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Baseball is done for 2005. Before we shed too many tears or get too embroiled in the off-season machinations, let's get sidetracked. Yes, it's time for Hall Watch 2005.

I was planning to start with the pitchers, but the retirement of Larry Walker has forced a change of plans. How can a website which promises "baseball from a Canadian perspective" not address the question of Walker's Hall fitness and chances? Easily, I suppose, but I cannot resist.

Larry Walker was signed as as amateur free agent by the Expos in 1984. His pro debut in the New York Penn League in 1985 at age 18 showed little of his future promise as he put up a .223/.297/.307 line, but with 12 stolen bases in 62 games. In 1986, he broke out, demolishing low A and high A pitching, hitting .285 with 33 homers and 72 walks in all. He continued at the same pace in double A at age 20, while stealing 24 bases in 27 tries. He missed 1988 due to injury, and played well, but not spectacularly so in triple A in 1989 and earned a cup of coffee in the majors for his troubles. In 1990, he put up a typical .241/.326/.434 line for a 23 year old prospect. He took 2 medium steps forward each of the next 2 years, and then finally in 1994 went .322/.394/.587. It was a fairy tale season, but in the end, the wolf got the better of Little Red Riding Hood and the season ended in August.

As a free agent after 1994, Walker signed with the Rockies, and proceeded to put up 9 seasons of gaudy numbers aided and abetted to a significant degree by the favourable environment. Walker then finished up his career with St. Louis, and his performance at the plate, even at age 38 was essentially the same as it always had been as he threw up a solid .289/.384/.502 line in a tough environment. Walker in his prime had all the skills that you could want in a player- hitting for average, hitting for power, plate discipline, baserunning ability, fielding reliability and range, and throwing ability. An intense competitor, he played more than 150 games in a season only once. Walker's various injuries took him out of games, but rarely seemed to have affected his performance when he played. Walker never won a World Series ring, but hit well in the post-season until 2005. His final post-season line was .230/.336/.440

Here is Walker's comparables chart:

Player         G     AB     H     HR     W     BA    OBP   SLUG   OPS+
Walker 1988 6907 2160 383 913 .313 .400 .565 140 Snider 2143 7161 2116 407 971 .295 .380 .540 140 Klein 1753 6486 2076 300 601 .320 .379 .543 137 Parker 2466 9358 2712 339 683 .290 .339 .471 121 Evans 2606 8996 2446 385 1381 .272 .370 .470 127 Stovey 1486 6138 1771 122 663 .289 .361 .461 143 Stargell 2360 7927 2232 475 937 .282 .360 .529 149

Should Walker go into the Hall of Fame? The closest comparables are Duke Snider and Chuck Klein, both of whom are in the Hall of Fame although Klein was a late selection from the Veterans' Committee. Snider was an adequate centrefielder, but quite clearly did not have Walker's speed or arm. It is doubtful that he had greater defensive value. They were essentially the same offensive player, but Snider was a little more durable and consequently had an additional 1/2 season worth of plate appearances. Klein was similar to Walker in many ways, but not quite as good both at the plate and in the field. Harry Stovey was a similar quality of hitter, but absolutely dominated the league offensively to a greater degree than Walker. His exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a mystery.

Parker and Evans had longer careers, but over their careers were pretty clearly not in Walker's class. Their best seasons were significantly behind Walker's offensively, and while either may or may not have been better defensively in their prime, any differences one way or the other would be miniscule. Walker may not have been Jesse Barfield or Roberto Clemente, but he's right there with Parker, Evans and a number of others in the second rank of right-fielders as defenders. In my view, there is no comparison between Parker and Walker. Parker had a 5 year prime from 1975-1979 when he was a great player. After his drug problem, his weight spiralled and he was an ordinary player in the 1980s. Walker was a great player for many more years, and at his peak was at least as good, if not better than Parker. The comparison with Evans is more difficult. Walker was clearly better at his peak, but Evans put in more good but not great years. In the result, Evans produced more runs above a replacement player, whereas Walker put in more above an average player. As talent is normally distributed, runs produced by a player between replacement value and average value are in my view of less significance than runs produced above an average player. The salary differential between the star and the average player is, and has always been, larger than the difference between the average player and the marginal one for this reason. Evans is not in the Hall of Fame, and in my view should be, but if forced to choose between his career and Walker's, I'd choose Walker's. So, yes, Walker should go in the Hall of Fame, and it is not a particularly close call.

Whether he will go is a more difficult question. Walker did not have the profile of Duke Snider. I expect that he'll get 15-25% of the vote from the writers, many of whom will prefer the flashier but less valuable Sammy Sosa, and as it was with Klein, it will depend on the Veterans' Committee. I'd guess that the odds are roughly 40-60 or 30-70 against that the Committee will eventually choose him. He's better than Klein who's in, as good as Snider who was more famous and in, but probably not as good as Stovey who is out. All of these guys were far better than the trio of first baseman from the 20s who are in (George Kelly, Jim Bottomley and Bill Terry), and quite a few of the shortstops.

Now, we don't have to project Larry Walker's final numbers, so there will not be a soup recipe. Besides, it's not cold enough. But, projections and cold weather are both coming, so how about some vegetarian soup stock to get us ready? Clean nine leeks thoroughly and cut into 1/4" slices then chop 3 peeled cooking carrots and 3 stalks of celery with leaves. Mince or press 2 cloves of garlic. Saute vegetables in butter until tender. Add 18 cups of water and a goodly amount of freshed chopped parsley. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for 2 hours. You'll get about 16 and 1/2 cups of stock or 5 3 and 1/2 cup containers, which are perfect for the freezer, and most soup recipes.

Next, we'll update some of last year's Hall Watch stories, before moving on to the pitchers.

Hall Watch 2005-Larry Walker | 19 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Gerry - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 09:24 AM EST (#130794) #
Does OPS+ factor in park effects? If not, how much of an impact did Coors have on Walkers numbers? The Coors factor might be the biggest thing to keep Walker out of the hall.
Pistol - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 09:45 AM EST (#130796) #
Yes, OPS+ is park adjusted.

Mick Doherty - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 10:13 AM EST (#130799) #
Frankly, I don't think he gets in. (Should he? Of course.) Playing in Montreal and Denver is going to hurt him enormously. If he'd played in NY, LA or Chicago -- heck, even in Texas, where the "Walker, Texas Ranger" headlines would have gotten tiresome play and attention -- he'd be a mortal lock.
Pepper Moffatt - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 10:18 AM EST (#130800) #
I can't see him getting more than 10-15% from the writers and lasting on the ballot for more than 3 or 4 years.

The writers will dismiss his statistics entirely because he played in the most homer friendly park in a homer friendly era. They'll look at things like # of MVP awards (1), top-10 MVP finishes (3), and # of All-Star Game appearances (5), neither of which suggest a player of Hall of Fame caliber. His Gold Gloves (7) will help a little, but not as much as if he played a key defensive position.

As far as Hall of Fame voting goes, he's going to be somewhere between Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker.
Mick Doherty - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 10:30 AM EST (#130802) #
As far as Hall of Fame voting goes, he's going to be somewhere between Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker.

Standing on second base after doubling off the wall in Tiger Stadium? That sounds about right.

Paul D - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 10:32 AM EST (#130803) #
Mick, what evidence is there that players from large market teams get more votes?
I don't see any. It certainly doesn't seem to have helped any former Yankees, with the exception of Rizzuto.
Joel - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 11:22 AM EST (#130805) #
I think he is a lock for the Canandian Baseball Hall of Fame. It is interesting to see his numbers up against a player like Duke Snider. On those terms, it is clear he would be deserving, but I think the injury toll especially has kept his career numbers just low enough that he will be viewed as very great for his time, but not good enough for all time.
Pistol - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 11:44 AM EST (#130809) #
Standing on second base after doubling off the wall in Tiger Stadium? That sounds about right.

Ah, but Walker was an NL player and there was no interleague play when Trammel and Whittaker were playing in Detriot.

Cristian - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 11:48 AM EST (#130810) #
Has there been any mention whether he'll play for Canada in the World Series of Baseball?
Mike Green - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 12:08 PM EST (#130814) #
So, I got to thinking about Walker and Edmonds. They're actually fairly similar ballplayers.

Edmonds will probably compare quite well with Snider before he's done- a little behind with the bat, and much further ahead with the glove. I think that I'll take another look at Edmonds next.
timpinder - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 01:36 PM EST (#130827) #
Am I the only person who thinks McGowan has the stuff to be an ace?

As for Chacin, I have said from the beginning that he would be a great lefty out of the pen, otherwise trade him while he's hot. Next year he's going to get hit hard, and the pen is where he's headed. Laugh now, but think about me in August.

Towers won't be near last year's numbers, but he'd be a good #4 or #5.

Beane traded Hudson and Mulder when they were on their last year, will Zito be shopped around this offseason? If JP can't get Burnett, Zito would be a nice addition. With a lefty in the rotation JP could let Lilly fly and trade Chacin for a bat, rounding out the rotation with Bush, Towers and McGowan.

Nigel - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 01:44 PM EST (#130830) #
Ironically, I think the Coors factor will play heavily against him. While it certainly helped his numbers, I agree with others who say that many baseball writers won't be able to understand that even with that help he was still a great player.
Anders - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 04:10 PM EST (#130847) #
I think it's unfortunate that he wont last a little longer. While he perhaps should be a HOF-er, his career came at the wrong time, as everyone and his brother were putting up big offensive numbers.

Also, the silver sluggers were announced today. All the usual suspects in the AL (with A-Rod winning at 3rd.) All new players at other positions.
Mick Doherty - Monday, October 31 2005 @ 10:29 PM EST (#130890) #
... what evidence is there that players from large market teams get more votes?

Paul, I think you misunderstand my claim, which was just the opposite of the way you summarized it -- not that large-market guys are more likely to get in (though I think there is anecdotal evidence for that) but rather that players for small-market or less media-central teams are less likely to get HOF support.

Your exhibit A is Raines, comma, Tim. That Walker spent his career in Quebec and in the Mountain Time Zone of Denver will undoubtedly have limited his exposure to voters; too many of them are going to remember him almost entirely for his antics facing Randy Johnson in the All-Star Game.

Frankly, I think Paul O'Neill and his post-season rings and legendary "grittiness" might well out-poll Walker in Hall voting. Again, this is not as it SHOULD be. I just think O'Neill's time in New York will help him as much as Walker's time in Montreal and Denver will hurt him and they'll intersect somewhere around the level of votes that will get both cut from the ballot.

The only way to overcome the small market bias is to play for a legendary team like the 1975-76 Big Red Machine in Cincinnati, and with apologies to the 1994 Expos, Walker never came close to enjoying that kind of team success.

TangoTiger - Tuesday, November 01 2005 @ 03:17 PM EST (#130956) #
Just because something is "park adjusted" doesn't mean that it was properly done. These "adjustments" assume everyone is affected the same way. To the extent that you WANT to give a player credit, like Boggs/Fenway, for taking extra advantage of the situation, fine. But, don't think that it properly captures the player's "context-neutral" performance. (So, you as the reader have to decide which way he wants to look at it.)

Here are some names and performances I pulled out:

Walker, home/road:

Bagwell, home/road:

Palmeiro, home/road:

McGriff, home/road:

How you wish to view Walker's performance at Coors (Great! He took advantage of it better than the average player! OR Darn it! I've gotta scale his numbers back tremendously, since it's unfair that he played there so much!) will lead you to looking at Walker as a HoF like Bagwell, or in the borderline category, like Palmeiro and McGriff.

(Note that home/road includes all home games, so that Walker's home stats includes his Montreal days.)
Craig B - Tuesday, November 01 2005 @ 03:56 PM EST (#130959) #
These "adjustments" assume everyone is affected the same way.

This debate obviously goes back a long way in sabermetrics, almost to the beginning, but Tango I have to say I don't agree with you. In order to assess a player's win impact, I think it's appropriate to give a player credit for taking advantage of his surroundings to provide extra value over a player of equal ability.

Mike Green - Tuesday, November 01 2005 @ 03:58 PM EST (#130961) #
Actually, how you view the park shouldn't really be the issue with Walker. Walker has a 140+ OPS; Bagwell a 150+, and the league averages were .261/.327/.406. Their road performances and the OPS+ are essentially similar. Bagwell was a noticeably better hitter however one views this.

The issues in comparing Walker with Bagwell, or with McGriff and Palmeiro, are career length, and the impact of defence and baserunning. I generally prefer to use outfielders as comparison points to make the defensive comparison easier.
TangoTiger - Tuesday, November 01 2005 @ 04:20 PM EST (#130965) #
<I>This debate obviously goes back a long way in sabermetrics, almost to the beginning, but Tango I have to say I don't agree with you. In order to assess a player's win impact, I think it's appropriate to give a player credit for taking advantage of his surroundings to provide extra value over a player of equal ability.</I>

Actually, Craig, I did not offer an opinion, and therefore, there's nothing to agree or disagree!

The reader has two choices: (a) assess the player's actual win impact given the context, or (b) assess a player's probable win context in a neutral context.

For (a), if a player's skillset can take particular advantage of a situation, more than someone else, then he gets credit for that. Say Koufax/Dodger Stadium, Boggs/Fenway, and perhaps Walker/Coors. At the same time, if a player is ideally unsuited for a context, he takes a hit for that. Perhaps Joe D/Yankee Stadium is a good example.

For (b), you give everybody the same context. So, that means that only 3% of Walker's PA should be at Coors, since that's what his contemporaries had. So, you prorate all of his park-by-park performances, so that he doesn't take advantage of that. (You'd do the same for opposing pitchers, but, seeing that a player doesn't face RJ and Pedro 50% of the time, this is hardly worth doing.)

So, rather than giving my opinion as to what to do, I'm suggesting that it's the reader that chooses his poison, and accepts whatever pros/cons that poison gives him. There's no right or wrong.

TangoTiger - Tuesday, November 01 2005 @ 04:22 PM EST (#130966) #
Silly me, I did not notice that Retrosheet has performances by park. This is Walker at Coors:

.383 .463 .713


I guess Coors is very ideally suited for someone like Walker.
Hall Watch 2005-Larry Walker | 19 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.