SocraticGadfly: Larry Walker — injuries, Hall of Fame shot? #stlcards mainstay

December 27, 2012

Larry Walker — injuries, Hall of Fame shot? #stlcards mainstay

Larry Walker with his sweet swing,
from Game 1 of the 2004 World Series.
More than Don Mattingly, and even more more than Dale MurphyLarry Walker to me illustrates the issue when a very good player fights injuries that shorten his overall career and also cut into games  per season.

I say "more" and "more more" for two reasons.

First, Walker was better than Mattingly and definitely better than Murphy. Somewhat better as a batter and much better as a defensive player.

Second, Walker had a variety of chronic, nagging, neck/back injuries that underscore the "injuries" issue.

(Disclosure: In case you either haven't read much of my baseball blogging or the hashtag didn't tell you, I'm a big St. Louis Cardinals fan. But NOT a "homer." Previous posts on Mark McGwire show that.

First, the basics.

Walker has 141 OPS+, 48.3 WAA, 69.7 WAR, 59.6 oWAR and 1.5 dWAR.

Mattingly: 127 OPS+, 17.7 WAA, 39.8 WAR, 36.9 oWAR and -6.8 dWAR.

Murphy: 121 OPS+, 16.3 WAA, 42.6 WAR, 44.9 oWAR and -7.6 dWAR.

If we're comparing just the two outfielders, let's add that Walker got his WAA, WAR and oWAR with fewer games than Murphy, making his per-162 average a LOT higher.

And so, Walker breaks the plane of the end zone on both Hall of Fame Monitor and Hall of Fame Standards at Baseball-Reference. Mattingly and Murphy do only on Monitor.

But, there's that injuries problem. It kept Walker to just 2,160 hits. He still had nearly 400 HRs and more than 1,300 runs and RBIs.

So, at that point, I'm ready to lean in his favor.

But, there's one issue I didn't yet mention.

Let's look at a few of his sabermetric stats, by team, for his career:

                  BA  OBP  SLG   OPS OPS+
COL (10 yrs)    .334 .426 .618 1.044  147
MON (6 yrs)     .281 .357 .483  .839  128
STL (2 yrs)     .286 .387 .520  .908  134

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2012.

Yes, he played the peak of his career there, but, just a peak-years issue isn't all.

Larry Walker, more than Dante Bichette or Todd Helton, even, is arguably a beneficiary of pre-humidor Coors Field.

Additional proof? He moved from Colorado to St. Louis in the middle of a season in 2004. His OPS in Colorado? 1.093. In St. Louis? A still-nice, but much lower, .953.

And even with something as obvious as this, B-R fans think he's the 42nd best player of all time? Either there's a lot of Rockies "homers" voting, or a few Cards "homers," despite the lateness of his career time there, or else more B-R fans are more sabermetrically illiterate than I thought.

So, he's probably more near No. 75 on player lists, and right now, he's on the borderline of the borderline for the HOF, in my book. I wouldn't say an absolute "no" to him, but I would not at all be upset, either as a Cards fan or as a baseball fan, if he didn't get in.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

Oh, and while you're here, please vote in my poll. 

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

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