Monday, October 17, 2005

Larry Walker - Hall of Famer?

Thinking about Larry Walker possibly retiring made me start to wonder if Walker has what it takes to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Walker played 17 seasons and here are some of his significant numbers:

Walker - 6907 AB/ 2160 H/ .313 BA/ 1355 R/ 383 HR/ 1311 RBI

He's a 5-time All-Star, a 7-time Gold Glover, and he's also the MVP from 1997.

The knock about Walker will be that his stats were padded by playing all those years in Colorado. However, he was already an All-Star caliber player before he went to the Rockies and Coors Field didn't help him win any of those Gold Gloves. Plus his OPS+ is 140 and OPS+ is adjusted for league and field biases.

On the All-Time lists Walker is 81st in batting average, 16th in slugging (here's where the Coors Field factor is the highest), 19th in OPS, 89th in runs, 80th in total bases, 50th in HR, and 84th in runs batted in.

Of the players Baseball-Reference.com lists as the most similar - 4 are already in the HoF and two more are probably locks for enshrinement. Is Walker a Hall of Famer? I don't know.

Many people are pushing for Edgar Martinez for the Hall of Fame but Walker's batting numbers are equal or better than Edgar's in almost every category and Walker was a 7-time Gold Glover. Dwight Evans was Walker's equal in the field (maybe a better arm on Dewey) but Walker was better at the plate. If these two guys are borderline (or almost borderline) doesn't Walker's combined batting and fielding put him over the border?

Walker finished with a career OPS+ of 140 and when you look at the list of people above and below him - it muddles the question even more. Is Walker a Hall of Famer? I'm not sure and maybe this question is another reason for Walker to come back and try to add to his numbers.

If Walker was able to put up 20 HR, 75 runs and 75 RBI next year - that would place him 41st in HR, 67th in runs, and 65th in RBI. Would that be enough to put him over the top in HoF voting? If Walker were able to put up those numbers in 2006 - then there would not be a single player that high up the list for both career runs and RBI who is eligible for the HoF and not in.

Of course Walker could come back next year and be a total flop and the lasting impression of him and his chances for enshrinement could be harmed and not helped.

This is something I'm going to have to give further thought to.

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