The Three Larry Walkers

Is any other great baseball player’s Hall of Fame case met with less objective thought than Larry Walker’s?

In 1997, Walker hit .366/.452/.720.  He hit 49 home runs and 46 doubles, stole 33 bases, played his typical stellar rightfield defense, and, for good measure, was hit by 14 pitches.  Five other times, Walker’s on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) topped 1.000, something no player in either league accomplished in 2014.

As is the case with Barry Bonds’s otherworldly 2001-2004 seasons, any observer’s instinct upon viewing Walker’s monstrous numbers should be to consider context.  Balls were flying around, and out of, ballparks at an alarming rate in 1997, and Coors Field, where Walker played half his games, was the primary culprit.  To judge Walker against his contemporaries or the greats of yesterday based on the raw numbers cited above would be irresponsible.

Sadly, though, many observers, including those charged with populating the Hall of Fame, take an even less responsible tact, “considering context” by wiping the page clean, as if Rocky Mountain air so profoundly impacts a hitter’s ability to get on base that anyone could have accomplished what Walker did that year.

In truth, no National Leaguer in 1997 matched Walker in home runs, total bases, on-base percentage, or slugging percentage, all of which reflect, to some extent, Walker’s surroundings.  Neither, though, did anyone match Walker’s WAR (9.8, per baseball-reference), a figure adjusted for the effects of era and park advantages.  Some great hitters have played for the Rockies in their 20+ years.  Here are the top OPS marks in Rockies history:

1.172, Larry Walker, 1997

1.168, Larry Walker, 1999

1.162, Todd Helton, 2000

1.116, Todd Helton, 2001

1.111, Larry Walker, 2001

1.075, Larry Walker, 1998

Sure, Walker took advantage of the comforts of Coors in a way that Roberto Clemente and Pete Rose never got to do.  But isn’t it illustrative that he put up better numbers there (.381/.462/.710) than any player in team history?

WAR Batting Runs (Rbat) are park-adjusted.  Walker accumulated 420 Rbat in his career, more than Hall of Fame rightfielders like Clemente (377), Tony Gwynn (403), or Andre Dawson (234).  Walker could also run (40 WAR Baserunning Runs) and field (94 WAR Fielding Runs, more than enough to offset the 75 runs he’s docked for playing right field).  Adam’s Hall of Stats, which combines WAR and WAA, both park- and era-adjusted, gives Walker a Hall Rating of 150, seventh all time among rightfielders, right between Al Kaline and Reggie Jackson.

What fans and Hall voters tend to neglect is that Walker was a great hitter, and a great all-around player, for six seasons in Montreal (Expos Booder) prior to becoming Rockies Booger, and parts of two seasons in St. Louis (Cardinals Booger) at the end of his career.  Let’s separate Walker’s career into three eras based on the team he played for and find comparable players to the three Larry Walkers (or are they Larrys Walker?).

Expos Booger

From 1989 through 1994, Walker kept his passport ready, playing his home games in his native Canada and his road games in the states.  During these formative years, Walker batted .281/.356/.509, culminating in a breakout year in which the Expos had the league’s best record at the time of the strike and Walker finished eleventh in NL MVP voting.

Raw comps: In terms of raw numbers, Walker’s age 22 to 27 seasons rival those of two of history’s great rightfielders.  Al Kaline, one of the game’s great young players, had an .876 OPS over that age range, while Reggie Jackson‘s was .871 in a period that ended two years into the Athletics’ title threepeat.  Both narrowly topped Walker’s .865, while Walker’s 52 Fielding Runs fall right between Kaline’s 89 and Reggie’s 37.

Adjusted comps: Kaline and Jackson both played more frequently than Walker in their age 22 to 27 seasons, so WAR gives them more credit for accumulated accomplishments.  If we’re looking for an adjusted comp, Joe Morgan precisely matched Walker’s 81 Batting Runs, and earned 21.5 WAR, to Walker’s 21.2.  This predates Morgan’s MVP years with Cincinnati, but it speaks to the quality of Walker’s all-around game that his early years are comparable to those of one of the game’s most rounded players.  If you’re looking for an outfield comp, Roberto Clemente fell short of Walker’s Batting Runs (49), but used his lethal arm to match Walker’s WAR (22.8).  Walker didn’t need Coors Field to look like an all-time great.

Rockies Booger

Walker’s Colorado years, during which he was 28 to 37 years old, correspond well with his prime.  This is slightly later than the typical player’s prime, but the typical player doesn’t spend his youth dreaming of a career as an NHL goalie.  After a slightly late start, Walker joined the ranks of the game’s stars at age 25 in 1992, and maintained that status well into his thirties.

Raw comps: Almost no one has done what Larry Walker did from ages 28 to 37. He batted .334/.426/.618 for a decade, still playing above-average defense and finding time to steal 126 bases.  The closest comp I could find was Stan Musial, whose 1.008 OPS from 28 to 37 was .036 points lower, but who kept it up for almost 1,800 more plate appearances.  Jimmie Foxx had three 1.000 OPS seasons over that span (Walker had six), but stumbled toward the end of his career and finished the span with a .991 OPS. If you’re looking for better raw numbers than what Walker did in Colorado, you’re in Ruth/Williams territory.

Adjusted comps: Again, Walker had some trouble staying on the field in his late prime, averaging just under 500 plate appearances per season, and Coors Field was obviously more friendly to him than Sportsman’s Park was to Musial.  From a value standpoint, Walker’s Rockie years were more akin to those of Mickey Mantle, who earned more Rbat (350 to 313), but fewer WAR (48.2 to 42.4).  Willie McCovey, who earned 335 Rbat and 42.6 WAR, is in similar territory.

Cardinals Booger

It comes in a very small sample, but Walker’s final season-and-a-half in St. Louis tells us a lot about what he might have accomplished had he never played in Denver.  He batted .286/.387/.521, joining a team loaded with should-be future Hall-of-Famers on the ride to two NLCS and a World Series.

Raw comps: It’s harder than you think to find someone with a .908 OPS at ages 37 and 38, in any era, in any park.  Ruth, Aaron, and Bonds were better.  Basically everyone else was worse.  I’m digging way back to find a comp in Honus Wagner, whose .909 OPS was almost identical to Walker’s.  If you’re uncomfortable with the advantage Walker had playing in a hitter’s era, remember that he faced fresh-armed relievers throwing 98 miles per hour in the eighth inning in 2004 and 2005, while Wagner played in an all-white league when tiring starters routinely completed what they started.  If you want an outfield comp, you might not do much better than Ty Cobb and his .947 OPS.

Adjusted comps: Busch Stadium didn’t work to Walker’s advantage like Coors did, but he earned fewer WAR (3.2) over his last two seasons because he only came to the plate 545 times and wasn’t the runner or fielder he’d been in his earlier years.  That WAR total looks a lot like that of Derek Jeter, who earned 3.3 WAR at ages 37 and 38 with just 15 Batting Runs, benefitting from a 17-run advantage in Positional Runs.

If one doesn’t believe in adjusting for the effects of ballpark and era advantages, Larry Walker was a young Al Kaline, an in-his-prime Stan Musial, and a late-career Honus Wagner.  Anyone who’s been paying attention can see that such an assessment oversells Walker’s value.  Rather than dismissing those numbers entirely, though, let’s appreciate that Walker was a young Joe Morgan, an in-his-(late-)prime Mickey Mantle, and a late-career Derek Jeter.

 

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Ugh
Guest

ALRIGHT, WE GET IT, YOU GUYS ALL THINK PARRY WALKER SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AN ELITE PLAYER AND AN IMMEDIATE HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE.

Jesus, you’ve all beaten this horse to death so hard, I’m amazed there’s any horse left.

Adam Darowski
Guest

You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Paul E
Guest

AGREED!!!!!!!!!!!’

Larry Walker was Chuck Klein in Baker Bowl. I’d go so far to say that Larry Walker wasn’t even Reggie Smith.

Nice player? Absolutely
Cooperstown? Not in his lifetime

John Autin
Editor
Paul E, surely you know that many of us think Reggie Smith was a HOFer? The median OPS+ of modern HOF outfielders is 133 (Billy Williams, Al Simmons, Earl Averill, Chick Hafey, Fred Clarke). Smith’s OPS+ was 137. His career was not one of the longest. But of the 12 HOF OFs with OPS+ from 133-140, Smith had more PAs or more games than five of them — Chuck Klein, Joe Medwick, Averill, Hafey and Larry Doby. (BTW, Smith’s edge on Doby’s career length is more than what Doby lost to segregation.) Smith’s career length, OPS+ and WAR are just… Read more »
dr. remulak
Guest

In 597 games at Coors, Walker went .381/.462/.710 for an eye-popping 1.172 OPS. His career away from Coors was very good, but let’s have some perspective, please. And while we’re at it, take a look at Tulo’s career Home/Away splits.

oneblankspace
Guest

Tulowitzki’s splits
Unassisted triple plays: 1 home, 0 away (he led off the bottom half of that inning and was hit by a pitch)
Cycles: 1 home, 0 away

Other players with both:
None
(George Henry Burns hit for the cycle in 1920, and three years later George Joseph Burns had an UTP)

Artie Z.
Guest
In Coors: Troy Tulowitzki: 481 games, .323/.397/.565. Dante Bichette: 397 games, .358/.394/.641 Vinny Castilla: 490 games, .333/.380/.609 Andres Galarraga: 246 games, .333/.394/.631 Matt Holliday: 376 games, .361/.427/.656 Todd Helton: 1141 games, .345/.441/.607 Did I miss any of the usual suspects? Ellis Burks: 248 games, .334/.407/.626 You know what none of those are: .381/.462/.710. None of those guys is within 20 points of AVG or OBP (only Helton is within 35 points in OBP), or 50 points in SLG. Walker’s numbers get adjusted just like everyone else who played there – Bichette went .331/.357/.509 in 161 games in 1998, and he… Read more »
mosc
Guest
Our field adjustments are crude. They treat all parks with the same score to all players who played there. That’s why you see things like a neutral factor for Yankee stadium in some years even though it’s quite a pitchers park to a right handed bat and quite a hitters park to a left handed bat. You have to consider with Coors field in that era that the benefit was all for power hitters. You put Ben Revere in 1998 Coors Field and he’s going to hit maybe 3 home runs. Staggeringly high, but it’s not going to give him… Read more »
RJ
Guest

I wouldn’t be so sure about Revere’s three home runs: Juan Pierre only hit one homer in Coors in 943 PA!

paget
Guest

@9
“Our field adjustments are crude. They treat all parks with the same score to all players who played there. That’s why you see things like a neutral factor for Yankee stadium in some years even though it’s quite a pitchers park to a right handed bat and quite a hitters park to a left handed bat.”

Amen. I’ve been trying to make this point for years here!

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

@98,
For example, Yankee Stadium is usually treated as about neutral, or a slight pitcher’s park. But in reality, it _hurt_ right-handed pull hitters such as Joe DiMaggio, and helped left-handed pull hitters such as Babe Ruth, Bill Dickey, and Roger Maris.

Park factors often are not a ‘one size fits all’ adjustment.

brp
Guest
The guy was a legitimate MVP candidate playing in Montreal. It’s not his fault the ’94 Expos didn’t get to play for the WS. You know, a year in which he had a 151 OPS+ while not playing any home games at Coors Field. Walker’s career road splits: .278/.370/.495. That’s still a damned good player, especially when factoring in that he was a well-regarded defender (both by casual observers and his 94 career Rfield) and put up 40 baserunning runs in his career (including still-positive values at age 38). But, there’s like 17 guys on the current ballot who should… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
I feel like one of the things I’ve often heard brought up about Walker is that his 1997 MVP was unmerited because of Coors. Here’s the H/R split for him in 1997: .384/.460/.709/1.169 .346/.443/.733/1.176 The top one is home, in case you couldn’t tell. He was a machine that year, in Coors or out of it. I get that some small-hall type people could not vote for Larry Walker. But really, there’s no denying that he had a great career and was a remarkably good player. I’d be more than happy to take him on my team, and it would… Read more »
mosc
Guest

That is one hell of a road line. Especially considering that unlike say Bonds, he didn’t get any road games in Coors! Can we have some historic context for that road OPS? Anybody know how that would rank?

no statistician but
Guest
The guy Walker most resembles has barely received a mention here—Chuck Klein. Walker at Coors and Klein at the Baker Bowl are barely distinguishable: Games: K 581; W 597 Runs: K 550; W 555 Hits: K 931; W 814 2B: K 179; W 178 3B: K 29; W 31 HR: K 164; W 154 RBI: K 554; W 521 BA: K .395; W .381 OBP: K .448; W .462 SLG: K .705; W .710 Career H/R splits: Klein BA .354/ .286; OPS 1.028/ .817 Walker BA .348/ .278; OPS 1.068/ .865 Walker played longer and had no career decimating injury… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

Not that it’s important but Walker is one of 5 players who had an OPS+ of at least 120 in each of in his last 5 seasons (300 PA min. in each season).

Doug
Editor

Where’s that Like button!

Nice observation, nsb.

brp
Guest
Except Chuck Klein played in an arguably more extreme park in the highest run-scoring environment in MLB history (slightly more than Walker’s era), and also in a non-integrated, 8-team league. And Walker’s home and road OPS both outperform what Klein did. Neutralizing Walker’s stats to the 1934 Phillies: .318 .405 .572 .977 Neutralizing Klein’s stats to the 1997 Rockies: .337 .397 .569 .966 So yes, they were similar batters. I’ll grant it. However, Walker did it in a much more difficult era. It is simply irrational to believe batting in 1930 against the same 40 white pitchers all season is… Read more »
David P
Guest
A few comments: 1) Yeah, he was a young Al Kaline or Joe Morgan. He was also a young Roy White, or Wally Berger, or Andy Van Slyke or Nick Markakis. Basically you’ve cherry picked the best of the best. Walker clearly was a very good young player but there are a lot more non-HOFers than HOFers with similar WAR at that age. 2) Not sure I get the Mantle comparison. Why not Mel Ott or Frank Robinson, both of whom are closer to Walker in WAR for ages 28-37, both were still active at age 37, both were primarily… Read more »
Paul E
Guest
Bryan, You’ve thrown some names out there like Kaline, Jackson, Morgan, Clemente, Mantle, Foxx, and Stan Musial at different points of their careers. I imagine you realize that Walker wasn’t any one of these guys when his career was finished? We could probably do this exercise for just about any large Hall, borderline case and come up with a “sum total” less than its parts. Just a little perspective: Dick Allen from age 22-25 is third (3rd) all-time in oWAR behind Cobb and Mantle. At age 30, his OPS+ of 199 is 2nd all-time amongst qualified batters and his OPS+… Read more »
Brendan Bingham
Guest
Looking at Walker’s career road splits (.278/.370/.495), the comp I can’t ignore is Jeff Kent (.290/.353/.504). The two played in the same era (Walker 1989-2005; Kent 1992-2008), although Kent missed less time to injury (he had almost 900 more road PA). Walker had the higher road walk rate (11.6% to 7.8%) and an edge in road HR rate (1/20.7 AB, vs 1/21.7 AB), but slight edge to Kent in road BABIP (.312 to .301). In 77 games at Coors (345 PA), Kent’s slash line was .368/.436/.686. In fairness, these numbers don’t equal Walker’s Coors production (.381/.462/.710, in several-fold more PA),… Read more »
aweb
Guest

But Kent seems like a perfect example to show why Walker was a HoF player. Walker was better than Kent on the road, better than him in Coors. Also better at running and fielding. Kent is generally acknowledged as either a “large/very large hall” candidate for the HoF, and Walker is a step up from that. He seems to belong in the actual, pretty big HoF that exists now.

David P
Guest

If not Kent, then how about Jim Edmonds?

Higher career Road OPS than Walker (.890 vs. .865). Similar OPS in Coors (1.149 vs. 1.172).

Gold glove CFer vs Gold Glove RFer.

Walker the better baserunner.

WAR gives Walker a huge edge. But I have a hard time seeing that. And if I were a GM, I’m definitely taking Edmonds since he plays a more important defensive position while providing similar offense.

Will we ever get an Edmonds for the Hall post?

Paul E
Guest
Pro Larry Walker Hall of Enthusiasts: Please go to his b-ref page and put Walker in the environment of the NL 1975 “neutral” park. He becomes a .286/.369/.516 hitter 27 HR 87 RBI 65 BB and roughly 280 TB every 162 games. Not bad, but a little over stated since he didn’t frequently play more than 150 games in a season. This “environment” is similar to Reggie Smith’s career environment that produced.287/.366/.489 Now, put Smith in an environment that is similar to Walker’s entire career environment: Namely, the 1993 Colorado Rockies. How about .318 .400 .541 with 29 HR 112… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
Paul E, re: your last statement — that a Hall with Reggie Smith is “an awful large Hall.” There are 23 actual HOF right fielders, using a threshold of 45% of games at that position. (Smith played 47% of his games in RF, 43% in CF.) Bill James ranked Smith #20 among right fielders in the 2001 Historical Abstract. (He had Walker at #55, but that was without his last 5 seasons — almost one-third of his career, during which he raised all his career rates.) JAWS ranks Smith 16th among RFs, and Walker 10th. Hall of Stats ranks Smith… Read more »
PaulE
Guest
John: If I have to ask, “Is John Doe a Hall of Famer?”, then he isn’t. Who is the best hitter the CoG passed on, so far? Allen? If this group believes Allen the inferior of Walker because, perhaps, the didn’t see Allen play and they’re depending on WAR to justify that belief, then so be it. I saw Walker play and at no time in his career did I believe I was watching a Hall of Famer. I don’t believe Walker to be better than Berkman, either. I don’t know if he was better than Helton when Helton was… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
Paul — OK, you’re an “eyeball” judge. So tell me this: Did you watch Tom Glavine pitch? Did he pass your eye test for the Hall? If I judged Glavine by what I saw him throw, and not by his stats, there’s no way in hell he makes my Hall. Glavine started 682 games and never struck out more than 12, which he did once. 104 different guys fanned 13+ during his career, and 44 did that twice. He never threw a no-hitter; 43 different guys did that during his career. It took almost 550 starts for Glavine’s only one-hitter;… Read more »
Paul E
Guest
John: Re Glavine and Smoltz, I SAW them both pitch and, frankly, Glavine was going 20-10 while Smoltz was going 14-12. Just because Glavine didn’t throw as hard as Koufax and Smoltz threw as hard as Clemens, doesn’t mean Glavine was inferior. Game score is a tool (or toy) that has a power pitcher’s bias. Glavine wasn’t Jamie Moyer throwing 83 mph. And, he won. Maybe he “pitched to the score”? I don’t know. But, he was the superior “pitcher” to Smoltz and that’s based on results. If you want to tell me Smoltz was the superior “talent” who threw… Read more »
bstar
Guest

Paul, that is almost exactly the way I saw it during the Braves ’90s run. Glavine was the more dependable one, not Smoltz. Smoltz was a guy with talent who took a long time to find his best form.

Mike HBC
Guest

I’m going to say something, and it might not be nice, but I really don’t care:

HHS has gone on and on and on about Larry Walker so much, I actually HATE him, through no fault of his own. Like, there are three or four articles a year solely about Larry Walker. I couldn’t possibly care less about him, and it’s the fault of this site.

John Autin
Editor
Walker’s home OPS was 10.7% higher than his overall mark. Here are some HOFers in that vicinity: Bobby Doerr, +12.8% Chuck Klein, +11.5% Hank Greenberg, +10.2% Ron Santo, +9.6% Roy Campanella, +9.5% Wade Boggs, +8.9% Earl Averill and Kirby Puckett, +8.6% (Data from the B-R Split Finder, min. 3,000 known PAs at home.) I agree with Bryan that you can’t just dismiss home stats for guys with big splits. Lots of guys got a big boost at home. Boggs on the road hit .302 with .093 ISO; at home, .354 with .137 ISO. Fenway helps everyone — but only Ted… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
Another way to look at it: BA .296; OBP .413; SLG .541. Not bad stats, but this particular player had these career marks: BA .344; OBP .482; SLG .634. Using the “what if” approach—what if the player only played on the road, what if he played for a different team, what if he played his entire career, trapped in a “Groundhog Day”-like nightmare 1975 “neutral park”—you can make any player seem like almost anything not absolutely outrageous. The stats above are those of Ted Williams, first his performance in Comiskey Park, then his career performance. What if Ted played his… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

nsb:
Per b-ref, amongst players with 5,000 PA’s, only Mantle and Williams attained career numbers of .296 .413 .541 in the AL from 1939-1960. There is one additional National Leaguer.
From 1988-2009, 30 major leaguers with at least 5,000 plate appearances attained the equivalent of Walker’s road slash of .278/.370/.495 But, then again, we’re talking about the greatest hitters’ era of the last 75 years
But, then again, Williams and Mantle were great hitters 🙁

Paul E
Guest

nsb,
Sorry for the erroneous info. Walker played from 1989-2005 and the list “reduces” to 26 players of his road ilk with the shorter time span.
I hope this helps

John Nacca
Guest
I think this is a tremendous thread. Won’t at all get tired or sick about hearing Walker’s name, or reading the comments about his merit. I am a “small Hall” guy. If I were to eliminate the Hall completely, and start over from scratch, I may not have 100 players in it. I most definitely would have less then 1% of all the players who ever played (which currently sits at 18,408). Using this method, I would not include Walker, for the simple reason of career length. Well that really isn’t right, more like how many years he just missed… Read more »
bstar
Guest
If this thread is about whether Larry Walker should or will make the Hall of Fame, we have to start looking past his WAR, his OPS+, and Coors Field, because that isn’t the whole story. A big reason why Walker hasn’t received much support for the Hall and likely won’t is because of his poor durability and short career. Walker has 8000 PAs for his career. Looking at the players from the last 50 years of baseball, here are the position players who have been elected via the BBWAAA route with 8000 or fewer PAs: -Kirby Puckett That’s it (unless… Read more »
BryanM
Guest
bstar @40 – “should or will” in your first sentence neatly hits the point most posts seem to glide over – they’re two different things and always will be. The writers, being writers, have a “story” about each candidate – part of Walker’s story really is that he had poor durability. But in fact he averaged about the same number of games per season over his career as his contemporaries Barry Larkin (as you point out) and Tony Gwynn., who didn’t have durability stories associated with them. True, those players had 19 or 20 year careers, vs Walkers 17. Duke… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
bstar, Walker’s durability is absolutely relevant. But I would like to address a tangential aspect of your comment — the distinction between BBWAA selections and those of the Veterans Committees. The distinction has general relevance in a HOF discussion, in that most of us would endorse more of the writers’ decisions than the others. But you seem to imply that there *should* be different standards for the two voting bodies — i.e., that Walker should be left to the VC, because they have been more inclined to honor shorter careers. I disagree with that. When I look at an individual’s… Read more »
bstar
Guest
John, three reasons I stopped at 50 years. One, I didn’t want the truncated careers of players who missed years to WWII to cloud the study. When I ran across Lou Boudreau, I stopped. Pretending like a guy with 7000 PA actually has a chance to make the Hall via the BBWAA these days barring unusual circumstances is wrong/misleading. I was trying to assess his chances with the BBWAA, and they are slim. Also, I wanted to stick to the 162-game era because later in the post I was using games played per year and thought it would be best… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
Okay, I’m a Walker-for-the-Hall guy. Here’s some honesty. There’s a reason we use “replacement” as the thing to which we compare players. If you have Larry Walker on your team, you absolutely must have a backup outfielder who plays regularly. You would probably have a fourth outfielder on the roster anyway, but that doesn’t really matter right now. Anyway, whenever you’re looking at Walker, from a GM perspective, let’s say, you have to ask yourself, “would I want Larry Walker+Replacement OF, or someone else?” I think it’s a perfectly reasonable response to say that, even though Walker will play 30… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
I agree with the concept completely. Certainly a player who gives you 7 WAR / 150 games is more valuable than someone who plays 125 games at 6 WAR – because the replacement may or may not make up the difference. But on the other hand, you DO have other guys on the roster to play RF. And most ballplayers will likely play better if they get two chances per week rather than one. And the flip side is that most players over 30 would likely agree that they would play better at 120 games than 150. And isn’t the… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
I’m going to quibble a little: I don’t think Walker actually played 30 fewer games a season than the other guys, 1) because he often played more that 130 games; 2) because most of the other guys weren’t racking up 160 games themselves. Another point on this subject: In 1934 Chuck Klein, the Walker doppelganger, hurt his leg on May 30, 1934, but for numerous reasons kept going despite the injury and didn’t become inactive until August, with the result that he was never the same player afterwards. The modern perspective is far better: don’t try to milk the investment,… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
Yes. In Walker’s 14 year peak (ages 23-36), he averaged 128 games. His age 29 and 33 seasons were cut in half with injury. Throw those out and remove a healthy but shortened 1994 and he averaged 138 games over his 11 full peak seasons. So he’s what, 10 games more a year short of there being no issue. ________ And that injury at age 29 was a broken collarbone, suffered crashing into a wall as a centerfielder. Sure, Walker suffered more injuries than other players. He was also a rarely gifted and intense athlete who did things other guys… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Actually, pro-rate 1994 and 1995 to a 162 game schedule, and give him credit for the pace he was on, and he plays 150 and 147 games in those years.

That bumps his average up to 140 games per year, after removing and acknowledging the two half years lost to injury.

At this point we are reaching to diminish his narrative, when we could be celebrating just how well he played despite the injuries.

Paul E
Guest

Voom,
Between the ages of 23-36, Walker played in 1,786 games – 189th all-time, including his contemporaries who shared vacation time in 1994-95. For that 14 year period, age 23-36, a mere 13 players averaged 150 games played (2,100 total). However, these 13 include Jeff Bagwell, Eddie Murray, and Rafael Palmeiro

bstar
Guest

Right, since Troy Tulowitzki missing 40 games a year is a minor matter blown completely out of proportion. Every half-serious Rockies fan, even the kids, are well aware of how often Tulo isn’t in the lineup.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

typo:

1995 would be pro-rated to 137, not 147

(this is what happens when I wake up at 3 am thinking about larry walker)

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

no, wait… not a typo.
147 is correct.

(this is what happens when i try to do math while my 3-year old demands that i be a Seal puppet)

RJ
Guest

I imagine this issue of durability will affect Troy Tulowitzki down the line as well.

Through their first nine seasons:

Walker: 4220 PA, 36.8 WAR
Tulo: 4064 PA, 37.6 WAR

Given Walker’s treatment by the BBWAAA, that’s not particularly auspicious comparison.

Michael Sullivan
Guest

Ralph Kiner says hi.

BryanM
Guest
Let’s be clear about the size of the durability issue – from his age 30 season until his retirement , Larry Walker played in an average of 122 games per season — HOF guys near him in rbat ; AL Ksline 124 games/yr after age 30, Wille Stargell 110 , Rod Carew 130, Tony Gwynn 127, Of this group, only Stargell hung on in a part time role past 40 – if you ignore his last 3 seasons his average goes up to 125 games/yr. All of these seasons were 162 game seasons. Walker had a short career, stemming from… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Stargell had an easily identified and easily explained peak, plus there was less doubt about his value, because unless Walker, Stargell didn’t play in an extreme hitter’s park.

Also, Stargell had fewer of those ugly injury-shortened years that Walker had in 1996, 2000, and 2004. Stargell did miss a fair number of games, but fewer than Walker during their peaks.

BryanM
Guest
Lawrence; perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I should have been – I picked a range of guys in the HOF – some better than Larry ( Kaline) some worse (Stargell) and some about as good (Gwynn, Carew) and showed they played about as much after their youth – nobody is immune from injury, but to say that a player lacks durability implies more ; he’s missing a few games here , a few games there, not reliably in the lineup. Baseball is hard to play a a top level , the punishment to the body is cumulative and after… Read more »
birtelcom
Editor
Walker is having trouble with the BBWAA because of the combined effect of his lower games played and the diverse nature of his talent. Among all players who played at least half their games in right field, Walker is 8th all-time in Rfield and third all-time in Rbase (baserunning). He’s behind only Ichiro and Aaron, and just ahead of Bobby Bonds, amng Rfers in Rbase. Walker is 9th among right-fielders in Rbat, and 61st among all players. If he had been an average fielder and base runner, while concentrating all that above-average talent into his hitting, his batting numbers would… Read more »
Steve
Guest

says it all
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR
Home 986 911 3996 3429 789 1193 268 39 215
Away 1002 922 4034 3478 566 967 203 23 168

Split RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Home 747 121 34 444 546 .348 .431 .637 1.068
Away 564 109 42 469 685 .278 .370 .495 .865

RJ
Guest

Walker away: .278/.370/.495/.865
Griffey Jr away: .272/.355/.505/.860

If it were as simple as all that then we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

David P
Guest
At the end of the day, none of this matters. Walker’s NOT getting into the HOF any time soon. He’s certainly not getting in via the BBWAA and his VC chances are small as well. First the BBWAA. Walker’s been on the ballot for 5 years and only has 5 years left. He’s averaged 17.4% of the vote with a range of 10.2% to 22.9%. There’s just no way that voters are going to change their minds that quickly. And look at what just happened…Bryan presented a decent analysis and it’s been widely rejected by an audience that’s fairly stats… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
Paul @52 — Maybe I’m misunderstanding you. You said Glavine was superior to Smoltz “based on results.” That’s my point exactly — that we should judge players by recorded results, and not by how impressive they look while we’re watching. So I’m puzzled. Why did you bring your gut sense about Larry Walker into the debate — “at no time in his career did I believe I was watching a Hall of Famer” — rather than judge by results alone? I think there are several great players about whom most people didn’t believe they were watching a HOFer. Eyeball judgment… Read more »
PaulE
Guest
john, we trust the eye test because we saw gary pettis play a great cf over 500 games. Yeah, Lagares can go get it, but he better figure out how to hit, sooner or later. But, by the eye test we know Lagares can play cf even after 200games. The eye test is tried over time, not merely post season trumpets blaring. I saw Devon White look like MickeyMantle in the 1993 ws. But,thanks to the true, regular season eye test we know White was a free swinger who did not take a walk, had moderate power,and was a .270… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

1985-2010
Rbaser
75 percent+ steal rate:

101.8 .. Rickey
80.2 … Larkin
78.5 … Lofton
76.0 … Raines
75.0 … Coleman
74.1 … Damon
57.0 … Jeter
56.8 … Beltran
56.2 … Molitor

40.0 … in 30th place, Walker
_________

Among outfielders with at least 300 home runs, his 40.0 is 2nd to the 43.9 of Barry Lamar

PaulE
Guest

voom
obviously, he is now behind carlos ivan beltran as well

Mike L
Guest
More on Larry Walker in a baseball vs. politics perspective: Some of you know I’m a politics nut and write a political blog. So, friends, we actually have a test case of what’s more important, politics or baseball. George Will has written an ode to Bud Selig in the Washington Post, which he posted at 7:23 PM January 28th. Dana Milbank, also in WAPO, posted a piece on the Loretta Lynch confirmation hearings at 5:49 PM January 28. As of this moment, Will’s piece has 11 (yes, 11) comments. Milbank’s has 515, and it’s growing by the minute. We here,… Read more »
Paul E
Guest
Mike L, Let’s mix the two and, dare we, “go there”. A former girlfriend’s parents insisted LBJ was a great president because of the civil rights initiatives he helped nurture along. A few friends here insist Larry Walker was a great player in the heart of baseball’s greatest offensive era of the last 75 years. Civil Rights? Could not Kennedy, Johnson, or Humphrey all got it done? “Steroids Era”? Did not 26 major leaguers of the period 1989-2005 attain 5,000 plate appearances and match or exceed Larry Walker’s .278/.370/.495 road slash line? On another note, I saw (briefly) Bud Selig… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Larry Walker, 8030 PA

All-Time, RightFielders (50 percent+)
7500-8500 PA
WAR:

72.6 … Larry
57.7 … Bonds Sr.
52.8 … Jack Clark
44.6 … Rocky Cola Vito
42.7 … Dixie Walker
38.8 … Paul O’Neill
38.5 … Magglio Ordonez
34.5 … Shawn Green
33.1 … Wally Moses
________

All Players, 7500-8500 (since 1901):

89.8 … Nap Lajoie (107.4)
78.2 … Joe DiMaggio
72.9 … Arky V
72.6 … The Controversial Booger
70.9 … Bobby Grich
66.5 … The Duke
64.5 … Reggie Smith (.44 RF)
62.8 … Ken Boyer
62.0 … 70 Home Runs
61.4 … Sal Bando
60.3 … Jim Edmonds

RJ
Guest

Paul E: Walker’s away slash is not some smoking gun (to further mix political metaphors). Twenty-five players bettered Ernie Banks’ away OPS over his career too (min 3000 away PAs). It’s reductive to pretend that one split is all that matters.

Paul E
Guest
RJ I’m not pretending that one split is all that matters. I just believe the Coors environment to be so out of the norm that I have to reduce Walker (and Helton, Castilla, and any other Coors lifer) to his road stats as a realistic way of interpreting his accomplishments and his talent. If we put Bobby Bonds in the environment of the 1993 Colorado Rockies (extremely close to the runs/game environment of Walker’s career) he scores 626 runs from 1970-1973! That’s 156 runs/year and there isn’t much deviation amongst those four seasons. Regarding Banks (and Santo, Williams, Sandberg), it… Read more »
RJ
Guest

It’s not realistic to assume road statistics are a “true” measure of a hitter. Most hitters hit better at home. Walker hit better at home in Montreal. He hit better at home in St Louis.

I’m all for attempting to weight Walker’s Colorado numbers appropriately, but I can’t get behind any argument that pretends a third of his career didn’t happen.

bstar
Guest
RJ: The magnitude of the error you think Paul is making in not adjusting Walker’s road numbers slightly upward (to correct for the PF of Rockie road games being under 100) is dwarfed by the magnitude of the error we feel YOU are making by not adjusting his numbers at all. And please stop saying that Paul or anyone else is suggesting that is the only split that matters. By not bringing up any other split data, he is effectively saying that is the only split that matters enough to affect our overall assessment of Walker. Those are two different… Read more »
RJ
Guest

bstar, is that Tango study available online?

David P
Guest
RJ – Here’s a link to the Tango study. (note he says 65 runs/6.5 WAR). http://tangotiger.com/index.php/site/comments/is-larry-walker-being-overly-adjusted-because-of-coors But right off there’s a problem. Tango starts off by saying: “If I did this right, you can breakdown Larry Walker’s OPS as being close to .900 away from Coors, on 5529 PA away from Coors.” Oddly, no one bothered to check his math. And it turns out he didn’t do it right. Walker’s OPS outside of Coors isn’t .900, it’s about .870. I then went through the same process Tango did, identifying the 4 players just above and just below .870 OPS (born… Read more »
bstar
Guest

David, to prove I wasn’t just making numbers up, here’s where I got the 80-90 runs.

I thought Tango has said that 10 points of OPS+ for a full season is worth about 8 runs. Keeping it simple, 9 points per season would be about 7 runs. Walker played about 12 seasons worth of games (8000/650), so 12 x 7 = 84 runs.

I don’t know where I’m off on that, actually.

John Autin
Editor
bstar @92 — How do you find that Paul is *not* saying that Walker’s road stats are all that matters? That’s just what he said @82: “I just believe the Coors environment to be so out of the norm that I have to reduce Walker (and Helton, Castilla, and any other Coors lifer) to his road stats as a realistic way of interpreting his accomplishments and his talent.” That seems unambiguous to me. And it seems consistent with other things he’s said here. I respect the opposing opinion on Walker, and I’ve given up trying to persuade anyone in this… Read more »
David P
Guest

No worries Bstar, I was simply quoting Tango. I personally have no idea how to translate OPS+ into Rbat or WAR, particularly since it’s not one of the inputs into how they’re calculated.

bstar
Guest

Here is also exactly what he said in comment 82:

“I’m not pretending that one split is all that matters.”

What is it you’re after here? It seems like you’re the one not letting his words stand on their own.

no statistician but
Guest
Every time Tom Tango gets mentioned here a joke I once heard comes to mind: A guy is standing in line at the pearly gates waiting to be checked in by St. Peter. The line is long and the going is slow. He finally reaches the portal when someone jumps the line, a man wearing a white medical coat with a stethoscope hanging from his neck. He rushes past with barely a wave to St. Pete and disappears into the clouds beyond. The guy at the gate is, as they say in France, nonplussed. He sputters, “Hey. That guy just… Read more »
John Autin
Editor

bstar @105 — Apologies for using you as a surrogate foil. I’ll bow out of this thread … and save my ammo for the coming rounds. 🙂

bstar
Guest
nsb: please explain to me why it is perfectly fine for you to frequently reference the work of Bill James but not kosher for me to reference the work of another sabermetric pioneer, one whose fingerprints are all over both popular versions of the WAR framework. And, for the record, Mr. James doesn’t think Larry Walker is a Hall of Famer. And isn’t “let’s all hold hands and trust what WAR says” an odd position to take for a guy who’s spent the last several years driving home the point that Whitey Ford’s WAR is inaccurate and a poor representation… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
bstar: 1) I apologize for being snarky. But, honestly, I mainly just wanted to tell that joke. As for referencing Tom Tango, Bill James, or anyone else, I think it’s an open field. In my first comment on this site I referenced John Stuart Mill, as I recall, with a lot of head scratching as a result. An inauspicious beginning. 2) I agree with maybe 85% of what James has said in the 2 Historical Baseball Abstracts, and I suspect I would agree with about 85% of what Tango has said, although I don’t follow him. What I have read… Read more »
bstar
Guest

No worries, nsb. I apologize also for the obvious snark.

no statistician but
Guest
Paul E: You keep harping on Walker’s away stats, fine, but you seem unaware that his away stats for sixty percent of his career have no visits to Coors to beef them up, whereas, for many of the magic 26 you seem to like so much, visits to Coors were part of the package. Also, I think the 5000 plate appearance level could use some honing for argumentative and comparative purposes. How about narrowing the range to between 7000 and 9000 and then name the names so the statistically challenged among us such as myself have an idea of who… Read more »
mosc
Guest

Indeed. LBJ’s ability to participate in the legislative process and even facilitate legislation from the executive branch was unparalleled before or since.

David P
Guest
RJ, NSB, etc. A few points of Walker’s road slash and Paul E.’s analysis: 1) Yesterday, or maybe the day before, I had independently run the exact same analysis. My results differ a bit however. I have him tied for 30th with John Olerud (not sure why I have more than Paul). And if you drop the criteria down to .850 then there are 40 names on the list. 2) Yeah it strips out a lot of Walker’s Coors visits but doesn’t do the same for other players. That’s a very small effect at best. Olerud, for example, only had… Read more »
RJ
Guest
Play Index / stat question: I’ve been having difficulty looking up Walker’s home tOPS+ in Montreal. On the Play Index split finder I chose “find totals spanning seasons”, selected 1989-1994, set the split to Home and then set my parameters. It correctly returns the combined totals in that split for the seasons selected, but it only seems to return the tOPS figure for the first year selected. In Walker’s case, it says his home tOPS for those years is 120 (confusingly, that’s the same as his career split), but when you look at the away split (and the figures for… Read more »
RJ
Guest

Some of that wording is not quite right (it should just be “…and lgOBP and lgSLG replaced by the player’s overall performance.”) and ignore the bit about weighting PAs, which is a remnant from when I was still trying to figure out the equation. Otherwise I hope you get my drift.

bstar
Guest

Yes, you are using the correct formula.

Walker home OBP, .364, is 2% better than his overall OBP of .357
Walker home SLG, .500, is 3.5% better than his overall SLG of .483

So, yeah, that’s a 105-106 tOPS+. I see what you mean.

I’m recalling a warning from JA about not trusing that “totals spanning seasons” tab. It is buggy.

Richard Chester
Guest
The issue of the “total spanning seasons” tab was discussed by John Autin, Doug and me in December 2013. My final comment was: “December 23, 2013 at 3:34 pm JA: This is to confirm my statement of post 22. I ran the PI for careers and for spanning seasons. I checked Carlos Baerga’s stats. The career PI run shows 308 PH appearances and 5895 total PA. The spanning seasons run shows 308 PH appearances but with 4710 total PA. The difference in PA is 1185. I then checked his career splits on BR.There were two seasons, 1992 and 1994, in… Read more »
bstar
Guest

RJ, have you done 1995-2004? Including 40 or so games with StL in 2004, I’m getting a 124 tOPS+ for home Walker in that time period.

I think you are right about the tOPS+ spit out by the P-I being the first year number. I checked a few other players and that is what is going on.

Richard Chester
Guest

You can retrieve his tOPS+ numbers and PA at home for each year from 1989 to 1994. Then by doing a weighted analysis I found his tOPS+ to be 108.

bstar
Guest

That would work, though it’s off by a couple points (probably rounding). It’s perhaps simpler to just use the sum function to get Walker ’89-’94 OBP/SLG from his main page and then get his home OBP/SLG for those years from the Split Finder. It’s a snap from there — just two ratios, converted to percentages, plus 100.

RJ
Guest

Thanks for the help bstar and Richard.

bstar: I’m getting 124 for 1995-2004 too. All the data on the split finder looks good (no missing PA or anything), it’s just the tOPS figure is lying.

Richard: I’m getting the same 105-106 tOPS+ figure for 1989-1994 as bstar.

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