Hall of Fame Ballot Review – Barry Larkin

Around this time last year, I went through and reviewed the case for a number of players for the Hall of Fame, and whether or not I thought that they deserved to be enshrined in the Hall. I’ll be doing this again this year, and for players I reviewed previously, I will revisit my vote and see if it has changed in a year’s time. Theoretically, this should remain the same, but there’s always a chance I am now a whole year wiser than I was last year. Today’s candidate is one that I looked at last year, Barry Larkin

Larkin was eligible for the Hall for the first time in the 2010 class (2009), and you can find what I wrote last year below. He finished the voting last year with 278 votes out of a possible 539 ballots (51.6%). He seems likely to pick up more votes for this year’s election, although I’m not sure if he will pick up enough to get past 75%.Baseball Reference.Com Profile

Career Accomplishments
2340 hits
379 steals
OPS+ of 116
9 Silver Sluggers
12 All Star Appearances
1 MVP Award (1995)
9 seasons with .300 average
20 homer-20 steal seasons: 2

The Case for Larkin
Larkin was one of the most productive hitters at shortstop during his era. He hit .300 9 times, won 9 Silver Slugger awards, and the 1995 MVP award. He finished with 2340 career hits and 379 steals, all with the Cincinnati Reds.

The Case Against Larkin
Larkin appears to have had a difficult time staying healthy, appearing in 140+ games only 7 times out of 17 (strike year excluded). His contemporaries were either excellent hitters and solid fielders, or excellent fielders who hit at an above average clip.

12 All-Star Appearances and 5 All-Star starts tends to lead me to believe that Larkin was consistently among the top players at his position each year. He spent most of his seasons fighting Ozzie Smith for that position at the game. He won the Most Valuable Player award in 1995 behind a 15 homer, 51 stolen base, .319/.394/.492 season.

His overall career totals do not seem that impressive to me (379 steals, 2340 hits), so let’s take a look at the year-to-year numbers and see if there are some elite periods in there. From 1989-1996, Larkin hit .298 or better 7 times, stole 20 bases 5 times, and hit 15+ homers 3 times. This appears to be his longest period of excellence. However, during that time, he only played 150 games 2 times, and in the strike years (1994, 1995), he did play in almost all of the games played that year.

The problem I keep running into is that Larkin never really seems to have been elite. He never had a 200 hit season, had only 2 100 run seasons, and really seems like he was not dominant for even a couple of years. Based on that, I am inclined to believe that Larkin is a very good player, and had a very good career. However, I do not believe that he warrants Hall of Fame induction.

My Thoughts for 2010

I was actually very surprised that Larkin got so many votes last year, but the more I look at his case, the more I can see what some of the voters are seeing. One of the numbers I did not really look at last year that I have tried to look at more this year is a player’s WAR stats, and WAR reflects very well on Larkin. He had a career WAR of 68.9, and 7 seasons with a WAR of over 5.0. He even had seasons with positive defensive WAR, telling me that he was at least an average defender for the majority of his career as well. I think that his numbers by themselves don’t necessarily tell the whole story, as he was never one to put up gaudy offensive numbers. But he definitely looks like he was the complete player for the type that he was.

Interestingly, this is the first player where I have changed my mind about their case for the Hall of Fame. I honestly didn’t think that I would change my mind about any of the players from last year, but I think that the more I look at Larkin’s career, the more impressed I become.



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