had a larger increase in WAR rate than did Walker. That’s 19% of the pool. None of those 26 played for the Rockies any substantial period, if at all. (2) Walker’s rate of Rbat per 650 PAs increased by 121% for age 30-35… Read more »
Artie Z.
Guest
You guys did a lot of the work here. I had written a bit on Burks, Galarraga, Bichette, and Castilla but it’s basically covered in all the posts above so I won’t repost that stuff. But I’ll take 3 guys who are basically on the same team during a few years span who had big jumps for $1000 Alex. Who are Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Adam Lind? In 2009 he posted a 34 Rbat. His career Rbat, INCLUDING 2009, is 10. His only positive Rbat season came in 18 games in his rookie season of 2006, and he had… Read more »
bstar
Guest
You’re forgetting about the massive home/road splits. In fact, there’s no mention whatsoever of that. Same with JA @61. I’m open to being backed off this argument, but the person to do it is going to have to address the entire argument, not just the WAR in their ’30s part, or the three or four guys part,…all of it. The Toronto trio? Their H/A OPS splits are nowhere near as severe as the Rockies guys. Luis Gonzalez? Artie, Gonzo hit better ON THE ROAD for his career. If someone wants to hand me a list of names of teammates who… Read more »
Ed
Guest
Bstar – I think there’s a major issue with your reasoning that has yet to be addressed. The crux of your argument seems to be in your #43 where you state that the park adjustment factors for Coors Field aren’t going far enough. Here’s the problem as I see it. At the team level, WAR is a zero sum game. A team’s combined WAR has to make sense in relation to its number of wins. So you can’t just take WAR away from hitters. You have to put it somewhere. And quite obviously, any WAR that is taken away from… Read more »
bstar
Guest

Ed, you’re bringing in fielding and baserunning into the equation when you look at total WAR, and that’s not a part of my argument.

My focus is on Rbat.

Two words for you: Dante Bichette.

Ed
Guest
Bstar – I had a feeling that would be your response. But it’s irrelevant to my point. Again, you want to reduce the Rockies’ Rbat. If you do that you HAVE to increase their pitching WAR. That’s your only choice. As I’ve shown above, the Rockies already have more pitching WAR than we might expect. And from what I can tell, you want to reduce the Rockies’ Rbat by quite a bit. And to do that, you can’t just do that for players whose numbers you don’t like. You have to do it for everyone. Which means you’re going to… Read more »
bstar
Guest

No, no, no not quite a bit. I never said that. In fact, I’ve gone to lengths to say these are minor adjustments. See my qualifications @47 down near the bottom of the thread.

bstar
Guest

You’re really, really blowing my argument completely out of proportion.

I think maybe you’re confusing my argument with some of the more wild ones on this thread.

Please find me the comment where I said Rockies’ Rbat should be reduced by “quite a bit”.

Ed
Guest

But then how much? Put a number on it. How much Rbat would you dock each Rockie batter (per 162 games)? Put a range on it if you want to.

bstar
Guest

Your comments are about the Rockies’ entire team, while mine are about top 4 or 5 players on the team.

Why provide numbers against that when it’s a different argument???

Ed
Guest

Bstar – You’re claiming there’s a problem with the park factor for Coors Field. The only way it’s a different argument is if you’re claiming that the park factors should only be adjusted for certain hitters. If that’s the argument you want to make, then fine, I’d like to hear you make it.

Otherwise any adjustment in park factors has to apply to all players on the Rockies. Which is how it’s normally done and why I’m talking about the whole lineup.

bstar
Guest

OK, yes, if the test of time reveals that our idea of park factors now is not what it should have been in extreme environments like Coors Field, then yes that will make the Rockies offense look (slightly!!!) worse and their pitching slightly not-as-bad.

Is that what you want to hear? Please say yes.

Ed
Guest

See Bstar, I knew if I tortured you long enough, you’d eventually confess! 🙂

Seriously though, as I’ve shown in my #88, the Rockies already have more pitching WAR and less hitting WAR than we might expect. Granted every team is going to have a different combination of pitching to hitting WAR based on their unique collection of talent. But small changes can add up and would radically throw off the Rockies ratio and possibly show them to be different than any team in the history of baseball.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Chart #1
Entry #7
This is a good example of why Willie Randolph should be considered a viable hall of famer.

Artie Z
Guest

While I’m happy to serve as the inspiration, I think I’m going to sit this one out for a while. Mainly because I have a lot to get done tonight, but also because I want to see if this turns into a slugfest or if someone is going to pull an Ali and use the rope-a-dope.

Ed
Guest
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve come around a bit on Walker via my own analyses. And overall this is a quality analysis by Adam. I think the main shortcoming is that is fails to address one of the main complaints by the Anti-Walker crowd: i.e, Walker wasn’t that good when he was in Montreal. If we look at Walker’s Rbat while in Montreal, his best season was the 30 that he accumulated in ’94. Obviously that was the strike season and it’s hard to know what he would have ended up with had the strike not occurred. But he was… Read more »
BryanM
Guest

Of course the .890. Included only parks that weren’t. Coors , while the . 817 did . I see that as evidence that Walker was actually slightly better on the road as a CR . Don’t know if it means much though.

Ed
Guest

True Bryan M but that .819 only includes 7 games (6 starts) at Coors. Not enough to make much of a difference.

Ed
Guest

A correction to my #72: Walker played 0 road games in Coors Field when he was with the Expos. Walker’s first year with the Rockies was also their first year in Coors. Prior to that they were in Mile High Stadium.

Jeff Hill
Guest

Bless you Ed…

I’ve never understood the lovefest with Walker.

Any other HOF players who averaged 117 games/162 for their career?
17 seasons:
4 – 30+HR seasons
5 – 100+RBI seasons
3 seasons with 21 or more stolen bases(high of 33).
5 seasons of less than 87 games played
7 “” “” “” “” “” 103 games played

Sorry, but other than the 3 monster seasons ’97, ’99, ’01 I don’t see a HOF player here. I see a good player who played exceptionally well in the greatest hitters park ever constructed in the greatest hitters era ever.

Ed
Guest

@28 Jeff – Just to be clear, my #20 wasn’t intended to be pro or anti Walker. Just a look at the numbers and letting people decide on their own what they think.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
The 117/162 is a little misleading. Walker was a regular player from 1990-2003. In those 14 years he averaged 128 games per year. Only 2 times in those 14 years did he fail to qualify for rate stats (half seasons in 1996 and 2000). Is it really that much of a burden to have to cover 30 games a year for a less-than-iron-man Rightfielder? It shouldn’t be. This is a team sport, and as such, roster depth is an essential component in building a championship team. If I were building a team, my 4th outfielder would be a starter. I… Read more »
Jeff Hill
Guest
Sorry @39 but if we are talking a future/deserving HOF player, yeah, he needs to play the bulk of the games. Missing 34 games on average over a 13 year period is well over 20% total games missed of his peak. Now that says several things like… By missing those games when dinged up he helped his averages by not playing hurt like most HOF players did. It also hurt his career totals at the same time. I don’t remember Walker being a “balls-out player”. “playing through minor injuries when he might have rested?” Looks like he did just the… Read more »
BryanM
Guest

Al Kaline was my childhood hero; if walker could have played 150 per year, he would have been Kaline. He couldn’t , so he wasn’t , he was Reggie Jackson instead

John Autin
Editor
Here’s how I would approach Walker’s home/road splits: Just looking at his road figures in isolation won’t do. At the very least, compare them to others of his era. Among players with at least 2,000 road PAs during Walker’s career (1989-2005), his .865 road OPS ranks #34 out of 239. Players within +/- 10 points are Jose Canseco, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez, John Olerud, Dmitri Young, Mike Sweeney, Magglio Ordonez, Shawn Green, Jay Buhner, Will Clark, Bernie Williams, Mo Vaughn, Richie Sexson and Tony Gwynn. (Sosa was 12 points below Walker.) So in that respect, he’s in with a pack… Read more »
Tim Pea
Guest

Adam, another fantastic story!

Tim Pea
Guest

Walker discovered a dead body. Look it up. The only game I saw in Coors Field Walker threw a guy out at home from the right field corner.

bstar
Guest

Walker also “saw Satan” in the WBC last week. The guy’s ubiquitous.

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/03/09/larry-walker-saw-satan-in-the-eyes-of-alfredo-aceves/

Jimbo
Guest

You made Kenny Lofton’s case in there too. Ichiro will be a first ballot HOF quite possibly, and Lofton looks to be better at RBAT, Rbase and Rfield.

mosc
Guest

Ichiro will be a first ballot HOF-er because it’s not the “MLB” hall of fame it’s the “baseball” hall of fame. Kenny Lofton’s Nippon career is far less impressive.

John Autin
Editor

mosc, Ichiro is surely going into our HOF. But for all practical purposes, it IS the “MLB Hall of Fame.” A player needs 10 years in MLB to qualify. If Ichiro had just 9 years in the majors, he would be ineligible, no matter how many thousand hits he had in Japan.

Which is right and just, in my opinion, because minor-league hits shouldn’t count. 🙂

Tim Pea
Guest

John does the veterans committee have discretion when it comes to a player under 10 years?

Howard
Guest

It seems that they do since they elected Addie Joss who played only nine seasons.

John Autin
Editor

Tim, yes, as Howard said, there is discretion to elect someone with less than 10 years’ MLB service. Whether they would use that in a case such as my hypothetical is hard to guess.

Addie Joss’s special circumstance was that he got meningitis and died at the age of 30. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall them electing by conventional means anyone whose entry into MLB was delayed by circumstances beyond his control. Monte Irvin, for example, was elected by the Negro Leagues Committee.

Tim Pea
Guest

Hack Wilson was a close one. He had 10 plus but a few of those years were cups of coffee.

bstar
Guest
This discussion arose out of one (or several) of our Circle of Greats threads, so when I question Larry Walker’s career value I am not: -saying he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. I would vote for him. -saying Larry Walker wasn’t a great fielder. The metrics, the Gold Gloves, the love from fans and peers alike, and the simple eye test show Walker was a fantastic right fielder. No story there. -saying his WAR should be near Dale Murphy’s. (What?) -saying his WAR *might*/should be less than 50 The actual discussion about Walker was framed not around the… Read more »
BryanM
Guest
Adam thank you for this . I do think Larry Walker is a clear cut hall of Famer, but of course the HOF is something we can all have different opinions about. But the issues of park factors and position adjustments , it seems to me, are different.. 1) they are both estimates, subject to error, of course, but the best we now have. If they lead to results the seem odd, the best approach is to seek better estimates using legitimate statistical methods . No doubt. We will have them. I seem to remember that Mickey Mantle was knocked… Read more »
BryanM
Guest

Sorry , should have spellchecked better.

John Autin
Editor
Ed @71 (sorry, I can’t stand to be so far indented) — I don’t know if there’s a name for this, but several of the Rockies under discussion for huge home/road splits — and especially for poor road numbers — saw their road numbers rise once they left Denver. Bichette had a .734 road OPS in 7 years with the Rockies. After leaving, in the last 2 years of his career, age 36-37, his road OPS was about .770. Matt Holliday had a .780 road OPS in 4 years there. It’s .884 in 5 years since leaving. Galarraga’s road OPS… Read more »
bstar
Guest
I will try not to tread on your respectful sharing of these numbers, but if you’ll permit me one point… Those numbers are just stupid-ugly, are they not? Can we all just agree that a 138/59 split is beyond crazy? If you admit that, you’re owning up to the fact that you have a limit on this thing. If it’s not 138/59, do you need 150/50? What does it take? Everyone has a limit somewhere before they say, “Now hold on a second”. So mine is a little closer than a lot of people’s on here. I’m OK with that.… Read more »
bstar
Guest

Oh balls. This was meant to go under John’s #80. Yeah, it’s late.

John Autin
Editor

Question about Rbat: Is it meant to be completely context-neutral?

I have broad anecdotal observations suggesting that it isn’t — that it tends to rise and fall with league scoring levels — but I’d like to know what the darn thing is supposed to be before I go on. B-R’s explanation is inconclusive.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/war_explained_position.shtml

Ed
Guest
John – If I understand your question then I believe the answer is yes. Just take a look at 1992 vs 2005. In 1992, there were 4.12 runs per game across MLB. The total Rbat was -533 for 160545 PAs. http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/1992-value-batting.shtml In 2005, there were 4.59 runs per game, an increase of over 10%. Total Rbat that year was -696 for 186292 PAs. http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/2005-value-batting.shtml Actually now I’m not entirely sure. Despite the higher run scoring in 2005, that year had -1 Rbat per 267 PAs. In 1992 it was -1 Rbat per 301 PAs. Which I think is the opposite… Read more »
bstar
Guest
John, that depends, I think, on your definition of context-neutral. To me, context-neutral implies it’s already been adjusted for context and is therefore now context-neutral (which IS the basis for both Rbat and WAR). Are you saying Rbat is higher in high scoring environments? Shouldn’t it be? Isn’t Rbat showing correctly that it’s an era when hitters are more effective than pitchers? If we set Rbat to equal zero for all years, we miss picking up on eras where hitters/pitchers dominated. —————- It appears on the surface that B-Ref (and especially Fangraphs) would really do the sabermetric community a great… Read more »
Ed
Guest
Bstar: “Are you saying Rbat is higher in high scoring environments? Shouldn’t it be? Isn’t Rbat showing correctly that it’s an era when hitters are more effective than pitchers? If we set Rbat to equal zero for all years, we miss picking up on eras where hitters/pitchers dominated.” I had to do some digging but what you said isn’t correct. Rbat is basically zero for position players regardless of run environment. Remember, Rbat is calculated relative to the average for that particular season. So as the run environment changes, the average changes along with it. Now as I said, it… Read more »
bstar
Guest

Ed, thanks for the correction, that was always my thought but JA was suggesting otherwise and someone on this thread made a comment like “Rbat was -500 one year, -300 the next year” or something like that so I had moved off that belief. I will definitely read what Rally has to say later.

Ed
Guest

I dunno Adam. Certainly Baseball Reference is sharing more information about WAR than they were a year ago. And more than Fangraphs in my opinion. But a lot of the more technical stuff seems to be missing. Granted, the more technical stuff would go over the heads of 99% of people. But we’d still like to see it.

Richard Chester
Guest

Reply to 118:
Adam would you point out precisely where it is explained how wRAA is converted to Rbat?

John Autin
Editor

The following is not to further any point, but I have to share it:

1995 Colorado Rockies
Home — 6.7 runs per game, .316 BA, .939 OPS, 127 tOPS+
Road — 4.2 runs per game, .247 BA, .700 OPS, 72 tOPS+

1996 Colorado Rockies
Home — 8.1 runs per game, .343 BA, .987 OPS, 138 tOPS+
Road — 3.7 runs per game, .228 BA, .652 OPS, 59 tOPS+

2012 Colorado Rockies
Home — 6.0 runs per game, .306 BA, .867 OPS, 126 tOPS+
Road — 3.4 runs per game, .241 BA, .662 OPS, 73 tOPS+

Humidor, where art thou?

John Autin
Editor

Some big home/road OPS splits for HOFers:

– Bobby Doerr, .928/.716

– Chuck Klein, 1.028/.813

– Ron Santo, .905/.747

– Wade Boggs, .934/.781

– Earl Averill, 1.009/.846

– Kirby Puckett, .909/.761

– Tris Speaker (1916-28), 1.024/.877

– Jim Rice, .920/.789

– Jimmie Foxx, 1.116/.966

– Yaz, .904/.779

– Ryne Sandberg, .853/.738

– Ernie Banks, .886/.773

Walker does have the 3rd-highest home/road ratio among players with 7,000 PAs since 1916. Doerr and Klein are higher. Santo, Boggs, Averill and Puckett are in his ballpark, so to speak.

BryanM
Guest
Ed @ 88 has, I think the correct approach to testing whether the Coors park adjustments are reasonable . Somebody has to get credit for the Rockies wins, and it looks like the hitters in general are not getting more than their fair share . May not be right, but they are reasonable. With respect to Walker’s enormous home-road splits, it seems the two camps are trying to answer two different questions. Q1 How valuable was Larry Walker? To answer this, he should get full credit for the real wins his extraordinary ability to take advantage of Coors created. Of… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Thanks Bryan M! Your 96 is quite good and lays out all the various issues we’ve been struggling with in the discussion.

Michael Sullivan
Guest
Sure, it’s a year later, but some spammer replied putting this on the recent comments page and I decided to reread it, so here’s a comment I never made at the time.’ “larry Walker really was more valuable in creating team wins than Jackie Robinson, (BRef estimates 11 wins, lets call it 5 to 15. No knowledgable person would say that he was nearly as good as Jackie. It depends which question you are asking. I think a reasonable way to take out the good luck would be to dial back his OPs until he was only helped by Coors… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
On the relationship of Rbat and OPS+ for Rockies: If I’m reading bstar correctly, one of his claims is that the park factor adjustment does not sufficiently dampen Rockies’ Rbat. Here’s one approach to checking that theory. I took the 10 biggest Rbat years by Rockies, matched them up to other players’ seasons with similar PA and OPS+ figures, and ranked them all by Rbat. I don’t know if my method is sound, but on first blush, it supports bstar’s position. (1) Larry Walker, 1997 — 70 Rbat, 178 OPS+, 664 PAs. Pool criteria: OPS+ 173-183, PAs 650-680. 23 seasons,… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
Another test of the Rbat/OPS+ relationship for Rockies: For each of their top 10 in *career* Rbat, I used their career OPS+ to form a pool of 25 to 50 players with very similar OPS+ and at least 3,000 PAs. Then I calculated the Rbat per 650 PAs for each group, and sorted it from high to low. Helton and Walker both came out #1 in their pool, out of 30 and 31 players, respectively. Holliday was #2 of 31; Galarraga #3 of 50; and Burks #4 of 45. However … This pattern did not hold for the other five… Read more »
Jeff Hill
Guest
Looking at all of these numbers proves to me that the Coors field effect is a real thing. In Walker’s case he’s the best hitter out of that large group of mainstays in Colorado but his career numbers are obviously affected in a positive way by him playing there. To the earlier points about Boggs at Fenway, that’s a constructural, taken advantage effect Boggs used. He knew that improved his game so he used the green monster to his advantage. In Coors, there isn’t any object out there making Walker better, it’s pure science…it makes good hitters great hitters and… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
Jeff, I see your Jay Payton, and I raise you Matt Holliday. His OPS+ has been higher since leaving Colorado, 144-137. Juan Pierre, 76 OPS+ with Colorado, 87 since. Jeff Cirillo from 1996-99 with Milwaukee had a 118 OPS+. In 2000-01 with the Rockies, he had a 99 OPS+. What about Charles Johnson? Sure, he was already on the way down, his OPS+ going from 142 to 100 to 78 from 2000-02. But Colorado didn’t save him; he batted .233 with an 89 OPS+ in 2 years. Mike Lansing’s last 2 years in Montreal: .284 BA, 102 OPS+. His next… Read more »
Insert Name Here
Guest
Great piece, Adam. However, I have a view I haven’t seen represented on this site yet. The HOF (at least for those inducted as players) is all about player performance, right? A great player performance, like a great performance in anything, is adapted to its surroundings. When you see a great musician in some famous concert hall, do you say “oh, it just sounded better because of the acoustics in there”? Hell no. A truly great musician (either consciously or unconsciously) adapts himself/herself to his/her surroundings, since there is no other way to deal with them and still be great.… Read more »
bstar
Guest
Of course we will never know. That’s why we continue to ask questions, and probe, and wait for better, more-true park factors to evolve. What we don’t do is STOP THINKING and take our current best idea of park factors as set in stone. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/adjusting-linear-weights-for-extreme-environments/ http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/linear-weights-baseruns-good/ “…the problem with the standard run estimator formulas is that they make assumptions about what a hit is going to be worth, run-wise, based on what it was worth to an average team. That means it’s not going to apply very well to an unusual team…” The mid-to-late ’90s Rockies teams were unusual by… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Bstar – But if you look at the table at the bottom of your first link, you’ll see that the run value of a single and a home run are higher in higher run environments. Which might suggest that, if anything, we’re underestimating the Rockies’ hitters. Would be nice if Steve would continue this work and look at individual teams/players.

bells
Guest
I think we definitely need to not lose perspective of the ‘great players are great’ thought, so I appreciate that someone’s brought it up. But of course, we’re talking about a mathematical formula derived from human performance, so scientific analysis and nit-picking are going to have to happen. Making it more complicated is that the argument is that Walker was undervalued in his career, and turns to WAR to back it up. But then, WAR-savvy folks are also park factor-savvy, so they’re more likely to question his value. So he’s unique in that the ‘great player’ argument doesn’t quite fit… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
I’ve been out f town,so I’m late to the discussion. Also I haven’t read all the comments, but most. I hope these are new thoughts, at any rate: 1) Has anyone looked at the average home-road differential for HOFers or players generally? I’m sure it’s a complex question, given the different parks, but since teams generally win at a higher rate at home, I’d suspect that players generally do better at home, or better than the opposition, though not invariably, and worse than the opposition on the road. 2) Even in a pitcher’s park, let’s say, doesn’t the home team… Read more »
mosc
Guest
Lets compare walker to two other right fielders I think were better than him: Vladimir Guerrero Gary Sheffield First, lets give Walker his due. He was better on the basepaths career by a good margin over both though Guerrero and Sheffield had periods in their career where they were plus baserunners as well. Walker was a better defensive player than both though vlad had a better arm and Sheffield played 4k innings in the more demanding infield. Walker’s the NL guy, the other two played in both leagues but spent considerably time as aged DH types in the AL. So,… Read more »
BryanM
Guest
Mosc, , I look at the same data and come to a different ranking. I see Walker, Vlad, Sheffield. But it depends on how you rate certain factors. Sheffield had some years at the end where he was just average, but above replacement., accumulating more WAR , although he didn’t come close to Walkers total. I think he was the most talented of the 3 , and he had some quite good baserunning years late in his career. He was a slightly better hitter than Walker ,and equal to the Impaler, but an appalling defender , and a frustrating one,… Read more »
RJ
Guest
In which case, either you are underestimating the importance of good baserunning and fielding, or WAR is massively overvaluing it. Career Rbat Walker: 420 Vlad: 430 Sheffield: 560 Career Rbaser+Rdp+Rfield+Rpos Walker: +59 Vlad: -138 Sheffield: -304 By taking the second set of numbers at face value, if you want to argue that Guerrero or Sheffield was better than Walker then you have to chop Walker’s Rbat by about half. Let’s project Walker’s rate of Rbat accumulation in his Montreal and St Louis years across the rest of his career (ie imagining his non-Colorado production across an entire career). You still… Read more »
mosc
Guest
Right… Unlike most people, my complaint with Walker’s WAR is mostly about the RFIELD number, especially in comparison to other right fielders. Walker’s defensive value in right field is too high. Sheffield’s defensive value in right field is too low. These are a related issue that affect above and below average fielders at low-defensive need positions. Their RELATIVE RFIELD’s are also accurate. However, the 1RBAT of value vs 1RFIELD of value being the same… is just not close to adding up. And I also wanted to point out two clearly better HITTERS than Walker to further highlight the park adjustments… Read more »
birtelcom
Editor
Murphy’s career OPS+ (that is, OPS after park and league adjustment) was 121, Walker’s was 141. Indeed, Walker’s OPS+ for the Expos alone was 123, still better than Murphy for his career. I agree that Sheffield was indeed a better hitter than Walker. Win Shares (and its derivative, Win Shares Above Bench or WSAB) is an older metric than WAR and its fielding calculations are independent of WAR’s. Yet WSAB gives Walker 24 of his 144 WSAB based on fielding, that is, 1/6 of his value from his defense. That’s more or less about the same proportion as WAR. That… Read more »
mosc
Guest
I need more data to process on this. I see a lot of very respectable math done by some good folks on a lot of park factoring, pitching statistics (BABIP, FIP, ETC), etc but I really don’t like the work done on fielding value relative to offensive performance (career value basically). Can somebody help me get a hold of some more position specific numbers? Basically I’d be looking for put outs and assists and errors and offensive slash lines for each position, broken down by decade if possible. I think from that data I could put something meaningful together. My… Read more »
Tim Pea
Guest

Great read. I always thought Coors Field had the most square feet of fair territory in baseball today. Can anyone tell me if that’s true?
Thanks,
Tim

John Autin
Editor
Nobody took the bait on Kirby Puckett @82 above, so I’ll try again: Home: – Kirby: BA .344 / OPS .909 – Walker: BA .348 / OPS 1.068 Away: – Kirby: BA .291 / OPS .761 – Walker: BA .278 / OPS .865 So, Walker’s OPS is more than 0.100 better each way. Say what you will about the relative park factors of the Metrodome and Coors Field. But that’s what those guys actually hit for their careers. Kirby had a huge home/away split, almost as big as Walker’s. Maybe Kirby was uniquely able to exploit the Metrodome’s features. But… Read more »
Tim Pea
Guest
Kirby did win 2 WS titles, played well in both and heroically in one. Can’t explain why Kirby played so much better at the Metrodump. I went to several games when he played up there and it was quite an event every time he came to the plate. There is also the feeling that Puckett wasn’t done putting up good years when he was forced to retire from injury. Walker sure missed a lot of games for an outfielder. The knock about playing at Coors is there I guess, but in his last 144 games played with the Cardinals, he… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest

JA:

Isn’t your question rhetorical?

The glaucoma, coupled with Puckett’s popularity (during his playing career) got him an automatic free pass. Otherwise this site might even now be debating why he isn’t in the Hall. At least he made it before he died, unlike a much worthier candidate, Ron Santo. An interesting idea: If Santo’s career had been truncated by diabetes after the 1972 season because of one of the many issues inherent in diabetes, would he have gotten a free pass too?

Tim Pea
Guest

NSB – Some good points made. Guy gets beaned in a game probably gets more sympathy than a diabetic that only came out after he played. Don’t forget though, Puckett was a great hitter along with his popularity. If you look at Puckett’s numbers you’ll see he didn’t walk that much, but I remember he could hit a ball outside of the strike zone as good as anybody. I love Ronny, but he never really sniffed the post season. I do think he is a well deserved HoFer.

John Autin
Editor
nsb — Well, I’d say my question was rhetorical as far as the actual Hall of Fame voting was concerned. It’s easy to see why Kirby’s resume, personality and narrative appealed to those voters — with some of that appeal reaching their specific biases. But in a broader sense, I was asking those in this community who agree with that HOF voting — Kirby in easily, Walker not even close — to explain their position. Tim Pea mentioned Kirby’s postseason success, a worthy point towards his HOF case. But not, in my view, a large edge over Walker, who wasn’t… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
Perception means a lot in HOF perspectives, I’d say, and loyalties and sympathies do as well. Outside of Colorado and adjoining states, the Rockies not only have virtually no fan base, I’d guess, but the franchise is viewed negatively because of the Coors effect. Suspicion abounds. The fact that Puckett’s Twins won two World Series without a single away victory ought to raise some question marks—it did for me at the time—but if the Twins were generally viewed with suspicion of being a team highly dependent on their home performance, even in 1987 when the split was 56-25 at home,… Read more »
bstar
Guest
I’ve always been more than a little mystified that Puckett got in so easily, especially when Thurman Munson received no such sympathy vote. Munson, in my mind, was a better player than Puckett, and the numbers back that up: Puckett WAR/150: 4.27 Munson WAR/150: 4.84 And bear in mind how much catcher WAR is naturally repressed by the fatigue of playing the position. I understand that there was no WAR back then, and there’s more to the conversation. Yes, Puckett secured the win for the Twins in ’91 with the 10th-inning HR and has a fine postseason resume. But doesn’t… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

Bstar, I was a big Munson fan, but as I recall, the consensus was (before he died) that Munson was already seen to have been in decline, his power was gone, and so a few extra years would not have helped his candidacy. Puckett, by comparison, still seemed to be going strong; his last four years he had OPS+ of 139,120,129 and 130, and he led the league in RBI in his next to last year, 1994 (112 in 108 games). I think the BB writers saw more of an analogy to Koufax.

bstar
Guest
Mike, thanks for the perspective. That helps a little, although I might add that virtually all catchers are in decline by age 32. The only Hall-worthy guys that buck this trend are (maybe) Fisk and I-Rod, and Mr. Rodriguez may have had some help. Even Roy Campanella, who didn’t play his first season ’til age 26, was pretty much done by 32. Bench, Carter? No, they were headed south. Piazza? He began his descent at age 33, then went south quickly after that. I think the Hall voters lacked the perspective to recognize this. I think Munson’s 46 WAR should… Read more »
BryanM
Guest
JA, tangentially to Kirby and Larry, I appreciate your excellent work on player comparisons., and I hope you can help me understand why a large home-road split is viewed as evidence that a player is not as good as his raw numbers indicate. Why is .900 ops at home and .750 away somehow less valuable than another player who hits . 825 at both.? What about a guy who hits .900 in July and .750 in August ? I get that people are suspicious that the Coors adjustments are not big enough in Walkers case, but, from time to time… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
BryanM — Re: “Why is .900 ops at home and .750 away somehow less valuable than another player who hits .825 at both?” I don’t know if anyone thinks that a large home/away split, in and of itself and regardless of the specific contexts, is all that meaningful. So it comes down to the contexts involved in those splits. If your hypothetical guys had those numbers in the same context, on average — the easiest example is guys on the same team, same year — then I’d see their value as about equal, regardless of those splits. But let’s say… Read more »
oneblankspace
Guest

So what we’re saying here…

If the hoped-for Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio trade had occurred, neither one should be in the Hall of Fame, since their permormance would all be based on their home park.

BryanM
Guest

JA @ 142. If folks don’t view the large splits as suspect in and of themselves then there’s nothing to explain. I just had a sense that some do. Perhaps I’m wrong

John Autin
Editor
BryanM, I might also be wrong about the general view of big splits per se. But I haven’t heard anyone knock Jimmie Foxx, say, for having a pretty big home/road split. His .966 road OPS, though .150 less than his home mark, is still outstanding. I guess it also depends on exactly why we would be comparing the two guys. Let’s say it’s two guys who were on the same team over the same period, and produced the same OPS, but one had a big home/away split and the other didn’t. If we’re just talking about the value created by… Read more »
bstar
Guest
Jimmie Foxx IS the Larry Walker of the 1930’s, absolutely! But, like Wade Boggs, his career WAR number is so high (96) that there’s no need to dock him, because he still had Hall credentials without the home-field boost. You just can’t say the same thing about Larry Walker with a straight face. Boggs has around 90 WAR (or even more now with the changes), so the only reason one might bring up his home/road splits would be in a discussion involving where he ranks among the best third basemen of all-time. Walker? Come on, obviously, he’s a little different… Read more »
John Autin
Editor

b, I don’t get your angle here. You seem to have read my replies to BryanM as part of my Walker argument. They were completely unrelated to that. They were specific answers to questions about big home/road splits in general, and whether (or why) some people might be put off by big splits regardless of the particular context involved.

bstar
Guest

I was responding to your question of, “Why is no one talking about Jimmie Foxx?”. To which I would add, “Because he was born in 1907, and he hasn’t come up for discussion yet.”

I’ve long seen the parallels between the two, so I jumped all over it.

You’re right, I did confuse two differing subjects. My fault there!

John Autin
Editor

b, now I think I see the problem. BryanM’s followup question @143 was not nested under our original exchange, @140-142.

So you probably didn’t see my #142, so you wouldn’t have known the context in which I brought up Jimmie Foxx. It had nothing to do with Walker.

John Autin
Editor

BTW, here’s something I can say with a straight face:

The B-R neutralizer translates Walker’s Colorado years (1995-2004) into a batting line of .299 BA, .387 OBP, .554 SLG and .942 OPS, in an all-time-average environment.

The same tool says this about all those Rockies:

Walker, .299/.942 (1995-2004)
Galarraga, .286/.855 (1993-97)
Bichette, .284/.806 (1993-99)
Castilla, .267/.781 (1993-99)
Burks, .277/.864 (1994-98)

And more recently:
CarGo, .286/.836 (2008-12)
Tulo, .277/.827 (2007-12)
Holliday, .307/.887 (2004-08)

The Neutralizer takes a lot of air out of all their numbers. Walker still comes out with an impressive line, given the neutral context. And I’m still waiting to hear why I should view this result with skepticism.

BryanM
Guest
Right — as a GM or manager trying to decide to acquire or deal one of these players, one would be intensely interested in as much information as possible about how they might perform in possible future situations; the same is true of we fans when speculating how well RA Dickey might pitch in a new league and park. When discussing retired players, of course we all will place different weights on different factors , base running, fielding, and of course park and era adjustments, and can easily come to different conclusions about the relative value of players. Again ,… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
Here’s a different example of splits. Mo Vaughn and Ryan Howard have similar OPS and OPS+ numbers, overall. – Vaughn, .906 / 132 – Howard, .915 / 135 Howard has a very big platoon split, while Vaughn was pretty balanced: – Vaughn, .884 / .915 – Howard, .739 / 1.005 Whether that makes any difference in our evaluation depends on the purpose of the evaluation. It might also depend on specific seasonal context. For instance, hypothetically, we might find that they faced the same proportion of lefties and righties, *but* that Vaughn played in a period with fewer LHPs and… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

Here are the top ten differences home/road splits that I found via PI (4000 PA minimum). These numbers may be slightly off but not by much.

Chuck Klein…….212
Cy Williams…….212
Bobby Doerr…….210
Hank Greenberg….208
Ian Kinsler…….208
Larry Walker……206
Dante Bichette….206
Todd Helton…….192
Rico Petrocelli…182
Bob Horner……..180

While we’re at it here are the top ten greatest road/home splits.

Gil McDougald…..160
Adrian Gonzalez…98
Jim Ray Hart……94
Johnny Logan……92
Brady Anderson….86
Casey Blake…….82
Candy Maldonado…82
Joe DiMaggio……76
Mike Piazza…….76
John Briggs…….70
Willie Davis……70

John Autin
Editor
I guess the big difference in the range of those home/road split leaders is mainly because there have never been “pitcher’s parks” as extreme as the most extreme “hitter’s parks.” The Astrodome’s worst one-year batting park factor was 89, and Dodger Stadium had an 88 in 1967. I’m just checking places off the top of my head, but I don’t think any parks have been under 90 for a multi-year rating. Whereas several parks have been around 113 for a multi-year, while Coors of course has been in the 120s. Another factor may be that some hitters can tailor their… Read more »
BryanM
Guest
JA dunno if this is the right thread , but another kind of split is season-to season – some guys have a few great seasons in a sea of mediocrity – others are reliably good. All else being equal, which is the more valuable? Say Andres Gallaraga, total WAA =3.3 , a little above average, but had .302/.352/.540/150 OPS+ 5.7 WAR in Montreal in 1998, .370/.403/.602/150 ops+ 5.0 War in Colorado in 2003, and .305/.397/.595 150 OPS + 5.0 WAR for Atlanta in 1998, great every 5 years for a different team, a mix of good-to-bad the rest of a… Read more »
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