We have finally reached the end of the ballot for the Hall of Fame for this season, with another first time candidate in Larry Walker. Walker was an outfielder for the Expos, Rockies and Cardinals from 1989-2005.
1997 NL MVP
5 All Star Appearances
7 Gold Gloves
3 Silver Slugger Awards
383 home runs
230 stolen bases
1355 runs scored
1311 runs batted in
9 seasons with .300+ batting average
4 seasons with 30+ home runs
5 seasons with 100+ runs batted in
4 seasons with 100+ runs
10 seasons with OPS+ of 130 or higher
140 Career OPS+
67.3 Career WAR
4 seasons with WAR of 5.0+
The Case for Walker
Walker was a 5-tool outfielder who was one of the elite hitters of his era. He won the 1997 NL MVP award behind a .366 batting average, 49 home runs, 130 rbi, 143 runs scored, 33 stolen bases, and a league leading 1172 OPS. He finished with 7 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers, and a .313 career batting average.
The Case Against Walker
Walker played during an era of extreme offensive stats, and played a majority of his career at the launching pad known as Coors Field.
Walker is going to get a lot of grief for playing the largest portion of his career at Coors Field and the ridiculous batting numbers put up by nearly everyone who played there during his career. But I think it’s too easy to just look at his numbers and assume inflation by the stadium. His career home/road splits:
Home: .348/.431/.637, 215 HR, 747 RBI, 121 SB (986 gm)
Away: .278/.370/.495, 168 HR, 564 RBI, 109 SB (1002 gm)
Clearly, we expected his numbers to be ridiculous with the majority of his career played at Coors, but I think that we really expected the difference in homeruns to be even more pronounced. But clearly, the slash numbers show an amazingly pronounced difference.
Thankfully, Baseball-Reference.com has a very interesting tool which can neutralize his statistics. You can read up on how they calculate that here. Here’s his numbers for his career, based on a neutral park:
.299/.384/.539, 365 HR, 1201 R, 1175 RBI, 227 SB
His numbers probably weren’t as ridiculously inflated as we all thought. I think that to really determine whether or not he was worthy of enshrinement, we need to look at his dominant seasons and see how long his elite period was.
From 1995 to 2002, he had the following numbers:
- 7 out of 8 seasons he hit over .300
- He won 3 NL batting championships in that time.
- 5 of 8 seasons he hit 30+ home runs
- 5 of 8 seasons he had 100+ rbi
- 5 out of 8 seasons he had 150+ OPS+
- 5 out of 8 seasons he had a WAR of 4.4 or higher
Clearly, he was an elite offensive talent during these years. But I think that the story of Larry Walker isn’t told just by his offense. He was also considered an excellent defender as well. He finished 7th all time among right fielders with 150 career assists from the position, and finished top 3 in the league 7 times in that category. He also posted a career defensive WAR of 9.6, and finished 3rd in his career era in WAR defensive runs.
To me, I think that it’s unfair to judge a player and discount what he did in comparison to his counterparts based on the team he played for and the parks or era he played in. It seems that based on the numbers, Walker was clearly one of the top players of his era, on both the offensive and defensive side of the game, and is deserving of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
MY VOTE: YES