Now, before I start, I know I’m sort of jumping on a pre-existing bandwagon. I get that claiming “Larry Walker is a Hall of Famer” is the new hip thing to do, but after taking a deeper look into things, I can’t disagree.
Larry Walker should definitely be in the MLB Hall of Fame, and if you disagree you’re not looking closely enough at the numbers.
Full disclosure; I’m going to be throwing around a ton of numbers and stats to back up this claim, so if you’re an old school person who thinks that stats are overvalued and a HOFer is someone who has to have 3,000 hits or 500 homeruns, this rant is not for you. Let’s begin.
Larry Walker is currently in his 8th year on the ballot and last year earned just 34.1% of the writers votes. For comparison, Ken Griffey Jr totaled the highest percentage of the writers votes ever in his first year on the ballot back in 2016, getting an astonished 99.3% of the possible votes.
You might look at this and say “Well, Of course. Griffey was obviously a much better player than Walker.” To which I would say hold your horses, it’s not so cut and dry. While Griffey did hit 630 career home runs, good enough for 6th all time, the rest of the numbers tell a different story.
Griffey sported a .280 BA /.370 OBP /.538 SLG career slash line, which is pretty dang good. Honestly, those look like first ballot hall of fame level numbers. Larry Walker had a career triple slash of .313/.400/.565. He easily tops Griffey in each of the statistical big three. In fact, Walker’s .565 slugging percentage ranks as the twelfth highest career total of all time.
The men in front of Walker on the list include names like Rogers Hornsby, Joe Dimaggio, Hank Greenberg, Barry Bonds, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, and Babe Ruth. Larry Walker’s name is right alongside some of the greatest hitters that have ever lived, and no one seems to care.
This discrediting of Larry Walker stems from one thing: Coors Field. You see, before the days of the humidor back in the mid 90’s, Coors Field was a hitters playground. Guys like Dante Bichette, Andres Galarraga, and Walker made the most of the thin air, and peppered baseballs all over and often out of the park. Detractors of Walker will say that his numbers were cushioned by playing in such a hitter friendly ballpark for ten years. That’s where OPS+ comes in.
OPS+ is a stat that is intended to eliminate ballpark factors from reflecting on someones statistics. The scale for OPS+ is 100 is the league average. Larry Walker’s career OPS+ is 141. So, using ~math~, we can determine that Larry Walker was a 41% better hitter than the rest of the league over the course of his career, no Coors Field assistance needed.
To compare that to a previously mentioned HOFer, Ken Griffey Jr’s career OPS+ is 136. So, even when you take away the effect of the belt box known as Coors Field, Walker still bests Griffey. I’m not trying to pick on “The Kid”, but he’s an easy point of reference. Everyone loves and respects Griffey, as do I, so by showing that he is inferior in certain statistics, it puts how great Walker was into perspective.
On top of being a tremendous hitter, Walker could more than hold his own in the field, too. Walker was a 7 time Gold Glove winner, with 5 of them coming while playing in the ultra spacious Coors Field, which is widely considered one of the hardest outfields to cover in all of baseball. I don’t put much stock into most defensive metrics, simply because I don’t quite yet understand them, but they tell a similar story. Walker was an excellent fielder, both in the eyes of the grizzled old scouts who watched him play, as well as the modern day nerds who “don’t know the game, only the numbers”.
If those old timers are still reading this and are on the verge of a heart attack from all the information being thrown your way, Walker has plenty of accolades and awards that you can sink your teeth into, as well. Walker was a 5 time all star, a 3 time Silver Slugger, a 3 time Batting champion, had five 100+ RBI seasons, and won the 1997 NL MVP. He could’ve and should’ve won the 1999 NL MVP, but was robbed in the worst way.
In addition, Walker is one of fourteen men in Major League history with at least 350 + home runs and 200+ stolen bases. He had more career stolen bases than the aforementioned, and much more athletic, Ken Griffey Jr. He has one less career home run than newly inducted Hall of Famer Harold Baines, who played 5 more seasons than Walker.
Walker is certainly accomplished enough to be in Cooperstown, it’s just a matter of getting everyone else to realize how good he was.
If you need one final convincing, note that the average Hall of Famers career WAR is 71.4, Walker had a 72.7 career WAR. He passes ALL the tests. What more do you need to hear??
Fine, here’s one last tidbit. Since baseball is as old as dirt, it’s always impressive when a player is the one and only to do something. With that in mind, know that Larry Walker is the only man in the history of baseball to have .300 BA/ .400 OBP/ 350 HR/ 200 SB.
The only man to ever do it.
It’s a crime that Larry Walker isn’t already in the MLB Hall of Fame, and it’s time to wake up and smell the truth.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images