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 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 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 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 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.


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.


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).


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.


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 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.

165 thoughts on “Larry Walker and Responsible Park Factoring

  1. 1
    RJ says:

    I’ll go get the popcorn.

  2. 2
    Dr. Doom says:

    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.

  3. 3
    Andy says:

    Great stuff, Adam. Thanks.

  4. 4

    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.

  5. 6
    John Autin says:

    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 stick.

    Only 5 of the 24 had more Rbat than Walker. Eighteen of them had less than half his Rbat.

    • 18
      bstar says:

      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).

      • 30
        Nick Pain says:

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

  6. 7
    Pat says:

    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 not an “exceptional clip,” it’s an acceptable success level. Drop below it and you are likely costing your team runs. A plus defender he was, but Gold Gloves are in no way a “sniff test” for great defense.

    The table using Rbat, Rbaser and Rfield shows him to be completely unlike Bonds, Aaron and Mays, the players you attempt to tie him to. He’s far closer to Lofton than to any of those three.

    Walker is a great player who was also quite fragile. As such he ends up being a short career, or probably better to say low playing time, HOF candidate. He is rightly marked down for park inflated raw numbers. The 2001 season you discuss should mention his Road OPS being nearly 300 points below his Home OPS. The 1999 season you say is your “favorite” should mention his Road OPS being over 400 points below his Home OPS. 1998 about 250 points lower and 2002 about 200 lower. He is also rightly marked down for missing so much playing time in season due to injuries.

    Nothing wrong with making a reasonable argument for Walker being a HOF caliber player, but you’ve overstated his case.

    • 11

      Whoa, Larry Walker is Stan Musial if we don’t adjust for park?

      That was in reference to their similar OPS figures. Obviously, Musial had the longer career, but Walker also had three batting titles, three OPS titles, two OBP titles, two slugging titles, a doubles title, and a home run title in a league that was twice as big. The Rbat thing isn’t a good comparison since that’s what this article is about. He gets slashed big time there because of park effects.

      During Walker’s carer, the league average stolen base percentage was 69%. 75% looks pretty good to me.

      I wasn’t actually saying he was similar to Bonds, Mays, and Aaron. Just that they were the three in the table who exceeded his batting value.

      Nothing wrong with making a reasonable argument for Walker being a HOF caliber player, but you’ve overstated his case.

      I’m pretty sure I’m not overstating. It might seem that way if you thought I was saying he was as good as Bonds, Mays, or Mantle. I’d put him more in the Bagwell group. I happen to think Jeff Bagwell is a slam dunk Hall of Famer. And I’ve evolved to thinking Walker is, too.

    • 32

      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 while Walker wasn’t half as valuable as Musial, he is in the company of Shoeless Joe Jackson (446 adj Batting Runs) and Dave Winfield (441), not Dale Murphy (225).

      I don’t think there’s any overstatement here.

  7. 8
    mosc says:

    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 as he had a well established productive career before that. And saying he compares to Helton is meaningless since they both have the same issue! In fact, looking at the bunch of them as a whole may help us more than looking at just Walker.

    And as I’ve said in other threads, his fielding runs saved to me is absurdly high for a right fielder. Every game you start in right field should cost you some RFIELD. The positional adjustment is not sufficient. I think my biggest problem with RFIELD and because of it DWAR is that it does not sufficiently damp in it’s positional adjustments. In other words, it gives huge swings for all positions but many positions cumulative effects positive or negative are too strong. Basically, I would divide most corner outfielder’s RFIELD, positive or negative, by about 3. This is before the positional adjustment (which would of course be substantially negative for a player with that many games in RF). Put that in there and I would wager his DWAR comes out to be about -5 DWAR instead of +3 and his overall WAR would drop by ~8WAR. That’s without arguing about his offensive stats at all you can make a completely reasonable argument why Larry Walker is a good but not great player.

    • 10
      birtelcom says:

      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.

    • 13

      Yeah, I really don’t get why he should be docked for more than 85 runs for being a right fielder. I mean, he’s not a DH, for crying out loud. He still has to throw guys out at third. He did that. He still has to catch balls in the gaps. He did that. Why should he receive an even bigger positional adjustment? If anything, I’ve only heard that positional adjustments are too severe in WAR (boosting players like Bill Dahlen or Lou Whitaker). I hadn’t really heard that a right fielder should get be docked MORE than he is.

      • 21
        mosc says:

        That’s not really what I said though. The issue is two fold. Some players get more credit and others are overly penalized. By saying the rfielding values should be damped from what they are based on positions, you are taking a guy like Sheffield and adding several runs to his very VERY negative RFIELD score. You take those runs from other players, like walker. You then balance the position. The end result is less statistical variation in DWAR from right fielders. The positional adjustment DWAR uses for right field is OK, I would probably be a little more harsh but not much. DAMPING the rfield however, helps as many right fielders as it hurts. It just hurts Walker, however, as it does all corner outfielders with significant defensive rfield in the current system. In equal parts, it also helps right fielders with substantially negative rfield.

        • 22

          I don’t think I understand. Every right fielder in the same era gets the same positional adjustment based on playing time. Is that not fair?

          • 26
            Ed says:

            I don’t think Mosc is questioning the position adjustments. I think he’s questioning the Rfield values saying they’re too positive (for some fielders) and too negative (for others). Of course, that’s just an opinion with no evidence behind it. Leaving you with???

          • 31

            I think Ed’s final two sentences in #26 hit the nail on the head. Mosc, what is your basis for saying this DAMPING is necessary? Adam’s analysis is based on the metrics that are available. Your criticism is based on…the notion that your eyes (gut?) tell(s) you something different?

          • 37
            birtelcom says:

            Yes, re-reading mosc’s comment carefully now, I get it. He thinks that the RField highs are too high and the lows too low. I’m not sure where that comes from, but I would as a separate matter note the that the fielding metric at Baseball Prospectus does rate Walker as a merely average fielder for his career — above average in his 20s, but below average in his 30s. B-Pro gives Walker on overall Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) of 60.3.

            Reggie Jackson: 68.4 b-ref WAR, 80.8 WARP
            Reggie Smith: 60.8 b-ref WAR, 67.3 WARP
            Vladimir Guerrero 55.2 b-ref WAR, 62.9 WARP
            Larry Walker: 69.7 b-ref WAR, 60.3 WARP
            Andre Dawson: 60.6 b-ref WAR, 59.1 WARP
            Tony Gwynn: 65.3 b-ref WAR, 61.4 WARP
            Gary Sheffield: 56.0 b-ref WAR, 76.2 WARP
            Dwight Evans 62.8 b-ref WAR, 69.4 WARP
            Dave Winfield 59.4 b-ref WAR, 71.0 WARP
            Bobby Bonds 55.7 b-ref WAR, 67.1 WARP
            Bobby Abreu 48.4 b-ref WAR, 59.7 WARP

          • 40
            mosc says:

            It’s hard to quantify but so much of the fielding metrics we use are not well quantified either. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using DWAR to compare two players at the same position DEFENSIVELY, but when you start modifying their offensive numbers or comparing them to other positions, the math that it uses seems way off to me. Basically, right fielders are not involved in many non-routine plays. Sometimes a week would go by between a play that would make much difference in which right fielder you have. Maybe you disagree, but that’s what my baseball brain tells me. With that context, there is both a positional adjustment needed (which we somewhat do) but also a correlation between the offensive correction required at each position. A shortstop needs to have his defense strongly considered in relation to his offense. A right fielder does not. Hence the comment about the range of rfield numbers being too extreme for non-skill positions.

          • 45
            Ed says:

            Mosc – Let’s take this a step further. The baseball season is about 26 weeks long. If an above average right fielder only makes one extra play a week vs. an average right fielder that’s 26 extra plays. 26 plays may not seem like a lot but that’s 26 extra outs vs. 26 singles/doubles/triples. How many runs are those extra outs worth relative to the hits? I don’t know but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s something like 10 runs. But that’s the difference between average vs. above average. The difference between above average and below average is going to be more like 40-50 plays a year. Again, that’s a lot of plays over the course of a season. 1-2 extra plays a week can definitely add up!

          • 52
            bstar says:

            mosc, here’s some words on the positional adjustment from Tom Tango that might help:

            “…The offensive components are being compared to the overall league average player.

            But the fielding components are being compared to the league average for that position. And the league average SS is a far better fielder than the league average 1B.

            In other words, imagine you had some versatile player (Willie Bloomquist or whoever else you want) who could play all the positions on the field. When compared to the average SS, Willie Ballgame might end up being 7.5 runs below the average SS. When compared to the average 1B, Willie Ballgame’s glove might end up being 12.5 runs above the average-fielding 1B.

            THAT’s what the positional adjustment does. It gives a common fielding player as a baseline, exactly like we have a common baseline for offense…”

        • 38
          Hartvig says:

          I know there’s more to an outfielders RFIELD number than just range factor but if you look just at range factor and compare Walker to Tony Gwynn & Ichiro, Walker’s #’s look a LOT more like Gwynn’s than they do Ichiro’s but Walker’s rtot fielding is a lot closer to Ichiro’s than it is to Gwynn’s.

          I’ll admit I just scrolled thru their numbers fairly quickly but assuming I’m looking at it correctly can anyone explain why that would be?

          • 44
            Ed says:

            Hartvig – I think at least part of the answer to your question is “opportunities”. If someone has an average range factor but a below average number of opportunities, then they’ll look pretty good on the Rfield numbers. Conversely if someone has an average range factor but an above average number of opportunities then they won’t look so good.

          • 46
            Hartvig says:


            Thanks. That makes a lot of sense. If you don’t take into account some of the fly-ball tendencies of Phillies pitchers like Robin Roberts in the 1950’s then Richie Ashburn comes off looking better than Willie Mays. I know a during Walker’s time in Colorado they made at least some effort to find sinkerball types like Bill Swift to keep the ball on the ground more. I just never thought it turned out to have much impact but it seems like it must have had at least a little.

            I knew it couldn’t just be his arm.

          • 48
            bstar says:

            Ed, I want to understand your @44 but I don’t get it. If the range factors are the same, since fielding runs are a counting stat it stands to reason that fewer opportunities = fewer Rfield.

            Just look at first basemen. Their rField spread (most negative to most positive) is normally smaller than that of other infielders because of fewer opportunities.

            Your comment is saying the opposite. What am I missing?

          • 50
            Ed says:

            Bstar – I’m certainly no expert when it comes to fielding stats so please take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt. I’ll use an example to make it clearer:

            Player A: Has 200 opportunities and records 200 outs.

            Player B: Has 250 opportunities and records 200 outs.

            The players have the same range factor (assuming the same number of games played) but Player A would most certainly have a higher Rfield since they made recorded an out on every ball hit in their zone whereas player B only recorded outs on 80% of balls (with the other 20% being some sort of hit).

            Also, while it’s true that Rfield is a counting stat, it’s a counting stat that can have both positive and negative values. So more opportunities can mean more negative Rfield just as easily as it can mean more positive Rfield.

          • 62

            Hartvig, a huge amount of Walker’s Total Zone runs (53) came from his arm, not his range.

  8. 9
    Dr. Remulak says:

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

    • 15

      It is more or less the same OPS as Sammy Sosa’s entire career.

      And Sammy Sosa played in a hitter’s park.

      And got to play in Coors on the road.

      Where he hit .349/.425/.758.

      Sosa was a nice defender when he was young, but lost all of that when he bulked up. Sosa was a non-factor on the bases after bulking up and had a below average steal percentage.

      Yet Sosa is considered to have “Hall-of-Fame-if-he-wasn’t-a-cheat” numbers. Walker, to the best or our knowledge, wasn’t a cheat. He played in a strange environment and we adjust for that.

    • 16
      birtelcom says:

      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 on the career he actually had, that is, the one in which he was able to use his talents effectively to actually help his team win an extra 50 games at home?

      Now of course, we need to park-adjust for run scoring. A hitter whose numbers show that he created 60 runs in home games during a season created a different number of wins for his team depending on whether it took on average 4 runs to win a game in that home park or it instead took five runs. That’s what park factor adjustment does. It’s a relatively straightforward concept and it is not clear to me why some think that the park fact adjustments used by b-ref somehow break down in Coors. Shouldn’t the concept alwyas be the same?: adjust the player’s run creation numbers based on the number of runs it takes to win a game in each park.

      • 27
        RJ says:

        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?

      • 43
        bstar says:

        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 Vinny Castilla, and Ellis Burks. When you’ve got all the prominent position players on your team posting career highs not just in raw hitting stats but in offensive value (and most of these guys were doing it AFTER age 30!), it does call into question whether or not these park factors are going far enough.

        What is the trait shared by all those guys? Isn’t it the Rockies uniform itself?

        If these park factors are doing their job, why couldn’t these players produce at the same level playing for other teams? They for the most part couldn’t, and didn’t, so it hardly seems like a great leap to question why this has occurred.

        If we’re actually engaging in a Saber-based discussion, is this not the proper forum to ask questions when something this obvious comes up? Are we not allowed to even point out red flags that smack us in the face?

        Instead of asking why we are questioning these numbers, my question is HOW CAN YOU NOT?

        And since when did park factors become sacrosanct? They’re still in their infancy.

        • 54
          Owen says:

          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.

          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 limited playing time.
          In the same 90-01 stretch, his oWAR and Rbat were pretty consistently low. Again, other than the sub-par 91 season and the career year in 95, his oWAR was between 0.5 and 1.8 in nine out of ten years, including back to back 0.8’s in 1999 and 2000, his last Rockies season and first post-Rockies year. The Rbat numbers are also solidly in the 0-10 range most every year.
          In all three metrics, the two biggest outliers are 1993 and 1995 and neither is too out of line with what would be expected out of a career year or two, and being that they happened in his age 29 and 31 seasons, it is fully reasonable. The Coors numbers might not be corrected perfectly, but in his case, they seem close as he was a slightly above average batter and horrible fielder his entire career.

          Looking at his career oWAR, OPS+, and Rbat numbers, forgetting about Coors at first, he comes across as player who broke into the majors, gradually got better, peaked from 27-30, then dropped back down to an average-ish or worse hitter for the last half of his career. That sounds like a entirely reasonable career trajectory regardless of home ballpark. I would also point out that he was well below average offensively in his first year with the Rockies (basically his first year in the majors) and his final season in Denver (for his first go around with them. He seems like the best example for your case that Coors numbers aren’t properly accounted for, but even here I would have some reservations due to the fact that his numbers seem to fit pretty well as a career arch of a guy who peaked as a slightly above average hitting thirdbaseman.

          His numbers in Rbat, OPS+ and oWAR (as well as in most other stats) fluctuated quite a bit from year to year, both as a Rockie and as a non-Rockie. However, his top two seasons in all three stats were 1988 with Montreal and 1998 with Atlanta. Also, over his two seasons in Atlanta his per game numbers far outpaced his Rockies numbers, oWAR 0.02489/gm to 0.02106, Rbat 0.214 to 0.163, and OPS+ 141 to 126. In fact, his OPS+ in his career was 119, in Rockies years it was 126 and his numbers in all three over about a season’s worth of games in San Francisco’s pitcher’s haven after the age of 40 are quite similar to his Rockies numbers.
          You could argue that Coors helped to rejuvenate his career as he was coming off of three straight down years before going to the Rockies, but he had already produced at a high offensive level prior to his Rockies years, and continued it at the tail end of his career. So, if the adjustments for Coors are off, in his case it again seems it seems like it must not be by much.

          While Castialla seems to present the strongest argument for your case, I’d have to say Burks’ is the worst.
          On OPS+, career 126, with the Rockies, 126. He actually had a higher OPS+ with both the Giants (151) and Indians (133) than with the Rockies.
          With the counting-ish stats of Rbat and oWAR, 1996 stands out (though not that much) somewhat due to the fact that it represents a career high in games played (though obviously with a good offensive year as well). In fact, 1996 was the second and final time Burks reached 150 games in a season, so health in 96 (as well as lack of it in other seasons) had a not negligible effect on his career year, overall however, it seems that the Coors effect is well accounted for. In fact, that 1996 season was his only one in Colorado with an oWAR over 3, while he had three such seasons with Boston, two with San Francisco, and two with Cleveland. And when it comes to Rbat, it is more of the same. The 48 he posted in 1996 was a career high, but he also has seasons of 45, 31, and 30, all of which were in seasons of fewer than 140 games. Like oWAR though, he was more consistently good with other teams as 96 is his only Rockies year over 20 batting runs while he surpassed that mark twice each with the Red Sox, Giants, and Indians.

          So it would seem, based on these examples, that the Coors affect is probably pretty close to accurate as, at most, only Castilla’s value numbers in Rockies years seems out of whack with non-Rockies years…hough even his numbers don’t seem wildly different than what might be expected.

          • 55
            Owen says:

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

          • 63
            bstar says:

            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 most glaring example, Mr. Walker himself:

            Walker’s top seasonal Rbat:

            1. age 30, 1997 – 70 Rbat in COLORADO
            2. age 34, 2001 – 49 Rbat in COLORADO
            3. age 32, 1999 – 48 Rbat in COLORADO
            4. age 31, 1998 – 43 Rbat in COLORADO
            5. age 35, 2002 – 38 Rbat in COLORADO

            The only year that would crack that top 5 with more playing time is 1994.

            You and I will have to disagree that it’s perfectly reasonable that all these years happened in his ’30s, in Colorado. Same with Bichette (3 best Rbat years all in Colorado). And Castilla (more of the same).

            You win on Burks.

            I think it is far easier to dismiss these cases when looked at one at a time, but it’s a different task entirely to explain away the trend as a whole.

          • 69

            What’s interesting is that Walker didn’t take off immediately upon joining the Rockies.

            His OPS in his last season with the Expos was .981. In his first year with the Rockies, he had a .988 OPS (basically the same, but it led to a 20 point DROP in OPS+ due to park factors). Then he posted a .912 OPS in an injury-shortened year.

            Then, in his third year in Colorado, he set fire like crazy. To me, that says more about evolution than a simple park switch. If it was just the park, he should have taken off right away, no?

          • 71
            Ed says:

            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.

          • 73

            I’ll admit I should have looked at the splits first… but still.

            In 1994 his OPS at home was 1.005 as an Expo.
            In 1995 his OPS at home was 1.131 as a Rockie.

            Yes, a big jump. But one that is mostly covered by the park factor. Still, you’re right. He did jump.

            So what happened then? Did playing in Colorado magically make him a better hitter in other ballparks beginning in his third year in Colorado?

            His 1996 split was ridiculous, but he was just playing 40 game samples at home and on the road. Pretty small samples sizes there.

            1997, he became a monster. He had a 1.237 OPS at home. But he also had a 1.092 OPS on the road!

            After that, he managed OPSs near or above .900 on the road in his full seasons. He hit well at Colorado. Damn well. And to my point before, he gets the same park adjustment as everyone else who played there. The same adjustments that knock Dante Bichette down to a replacement level player. But he was just SO GOOD THERE that he still had a ton of value AFTER the park factors.

            Yes—he hit like Babe Ruth in Coors. Should he be adjusted MORE than everyone else just because he did better than everyone else? Or does it mean he was a really great player?

          • 74
            Ed says:

            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.

          • 76

            Well, what I meant was that he’s a shitty fielder and played a weak position no matter what park. But the Coors adjustment brings his overall value down to replacement level.

          • 91

            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?

          • 92
            Ed says:

            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.

          • 99

            In a sample of 40 games (34 starts).

        • 57
          Ed says:

          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 age 32 and banged out 4 big years in 5 seasons (110 Rbat total). The only thing that doesn’t make him a stronger case is the huge ’98 season he had with Atlanta.

          Castilla: Not sure why you think he’s the best case. Unlike the others, he basically started his career in Colorado so there’s no baseline. Also, unlike the others, he played in Colorado during his prime. So it’s not surprising that he had his best years with the Rockies. Overall weak case for Bstar’s argument.

          Burks: Agree that overall he presents the weakest case for Bstar’s argument. Burks had one really big year with Colorado but that was it. Otherwise his best stretch was age 34-37 when he was playing with the Giants and the Indians.

          Of course, we really need more data points to come to any definitive conclusions.

        • 61
          John Autin says:

          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.

          • 64
            bstar says:

            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?

          • 66
            John Autin says:

            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?

          • 75
            John Autin says:

            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 years elsewhere (100+ games) came at ages 33-35 and 37.

            – Bichette had 7 full years in Colorado and averaged 10 Rbat. Yes, he was more productive there than elsewhere, even after the park adjustment. But it doesn’t seem worth making a fuss over.

            What about the other Coors effect — confidence? Bichette, Galarraga and Burks all came to Colorado with their careers on the skids. As veterans with an expansion club, all got to feel wanted and important. All played in front of huge crowds in the club’s early years, and all were together in ’95 when they became the fastest expansion team to reach the postseason. And the park makes them look like great hitters. Who wouldn’t feel good about himself with all that?

            Bichette had just 1 full-year’s chance with California, then was dealt to Milwaukee and had 2 more blah years. He gets to Mile High and hits .300 with 20+ HRs in his first 2 years. He wasn’t really that much better — his OPS+ was 114 for those years, compared to 104 in 2 of his prior 3 full years. But who doesn’t feel great about .300 with 20 HRs, while playing in front of 55,000 delirious fans every home game? Isn’t it possible that the confidence boost propelled him to his one truly big offensive year in ’95?

            Galarraga had been injured and unproductive for the better part of 3 years before reaching Colorado, and had gone from star on the rise (his ’88 was truly big) to presumed washed-up at 31. He’d been dumped by the organization where he spent the first 13 years of his pro career, then bombed in his one year with St. Louis. He, too, got in on the ground floor in Mile High, got healthy, and hit .370 out of the box. In truth, he’d only gotten back to where he was at 27, with a 150 OPS+ — but he’d scored a huge hit with the huge fan base. Confidence.

            Burks was seen as one of the best young players in his first 4 years with Boston. Two down years, they let him walk to the White Sox, where he had a decent year and then moved on again. First year in Denver he was mostly hurt, but he hit when he played. Second year, missed 40 games and had just a 102 OPS+; totals for those 2 years were roughly what he’d done in one of his good years with Boston. Third year, jackpot. Fourth and fifth years, back to normal. In all, his OPS+ and Rbat with Colorado were below what he did later with SFG and CLE.

            So where does this leave us?

          • 77
            Ed says:

            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.

          • 93
            birtelcom says:

            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 did elsewhere, even after adjusting for park factor. Ground ball hitters, on the other hand, will tend to have worse hitting stats than they did elsewhere after adjusting for park factor (their raw stats may improve, because when they do hit fly balls they will do better, but because they hit fewer fly balls than average their park-adjusted stats will decline).

            Given all this, a hitter may actually start to adjust his hitting approach at Coors to try and hit more fly balls. That could result in a “Coors Effect” in which the hitter tends to do better at Coors then expected but worse in away games (his previous habit of optimizing his hitting approach for more normal stadiums having been lost) and worse when he leaves the Rockies.

          • 100


            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.

        • 65
          John Autin says:

          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 over age 24-29. The raw increase was 27.9 Rbat.

          In that same pool of 138 players, 21 had a larger percentage increase. A few of those percentages look huge because the base rate was very small. But 17 of those 21 guys also increased by at least 14 Rbat, and 10 of them by at least 20 Rbat.

          Looking only at the change in raw Rbat, four had a larger increase than Walker: McGwire, Caminiti, Galan and Kent. Three more increased by 26 to 27 Rbat: Edmonds, O’Neill and Sosa.

          Six more had a raw increase of at least 20 Rbat: Gonzalez, Dixie Walker, Buddy Myer, Brady Anderson, Edgar Martinez and Julio Franco.

          So, whether measured by WAR rate or Rbat rate, Walker’s increase at age 30-35 is unusual but hardly freakish.

          • 81
            Artie Z. says:

            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 5 Rbat. That prorates to a pretty decent season over 162 games, but prorating a hot streak is probably not what we want to do.

            Jose Bautista had a career -20 Rbat through 2009. The only positive season he had was 2009, in which his Rbat was 2. In 2010 it was 51, in 2011 it was 62, in 2012 (in 92 games) it was 20.

            To complete the trifecta we turn to Edwin Encarnacion. In 3000+ PAs he had 24 career Rbat. Then in 2012, at age 29, he posts 39 Rbat.

            Now, Lind hasn’t sustained his level of play, but Bautista has, and we have to wait and see on Encarnacion. But if another guy comes out of nowhere like Bautista or Encarnacion did, is that a ballpark issue or does good coaching have something to do with it or is it just coincidence? I don’t know.

            This “trifecta” may not happen that frequently because we are looking at a bunch of veteran players who people have given up on or some untested rookies or in the case of Walker, a guy who was actually pretty good and possibly on the verge of stardom even if he stayed in Montreal. Focusing on some expansion teams and their veteran players:

            Is what Larry Walker did really much different than what Luis Gonzalez did when he went to Arizona (except Walker did it better)? What about an old Jay Bell posting a career high 29 Rbat for Arizona? Is Bichette’s Rbat change much different than Greg Colbrunn, who posted 36 Rbat in his age 29-32 seasons after posting -8 total before his age 28 season?

            Jeff Conine for the expansion Marlins is similar to Castilla. Didn’t get much of a chance to play with the Royals, has a 0 Rbat his first year with the Marlins (162 games), then puts up 18, 21, and 18. The Marlins actually used a fairly young squad in their early days so it’s hard to compare them.

            You can find things like this in other places if you look hard enough. If you go back to the 61 Angels you don’t have a Larry Walker type, but Earl Averill (the younger), Steve Bilko, Albie Pearson, and to a lesser extent Leon Wagner all played better with the Angels than with prior teams.

          • 84
            bstar says:

            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 played on the same team, at the same time (and make it four or five guys, too, like Colorado), whose careers all took off/re-ignited at the same time and who collectively had a home/road split with a discrepancy approaching that of the Rockies, I’ll back off.

            Until then the Coors Field lights stay on for me.

          • 88
            Ed says:

            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 hitters would have to go to that team’s pitchers. After all, any adjustment to the park factors that would hurt the hitters, would help the pitchers.

            So let’s take a look at the Rockies hitters’ and pitchers’ WAR year by year (Coors Field years only). Hitter WAR is listed first, followed by pitcher WAR:

            ’95 9.8 22.0
            ’96 18.8 6.6
            ’97 20.2 10.7
            ’98 15.2 14.4
            ’99 -0.7 20.5
            ’00 18.4 16.6
            ’01 26.4 7.2
            ’02 13.1 0.5
            ’03 18.1 0.9
            ’04 13.6 7.7
            ’05 9.3 5.8
            ’06 14.0 14.3
            ’07 21.6 16.3
            ’08 9.8 `13.2
            ’09 17.8 17.9
            ’10 17.5 16.2
            ’11 15.1 8.5
            ’12 5.9 14.5

            Overall that’s 248.7 hitter WAR and 213.8 pitcher WAR. So 53.8% of the Rockies’ WAR has gone to hitters, and 46.2% to pitchers.

            Now, bWAR is set up so that generally speaking 59% of WAR goes to hitters and 41% goes to pitchers. Which means the Rockies actually have LESS hitting WAR than you might expect. About 25 less.

            I don’t know how much WAR you want to take away from the Rockies hitters and give to the pitchers. But it certainly seems to me that it would be hard to justify doing so based on their current hitter/pitcher split.

            BTW, if you focus just on the pre-humidor numbers (95-01), then the Rockies have even a smaller % of their WAR going to hitters (52.5%).

          • 101
            bstar says:

            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.

          • 102
            Ed says:

            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 be increasing the Rockies’ pitching WAR by quite a bit. Are you really prepared to argue that the Rockies have had one of the top pitching staffs in the NL year after year after year? Cause that’s the position you’re going to be forced to defend.

            BTW, the Rockies have generally been near the bottom half of the NL in Rbat. They had two years where they finished 3rd but more often than they’ve been among the lowest NL teams in Rbat.

          • 104
            bstar says:

            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.

          • 105
            bstar says:

            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”.

          • 106
            Ed says:

            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.

          • 109
            bstar says:

            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???

          • 112
            Ed says:

            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.

          • 117
            bstar says:

            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.

          • 123
            Ed says:

            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.

  9. 12
    Voomo Zanzibar says:

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

  10. 14
    Artie Z says:

    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.

  11. 17

    Even if we just doubled Walker’s road numbers, how good would he be?

    Let’s compare him to somebody. How many players in history have had an OPS between .845 and .885 (Walker’s road OPS was .865) in 7000 or more plate appearances (Walker had 8000)?

    There have been 59 such players.

    How many were corner outfielders?

    25 of them.

    How many were pretty good baserunners. Like, about half as good as Walker. Let’s say 20 runs above average.

    Suddenly that gets our list down to four—Kiki Cuyler, Al Kaline, Billy Williams, and Tony Gwynn. Not bad players.

    How many were even half the defender Larry Walker was? Let’s go with 40 runs above average.

    We’re down to Kaline.

    Kaline played a lot more playing time than Walker. So let’s cap it at 9000 PAs and include some other lower value positions like first base and center field. Let’s also drop the baserunning requirement down to league average.

    We now have three matches.

    “ONLY ON THE ROAD” Larry Walker was most similar to:
    1. Carlos Beltran
    2. Reggie Smith
    3. Joe Medwick

    A Hall of Famer who deserves to be there and two players who deserve to be there (one still active). Again, this is done just by doubling Walker’s road stats.

    • 19

      What would his WAR look like if you just doubled his road stats? If you average the three comps above, you have 291 Rbat. That docks Walker about 130 Rbat. About 13 wins. So about 56.7 WAR. A borderline Hall of Famer.

      • 23
        mosc says:

        It’s important to note that nobody questions about 40 of his WAR or so. It’s the rest of it that is hard to nail down. Pulling out his road performances, his Montreal days, maybe some DWAR irregularities, he was still a decent base stealer and a productive bat for several years. Nobody thinks he’s Joe Carter or something. But the thought of championing a borderline right field slugger from the height of the steriods era as a HOF caliber player just doesn’t sit well to me. Walker was very good for several years.

        He hit so well in Coors field that it brakes many of the adjustment systems we’ve come to rely on. I think it’s a great point that he’s such a statistical outlier and that his home park for those years was such a statistical outlier that our entire system of park adjustment comes into question as even valid.

        But when you put all that aside, you have a very good right fielder with a late career bloom in the middle of the steroids era. Yeah, I’m not seeing how he’s that different from a plethora of similar players we have on the HOF ballot right now and will join it in the next few years.

        • 24

          I don’t see where the question is between the 40 and 55, though. I think bare minimum if you pretend he never set foot in Coors Field he’s still a 55 WAR player.

          If only Jim Rice and Chuck Klein had faced such standards…

        • 25

          I think a fair comparison would be that if he never set foot inside a home park he was basically John Olerud. Nice OBP, nice slugging, great defense, lower value position. Olerud is a borderline Hall of Famer. I have him on the outside. But at least Olerud had the benefit of playing some games at home.

  12. 20
    Ed says:

    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 generally trending towards 40+ that year. But his other seasons in Montreal he was around 10-20 Rbat.

    Then he goes to Colorado and his Rbat takes off. And it takes off at an age when most players are going into decline. He did have some down years with the Rockies but overall his Rbats were much higher in Colorado than they were in Montreal.

    Perhaps he became a better hitter after he went to Colorado? His road OPS while with Montreal was .819. His road OPS while with Colorado it was .890, 71 points higher. But OPS, in general, went up about 40-60 points during that period in the NL. So it appears that Walker was basically the same hitter on the road during both his Montreal tenure and his Colorado tenure.

    Which means that Walker’s increase in Rbat during his Colorado year’s is likely due to one thing and one thing only…Coors Field. Had he played in any park other than Coors Field from 95-03, it’s hard to see him accumulating as much Rbat as he did. You’ll have to decide for yourself what that means in terms of his overall ranking.

    • 70
      BryanM says:

      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.

      • 72
        Ed says:

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

        • 87
          Ed says:

          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.

  13. 28
    Jeff Hill says:

    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.

    • 29
      Ed says:

      @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.

    • 39
      Voomo Zanzibar says:

      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 would have 4 outfielders, on rotation, all starting 120 games a year. I read a Johnny Damon quote some years back, as he was beginning to acknowledge the onset of aging, he said that (paraphrase) all players would benefit from only having to strap it on 120-130 games a year. Those days off make a huge difference.

      Walker was on the DL 8 times in his career.
      How many of those were him being a balls-out player whose style led to injury?
      How many were due to playing through minor injuries when he might have rested?
      How many were dumb un-luck?
      I’m not going to ding the guy for not being Cal Ripken, though.

      • 110
        Jeff Hill says:

        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 opposite to me.
        Again, I’ll take a Vlad Guerrero over Walker every day of the week. Very similar numbers overall, played hurt and often on bad knees and to me a more dangerous hitter without Coors field than Walker.

        We cannot overlook the fact that he did miss ALOT of games AND played in Coors during his peak in an extremely prosperous hitters era.

    • 79
      BryanM says:

      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

  14. 33
    John Autin says:

    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 of very good hitters, but few HOFers.

    Then note that his home OPS ranked #3 in that period. OK, 62% of that was in Coors Field. So how does he compare to others with the same advantage?

    – In Rockies history, out of 16 with at least 2,000 PAs, Walker is a runaway #1 in home OPS — 111 points ahead of Holliday, 117 ahead of Helton, 125 over CarGo. Seven guys are in a cluster from .981 to 1.068 — but Walker’s at 1.179.

    – Walker also leads the Colorado contingent in road OPS, .899 during his Rockies years, 35 points up on Helton.

    – Out of 34 visitors with 50+ career games in Colorado, only Bonds and Sosa top Walker’s OPS, and not by much — 38 points for Barry, 4 points for Sammy.

    The other thing I’d do is decide whether I trust OPS+. Does it do a fair job assessing Rockies hitters?

    Out of 31 guys with 1,000+ PAs with the Rockies, 14 have OPS+ over 100, 16 under 100, and one at 100. Six are at 120 or higher; nine are at 80 or lower. It may not be scientific, but it passes my smell test.

    And Walker’s 147 OPS+ while with Colorado laps the field. Nos. 2-6 are Helton 135 OPS+, Holliday 131, CarGo and Burks 128, Galarraga 126.

    They *all* had massive home advantages: Walker +280 points of OPS, Helton +196, Holliday +265, CarGo +297, Burks +188, Galarraga +204.

    Many folks believe that, while playing in Coors obviously helps one’s overall stats, it tends to hurt one’s road stats. But whether you buy that or not, the fact remains that Walker was the best of the Rockies hitters, by far.

  15. 34
    Tim Pea says:

    Adam, another fantastic story!

  16. 35
    Tim Pea says:

    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.

  17. 36
    Jimbo says:

    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.

    • 42
      mosc says:

      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.

      • 49
        John Autin says:

        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. 🙂

        • 51
          Tim Pea says:

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

          • 53
            Howard says:

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

          • 58
            John Autin says:

            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.

          • 60
            Tim Pea says:

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

  18. 47
    bstar says:

    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 Hall of Fame but around whether or not Larry was better/worse than that huge glut of players between 60-70 WAR that we’ve accumulated on the COG ticket. Some say better, I say worse (maybe, or in my mind probably). It’s not that big of a deal.

  19. 56

    Park factors are a thing. They should be adjusted equally for all players who played there.

    But we also have to remember that some players—independently of park factors—play better in certain parks than others do. That’s why every single player will not see the same career arc based on their careers in Colorado.

    Doesn’t this make sense?

    Larry Walker’s getting the same park factor as guys like Bichette who are stripped down to nothing. Yet he STILL excels. I don’t think he should be FURTHER stripped down because he performed well. It just means he performed well. Which is what good players do, right?

    • 59
      Voomo Zanzibar says:

      Well said.

      I know this to be true.
      From personal experience.

      I played beer league softball in Colorado
      for years and I managed only two home runs
      and they were both inside-the-park jobs.

      AND I was on performance enhancing drugs.

      My on base percentage was .760, though.
      (my team was loaded with hackers from
      top to bottom,
      and SOMEBODY had to keep the pitcher honest)

    • 83
      Artie Z. says:

      Wade Boggs, who is cruising into the Circle of Greats this round, is an interesting study here.

      This is in support of Adam’s comment. I think – it’s late.

      Boggs at Fenway (not home, just Fenway) was a .369/.464/.527 hitter in 3803 PAs. That’s Ty Cobb at Fenway. At non-Fenway he was a .306/.388/.398 hitter in 6937 PAs. The non-Fenway Wade Boggs is a reasonable match (in the triple slash line) to the actual Mike Hargrove – .290/.396/.391 in 6694 PAs. Now Hargrove is a first baseman, and non-Fenway Boggs’ career numbers are somewhat near those of Boudreau and Jimmy Collins, who are both HOFers who played the left side of the infield but not the slam dunks that Boggs is.

      An interesting fact is that Wade Boggs hit 292 doubles in his 3803 PAs at Fenway, but just 286 doubles in those 6937 PAs at non-Fenway. That’s less doubles away from Fenway, but over 3000 more PAs away from Fenway than at Fenway. Yes Fenway likely helped everyone, and yes Boggs was younger when he played for the Red Sox so he was probably a better hitter then, but to hit 6 less doubles in over 3000 more PAs? His other XBH numbers are biased towards Fenway as well, though not to this extreme.

      How much should we cut Boggs’ value down because he learned to take advantage of the park he played in? Dwight Evans had about half his PAs at Fenway and hit 70 more doubles there, Jim Rice about half and hit 40 more doubles there. Yaz had exactly the same number of PAs at Fenway as he did at non-Fenway (6996) and hit 120 more doubles at Fenway. So it’s clear that Fenway helps out – but if you give Boggs 6937 Fenway and 6937 non-Fenway and keep his rate the same (it’s about the same number of actual PAs as Yaz had), then Boggs has 282 doubles at non-Fenway, and 533 at Fenway. That’s a huge difference.

      Look at some of Boggs’ individual season splits. He hit .411 at Fenway in 1987, and .312 on the road, though he had more HRs on the road (it was his fluke HR season). In 1985 it was .418/.322. In 1984 it was .352/.296. In 1989 it was .387/.277. In 1990 it was .359/.245. In fairness, in 1986 he was dead even at .357/.356 and in 1988 it was not that pronounced (.382/.351). Because most of his power came from doubles, and he hit many more doubles at Fenway, his SLG in those seasons in much higher at Fenway, as is his OBP (mainly because of the batting average differences).

      It seems clear to me that Boggs derived a bigger advantage from Fenway than others who played there. Yaz’ splits are .290/.386/.483 at Fenway, .280/.372/.439 away. Much is made of Rice’s splits, but they don’t seem as extreme as Boggs (.320/.374/.546 to .277/.330/.459)

      But because Boggs learned to use Fenway should we detract from Boggs’ numbers more than others or just say “good job”? This seems to be the argument people are making about Walker’s Coors stats – if Walker, why not Boggs and others like him? It’s late, but I think this is in support of what Adam is saying.

      • 89

        Exactly. Nobody questions Boggs. Nor should they.

      • 90
        Baltimorechop says:

        Boggs has a .205 difference in OPS between Fenway and every other park, but Doerr has a .212 (.928 fenway, .716 away). Additionally, Doerr’s .212 is sustained over his entire career; Boggs played his peak during Fenway and would’ve only played a handful afterward (not nearly enough to depress his Fenway stats like Doerr’s declining years).

        Also, Doerr is (definitely in my opinion) arguably borderline to begin with, whereas Boggs was a slam dunk. Even before I saw Deorr’s ridiculous splits (.261/.327/.389 away for career) I was a no (not hugely solid, not immoveable). After seeing these splits, it would take a lot for me to ever put him in my personal HOF.

        If you could parse out Boggs career and remove Fenway, I think he’d still be a Hall of Famer. You can’t just sub in his away stats; most players do better at home in general. That OBP makes me think he’d still be insanely valuable.

  20. 67
    BryanM says:

    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 down a bit after an adjustment in methodology a few years ago, the same could happen to Walker.
    2) they are designed to make the W in WAR as close to a constant as possible. Having a huge home- road split. Or no split at all is the same thing if it leads to the same number of wins. Someone playing LF or RF has less opportunity to create a win on defense than a catcher, or even a CF . If the angels move Mike Trout to LF this year, it will be harder for him to match his WAR Total from last year ( that should probably read. even harder ) he could have just as good a year , but be worth fewer wins because of restricted opportunity. I can see no argument for even further restricting his opportunity by compressing his no doubt positive rFeild in order to move hom closer to Greg Luzinski

  21. 68
    BryanM says:

    Sorry , should have spellchecked better.

  22. 78
    John Autin says:

    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 was .840 in 5 years there. In his next 2 seasons, age 37 and 39, it was .924

    Burks had an .862 road OPS in 5 years there. In his first 4 years after leaving (age 34-37), it was .949.

    I can’t explain it, but it seems like a real phenomenon.

    • 85
      bstar says:

      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. It doesn’t mean I can’t make this argument.

      • 86
        bstar says:

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

      • 94
        John Autin says:

        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.

        • 95
          Ed says:

          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.

          In 2005, there were 4.59 runs per game, an increase of over 10%. Total Rbat that year was -696 for 186292 PAs.

          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 of what John was surmising.

          One thing I do know is that the DH does have an effect on this. Almost all of the negative Rbat comes from the NL, whereas the AL has roughly 0 Rbat per season. If you compare 1972 to 1973 (the first year of the DH), you’ll see that’s when things changed. Before that, both leagues had approximately the same amount of negative Rbat.

        • 108
          bstar says:

          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 service if they went into more detail about the inner workings of their calculations.

          The problem with doing that (especially for B-Ref) is they are going to make understanding WAR (to a casual B-Ref user) even more difficult, which actually might push the general baseball public further away from even trying to understand WAR.

          So there’s a balancing act at work. They want to provide enough detail so that it can be generally understood and public-accessible but not so much that it makes people’s heads spin.

          Maybe putting a “more details” link in there for those like us who want to delve further would be the way to go.

          Have you ever tried e-mailing Sean Forman with questions? I have always gotten a response.

  23. 80
    John Autin says:

    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?

  24. 82
    John Autin says:

    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.

  25. 96
    BryanM says:

    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 course the batting runs were less valuable than they seem, which is the purpose of park adjustments. In real life , he was about as valuable as Frank Thomas, depending on your view of WAA, DH, baserunning, defense etc.

    Q2 how valuable would. larry Walker have been been if he had played somewhere else? In short, how GOOD was he? Nobody knows, but it seems likely that his home road splits would have been substantially lower. If we mentally put Thomas in Coors, and Walker in Chicago, we have no evidence to say that Thomas would have been more or less valuable than he was. His raw numbers would almost certainly gone up, but they may or may not have gone up after park adjustments – we can speculate , but nobody knows. In Walker s case, however, his splits were so dramatic that it seems likely that his home numbers would have gone down by more than the park adjustment , and it is likely that he would have been less valuable,

    Put another way, park adjustments can tell us a players actual value with reasonable accuracy, they cannot adjust for the good or bad luck of playing in a park well or badly suited to the players particular skills. In that way they are similar to other factors beyond the players control, like military service, etc.

    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 as much as the average player.

    how Good was player x? Everyone can have an opinion. how valuable was he? Here I think the data must play the major role.

    • 97
      Ed says:

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

    • 164
      Michael Sullivan says:

      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 as much as the average player.

      I want to be careful about making this adjustment, because there’s a clear way to look at the pure numbers as they are today and realize that Jackie Robinson was better than Larry Walker. Jackie did what he did in less time, and many fewer PAs. 5800 vs. 8000. So his win accumulation *rate* was better than Walkers (albeit not by a huge amount).

      Robinson has 72.5% of Walker’s PAs, but accumulated almost 85% of Walker’s WAR and almonst 82% of his WAA.

      If you stretch Jackie’s numbers out by assuming he played another 2200 PAs at the same rate of production (a very *conservative* estimate of what more he might have accomplished if given the major league shot he deserved at 21-22), and he would have 84.8 WAR and 53.8 WAA for his career, clearly ahead of Walker.

  26. 98
    John Autin says:

    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, Rbat ranging from 51 to 70, median 60 Rbat.
    Walker was #1, 3 Rbat ahead of #2.

    (2) Todd Helton, 2000 — 63 Rbat, 163 OPS+, 697 PAs
    Pool criteria: OPS+ 159-167, PAs 680-720.
    38 seasons, Rbat ranging from 40 to 63, median 53 Rbat.
    Helton was #1.
    Intriguing that nos. 4, 5 and 6 on this list are other Helton seasons (2001, 2003-04).

    Since those other Helton years rank #3-5 on the Rockies list, let’s skip down to:

    (6) Larry Walker, 2001 — 49 Rbat, 160 OPS+, 601 PAs.
    Pool criteria: OPS+ 156-164, PAs 580-620.
    34 seasons, Rbat ranging from 34 to 49, median 42 Rbat.
    Walker was #1, 2 Rbat ahead of #2.

    I’m sensing a trend, but let’s keep going.

    (7) Matt Holliday, 2007 — 48 Rbat, 150 OPS+, 713 PAs
    Pool criteria: OPS+ 147-153, PAs 695-735.
    31 seasons, Rbat ranging from 39 to 50, median 44 Rbat.
    Holliday was #4 (tie), 2 Rbat behind #1.

    (8) Larry Walker, 1999 — 48 Rbat, 164 OPS+, 513 PAs.
    Pool criteria: OPS+ 160-168, PAs 490-540.
    14 seasons, Rbat ranging from 29 to 49, median Rbat 35.
    Walker was #2, 1 Rbat behind #1 and 8 Rbat above #3.

    (9) Ellis Burks, 1996 — 48 Rbat, 149 OPS+, 685 PAs.
    Pool criteria: OPS+ 147-151, PAs 670-700.
    46 seasons, Rbat ranging from 30 to 48, median 40 Rbat.
    Burks was #1, 2 Rbat ahead of #1.

    (10) Larry Walker, 1998 — 43 Rbat, 158 OPS+, 524 PAs.
    Pool criteria: OPS+ 154-162, PAs 500-550.
    28 seasons, Rbat ranging from 28 to 44, median 35 Rbat.
    Walker was #3, 1 Rbat behind #1.

    Now, one clear flaw in this method is that the test years were selected specifically for high Rbat. To crosscheck, I have to look at the Rockies’ highest OPS+ seasons. That’s still to come.

  27. 107
    John Autin says:

    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 guys:

    CarGo, #20 of 45.
    Bichette, #15 of 37.
    Tulowitzki, #12 of 30.
    Hawpe (yes, Hawpe), #17 of 25.
    Castilla, #16 of 32.

    The other interesting thing about these pools is that the top spots are generally players from run-rich environments:
    – Nos. 2-6 on Helton’s list are Bill Terry, Gene Tenace, Arky Vaughan, Brian Giles and Paul Waner. (All but Tenace fit the mold.)
    – Nos. 2-5 on Walker’s list are Bagwell, Edgar, Miggy C. and Heilmann.

  28. 113
    Jeff Hill says:

    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 the numbers are there to back it up.

    Everyone…I give you Jay Payton

    • 124
      John Autin says:

      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 3 years, with Colorado: .277 BA, 75 OPS+.

      Clint Barmes had a 75 OPS+ in 8 years with the Rockies.
      In 2 years since, a 79 OPS+.

      Juan Uribe had a 71 OPS+ in 3 years with the Rockies.
      In 9 years since, an 87 OPS+.

      Preston Wilson had a 102 OPS+ in 3 years with the Rockies.
      In 5 years with Florida, a 109 OPS+. His career mark is 103.

      Todd Zeile didn’t get a boost. His OPS+ was 109, 110 and 95 in 3 years before reaching Colorado, and 93 in his one year there.

      Seth Smith last year had a 109 OPS+ for Oakland, exactly what he had in 4 years with the Rox.

      Eric Young had a 93 OPS+ with the Rockies. Career mark is 92.

      Jeffrey Hammonds had a 112 OPS+ for 1997-99. Went to Colorado and had a 111.

      As Ed has said, if there’s an argument that OPS+ or Rbat don’t take enough air out of the Coors stats, that argument has to explain how to make the adjustment for the likes of Walker without wrecking the curve for these others who seem reasonably well described by the current OPS+ and Rbat formula.

  29. 114
    Insert Name Here says:

    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. The same is true in sports. Larry Walker adapted himself to his environment, and did great in it. And if you still want to see “park factoring” as an issue, then realize that we will never know for sure what he would have done in another home ballpark, and how he would have adapted to that environment. So deal with it.

    • 116
      bstar says:

      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.

      “…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 anyone’s standards. Don’t believe me? See JA’s #’s @80.

      • 122
        Ed says:

        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.

    • 120
      bells says:

      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 him because some (not enough?) don’t see him as great, and the numbers argument doesn’t quite fit either.

    • 125
      no statistician but says:

      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 generally perform at a rate above expectation and the visiting team at a lesser level than the home team? Again, not invariable, but generally.

      3) This subject has been raised, but I think it’s important, and it goes along with what Insert Name is saying: good players adapt to circumstances and will be good wherever they are, but adapting to extreme circumstances such as Coors probably has negative consequences for playing in other venues. Nevertheless, in spite of what current wisdom on WAR proposes, Yankee Stadium didn’t win all those games for the team in the 1950s. The players did.

  30. 126
    mosc says:

    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, from that, I’d give walker say 5 WAR over vlad and 10 WAR over Sheffield. Now, talking about their bats, he was inferior to both. Looking at their career road lines, for example:
    Gurrero: .312/.376/.536/.912
    Sheffield: .288/.384/.501/.886
    Walker: .278/.370/.495/.865

    Gurrero is markedly better slugging and sheffield’s career is considerably longer.

    So, to me, these guys are very close but I’d rank them Sheffield, Gurrero, Walker.

    That’s not to say Walker is Dale Murphy. It’s to say he’s got company on the borderline HOF RF steroids era list.

    • 127
      BryanM says:

      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, since you always felt he could be good out there if he really wanted.
      All three are better than Willie Stargell, for example. Whether they belong in the HOF is personal opinion, I guess

    • 128

      I agree with you here…

      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

      Then you add…

      So, from that, I’d give walker say 5 WAR over vlad and 10 WAR over Sheffield.

      I’m curious where you come up with the 10 WAR difference between Walker and Sheffield on base-running and defense. Their dWAR (I never use dWAR, but this is an opportunity where I want to include both fielding and position) is separated by 27 WAR. That doesn’t include base-running, which is another four WAR difference.

      Now, I’m not saying we should take WAR as gospel, but I do find it to be a very good starting point. I’d also tend to put the difference closer to 30 WAR than I would to 10 WAR. Is there a particular reason you’d have it much smaller?

      Plus, I hate the road stats argument, but I’ve addressed that here already.

      • 130
        bstar says:

        Here we go again.

        Plus, I hate the road stats argument, but I’ve addressed that here already.

        Do you mean you addressed it in the comments section?

    • 129
      RJ says:

      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 arrive at a total of 297 Rbat, which when taking into account fielding and baserunning comes comfortably ahead of Guerrero and Sheffield. As it is, the trio’s Wins Above Average totals are:

      Walker: 48.3
      Vlad: 29.6
      Sheffield: 25.9

      • 131
        mosc says:

        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 that should really make walker’s best seasons look more like Dale Murphy’s best seasons. Walker was a better fielder and base runner than Dale Murphy giving him more value. He was NOT a better BAT than Dale Murphy. In fact, he had in inferior bat to other notable RF-ers of his era.

        • 132
          birtelcom says:

          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 gives me some comfort that there is not some methodological quirk of WAR hugely overvaluing Walker’s defense. Walker’s fielding WSAB is tied for the highest all-time by a RFer with Paul Waner.

          Big props to Baseball Gauge for the Win Shares and WSAB numbers.

          It remains true that Baseball Prospectus’s WARP metric rates Walker as merely average on defense, which drops him well below COG level if you like B-Pro’s numbers. On the other hand, B-Pro seems to consider (if I understand the numbers correctly) Greg Maddux’s hitting to have provided almost a third of his career value as a baseball player, which is about the most nonsensical thing I’ve ever seen from a reputable metric.

          • 133
            mosc says:

            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 fundamental problem with the current system is that it treats playing each position as an unrelated skill instead of a fielder who has a fielding ability that will play at a known level anywhere on the diamond.

  31. 134
    Tim Pea says:

    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?

  32. 135
    John Autin says:

    Nobody took the bait on Kirby Puckett @82 above, so I’ll try again:

    – Kirby: BA .344 / OPS .909
    – Walker: BA .348 / OPS 1.068

    – 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 still, Walker far out-hit him on both sides of the split.

    As for league scoring context, it may surprise you.

    During Walker’s years as a regular (1990-2005), the NL averaged 4.54 R/G, a .261 BA and .738 OPS.

    During Kirby’s years as a regular (1984-1995), the AL averaged 4.60 R/G, a .263 BA and .735 OPS.

    Given that, and Walker’s 0.128 OPS edge, his 141-124 edge in OPS+ seems reasonable.

    Walker played 205 more games. Maybe it seems cold to ding Kirby for a career-ending illness — but if we’re dinging Walker for being injury-prone, how can we overlook the shortness of Kirby’s career?

    Puckett won 6 Gold Gloves in CF, but scored -1.0 dWAR. Walker won 7 GG’s in RF, and scored 1.5 dWAR.

    Both were good baserunners.

    Why was Kirby a first-ballot HOFer, while Walker has yet to reach 25% of the vote?

    • 136
      Tim Pea says:

      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 still hit pretty good.

    • 137
      no statistician but says:


      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?

      • 138
        Tim Pea says:

        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.

      • 139
        John Autin says:

        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 bad himself in the postseason.

        Kirby — 24 games, .897 OPS, 5 HRs, 15 RBI, 16 Runs, 1.111 total WPA
        Walker — 28 games, .860 OPS, 7 HRs, 15 RBI, 18 Runs, 0.921 total WPA

        Walker only got to play in 1 World Series, and his Cards got swept. But in those 4 games, he hit 2 HRs and 2 doubles, .357 BA, 1.366 OPS.

        Puckett is remembered for that game-winning WS homer, and well he should be. But he had his clunkers, too.

        In the ’87 Series, the pivotal game 5, Kirby went 0-4 and twice stranded men in scoring position. Same thing in ’91 game 2, but with a GDP in his first AB, no outs, 2 on; Chili Davis picked him up by hitting a 2-run HR, and they won 3-2 on Scott Leius’s HR in the 8th. The next game, he did get a solo HR for his only hit; but in the 8th inning, tie game, 1 out and men on the corners, he whiffed — a huge moment — and they lost that one in the 12th.

        Obviously I’m not trying to tear down the memory of Kirby, just trying to provide a little counterpoint to our snapshot memories of his greatest moment.

        • 147
          no statistician but says:

          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, 29-52 away, the news passed me by.

          Personally I ought to have a great deal of empathy for Puckett. My wife had to retire early from her career as a librarian because of glaucoma; one of my alma maters is Bradley; my daughter and her husband live in Minneapolis. Somehow, though, I can’t get past the feeling that Puckett is a questionable HOFer, or one that only belongs under the large hall concept, and if you accept that concept, then many of the players who come up for discussion here as hall worthy—Walker a notable example—certainly ought to be there with him.

          Having given this a little thought since my earlier post, I’d say that Puckett’s admission was built on positive perception and sympathy more than performance. The opposition to Walker seems, well, almost the opposite, built on negative perception of and antipathy for, if not Walker personally, then for the Colorado franchise and playing field. His performance is suspect, guilty till proven innocent, and the proofs provided here, while they convince me, can’t, for some, overcome the overall indictment that many make against where he played. But—did anyone else play as well as he did at Coors, not just for a year or two, but year after year? No. To me that’s answer enough.

        • 149
          bstar says:

          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 Munson also?

          When the Yanks were getting blanked by the Big Red Machine in the ’76 series, Munson was hitting .529 (OK, all nine of his hits were singles, but still…). He then hit .320 in the next two World Series, both won by the Yanks, and Munson finished with a postseason OPS about 120 points over his regular season average.

          Throw in a Rookie of the Year and an AL MVP in ’76, and Munson has Hall credentials out the wazoo. All this in an 11-year career. Where did Munson rank among catchers in WAR after age 32, his last season? Eighth all-time, behind seven HOF’ers and Ted Simmons.

          Where did Puckett rank among center fielders after age 35, his final season? 21st! Is this a case of baseball writers falling in love with a guy with a high batting average and a high career hit total? I think it is.

          In fact, that’s really the only explanation I can come up with for Puckett’s 5-yr waiting period being eschewed and for him being hustled into the Hall of Fame. I think writers saw a future 3000-hit club member with a high batting average, and since that warranted an automatic selection for them, it was an easy call.

          Looking at Munson, he didn’t have the impressive career counting stat totals. Part of that was his 11-year career and part of that was that fact that he was a catcher.

          I just think the Hall voters picked the wrong short-career guy to champion. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt to me that wearing pinstripes has absolutely nothing to do with getting into Cooperstown.

          • 150
            Mike L says:

            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.

          • 152
            bstar says:

            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 be the borderline for catchers and the Hall of Fame. Only 12 catchers have more career WAR than that.

    • 140
      BryanM says:

      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 we see large splits presented as evidence of inability , and I am having trouble seeing the logic, hope you have some insight.

      • 142
        John Autin says:

        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 we have those same sets of numbers, but the big-split guy is in Hitter Heaven Park, and the other is in a neutral park in the other league.

        For the sake of argument, let’s say the OPS is .900 for games in Hitter Heaven, and .750 for games in every other park in both leagues.

        So the first guy is hitting at an average level everywhere. All other things being equal, we’d say he’s an average hitter.

        The second guy plays all his games in .750 parks, and has an .825 OPS. He’s clearly above average, right? — and thus, better than the first guy? Yet they both score .825 OPS.

        I apologize if this is stating the obvious. If you want to frame the question more specifically, I might have something better to say. 🙂

  33. 141
    oneblankspace says:

    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.

  34. 143
    BryanM says:

    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

    • 144
      John Autin says:

      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 their batting, then I don’t see the splits making a difference.

      But if we’re talking about signing one of them as a free agent, to play in a neutral park, then I’d lean towards the guy with balanced splits.

      Ultimately, you can’t evaluate guys totally outside of their context. Someone who played a long time in the Polo Grounds may have adapted his swing to pull the ball for the short fence down the lines. That would have helped him at home, but it would have hurt him on the road in more conventional parks.

      If that adjustment raised his overall OPS from what it would have been otherwise, then it helped his team. So it wouldn’t seem fair for us now to just look at his road stats as the most “neutral” measure of his value.

      But of course, we’ll never know for sure how much anyone tailored his swing to a particular park. So we do the best we can with broad park-factor adjustments … and then we argue. 🙂

      • 151
        bstar says:

        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 because he’s much closer to the Hall borderline, or, more importantly, he’s very close to the cluster of Hall-worthy guys we have in the logjam for election to our COG.

        That’s why we’re talking about Walker and not bringing up Foxx, or Wade Boggs.

        • 153
          John Autin says:

          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.

          • 155
            bstar says:

            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!

          • 156
            John Autin says:

            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.

        • 157
          John Autin says:

          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.

      • 154
        BryanM says:

        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 , I, perhaps mistakenly, got the sense that some feel that if player A had a big H/R split , while player B did not, all else being equal, that that was evidence that player B was more valuable, which of course it is not.

    • 145
      John Autin says:

      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 played every day, while Howard played in a time of more LHPs and was semi-platooned, skipping the tougher lefties. That might raise Vaughn over Howard in our evaluation, if the rest of the measures were very close.

    • 146
      Richard Chester says:

      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

      • 148
        John Autin says:

        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 approach for a particular home park.

  35. 158
    BryanM says:

    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 long career.

    or Gary Matthews — somewhere between 2-4 WAR virtually every year for an equally long career?

  36. 161

    […] goes into Hall Rating is adjusted for park and era effects. If you don’t believe, me, give this a read. Walker was a great hitter for three different teams, played a great defensive right field, […]

  37. 162

    […] benefited far too greatly from the Coors effect. My colleague Adam Darowski shot that down in style here. Also good on his feet and with the […]

  38. 163

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  39. 165

    […] a six-year period, great defensive right fielder to boot. Against: Coors effect (tackled at length here by Adam Darowski), lack of […]

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