My HOF deliberations: Larry Walker

Posted By on December 24, 2011 12:15 pm

Almost done, and I’ve still just got Bagwell, Raines, McGwire and Larkin checked on my ballot. Among the others I was giving a fresh look to, I’ve eliminated Trammell, McGriff and Edgar Martinez.

The last two for me are Larry Walker and Bernie Williams. I had a shot at Walker last year and did not vote for him, but enough people I respect have voted for him, so I feel I ought to at least give him another look.

For starters, there is no way to consider Walker without considering Coors Field. The easiest way to do that is just to use his career road numbers. For his career on the road, Walker was .278/.370/.495, with an OPS of .865. He played just about 1,000 road games, so I decided that Sea Level Larry would have those numbers over about 2,000 games. So, here are the guys who played roughly in his era (1975-2011), with at least 1,900 games, and an OPS between .850 and .880:

1Will Clark.880
2Bobby Abreu.878
3Sammy Sosa.878
4Ellis Burks.874
5George Brett.867
6John Olerud.863
7Scott Rolen.860
8Derrek Lee.859
9Paul Konerko.858
10Bernie Williams.858
11Wade Boggs.858
12Jeff Kent.855
13Jim Rice.855
14Jack Clark.854
15Shawn Green.850
16Dwight Evans.850

There are some good players on there, some HOFers, but not many. If you pick the corner outfielders off that list, you get Bobby Abreu, Sammy Sosa, Ellis Burks, Jim Rice, Shawn Green and Dwight Evans. One of those guys, Rice, is in the Hall, and it took him 15 years to get there and a lot of people don’t think he should have made it all.

I don’t think it’s fair to discount Walker’s entire home career, because he did do very well on the road in a few of those monster Coors Field years. That would imply that maybe Walker was just a much better hitter during those years instead of simply being the same hitter, inflated by Coors. Probably both factors were at play.

Walker was also a very good outfielder, so I’ll give him some points for that.

However, I still see him as a borderline guy. Even if you just go by straight OPS+ (which does account for ballparks, but not as much as it should in the case of Coors IMO), Walker still ranks just 13th among corner outfielders during his prime, which was 1992 to 2002.

I try not to vote for borderline guys, so I won’t be voting for Walker.

Only one guy left: Bernie Williams.


One Response to “My HOF deliberations: Larry Walker”

  1. Hi Jeff,

    A couple of things to consider – first, when you extrapolated Walker’s road OPS and compared it to his peers, you used their total OPS. I know you were trying to work around the Coors advantage, but just about every hitter hits better in their home parks. I took the five guys that you ranked ahead of Walker – Clark, Abreu, Sosa, Burks, and Brett – and looked at THEIR splits. All five did better at home, of course… but Walker had a better road OPS than any of them, too. (Clark was best at .855, Brett worst at .825).

    Also, using your OPS+ spreadsheet, Walker does not rank 13th amongst corner outfielders – you’ve included players at every position on it. As such, he comes in fifth, behind Bonds, Ramirez, Sheffield, and Belle. Factor in his base stealing (where he ranks only behind Bonds of the 12 men ahead of him), his “very good” outfield defense (seven Gold Gloves and 150 outfield assists), and baserunning, I think he merits a closer look.

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