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Larry Walker Comps

Posted by Chris J. on February 28, 2008

Over at his blog, Joe Poz had a really nice post recently.  It's a testament to his ability as a writer that I liked it despite disagreeing with almost everything in it.  One PI-related point is when he makes the following point:

The guy has a career 140 OPS+, which is measured to take into account the Coors advantage. There are currently four players with 140 OPS+ or better who had 7,500 plate appearances (I figure that’s 15 years, 500 PAs) and are not in the Hall of Fame. They are:

1. Mark McGwire.
2. Jeff Bagwell
3. Edgar Martinez
4. Larry Walker

Hmmmm . . .well, Walker had a 140 OPS+ in 8000 PA.  McGwire had an OPS+ of 162 in 7500 PA, Bagwell  was at 149 OPS+ in about 9000 PA, and Martinez had a 147 in more playing time than Walker.  Looking at PA & OPS+, none of these guys are good comps.

PI let's you find better comps.  Walker's at 8000 PA & a 140 OPS+?  Well, let's do a search for guys between 7500 & 8500 PA and a career OPS+ from 135 to 145.  Here's the results.

Best comp is Bob Johnson, not in Cooperstown. Also really close are Norm Cash & Reggie Smith.  It's a litany of the best hitters not in Cooperstown -- but they're all at best bubble cases.  The Hall of Famers on the list are Duke Snider, Arky Vaughn, and Billy Hamilton.

Vaughn was a shortstop, and thus not really comparable.  (Besides, he didn't get in through the BBWAA, though he should've).

Hamilton's value largely came from his 912 stolen bases, which aren't accounted for in OPS+.  He also played center, a more demanding defensive position.

Duke Snider had a fantastic prime in which he played just about every day for 8 straight years.  I dunno if Walker ever played 8 straight games - it makes a difference.   And he also played center.  The only BBWAA pick of the bunch, he barely got in from them, waiting until his 11th year of eligibility.

Piazza will go in, but who compares a catcher's offensive stats to a right fielder?  Chipper Jones will likely go in, but his career ain't over -- and he beats Walker on both OPS+ and PA anyway.

The remainder are a bunch of Very Good but not necessarily great players.  It wouldn't be a crime or disaster to put any in Cooperstown, but they all appear a bit lacking.  Add in his durability problems, and I don't really see the case for Larry Walker.

6 Responses to “Larry Walker Comps”

  1. vonhayes Says:

    The At-Bats list is very telling. It's basically a lot of guys who should have racked up huge numbers, after all they were OPS+'ing in the 140-range for their career, but for whatever reason (mostly injuries and durability issues), they never came close to 9,000 or 10,000 at bats.

    You'd think a guy who puts kinds of offensive numbers would continue have value far into his career, especially in the DH-era, but guys like Jack Clark and Larry Walker just kind of fizzled out and left the game early. Clark had a number of good seasons where he hit well but barely played.

    And why, oh why, did the other Clark quit?

  2. David in Toledo Says:

    Great analysis! I think the most comparable player on the list is Reggie Smith, another "five-tool" right fielder. Smith's best year in 1977 was not quite as good as Walker's 1997, and Reggie's career OPS+ isn't quite as good -- but they're close (in the same part of the ball park).

    Reggie got 3 votes for the Hall of Fame in 1988. He is, however, in the Baseball Evolution Hall of Fame.

  3. whiz Says:

    If you use b-r's comparable players tool, you get: 1. C. Jones, 2. Snider, 3. Ellis Burks, 4. Dimaggio (!), 5. Moises Alou, 6. Mize, 7. Manny Ramirez, 8. Chuck Klein, 9. Vlad Guerrero, 10. Edgar Martinez.

    That's 4 HoFers and maybe another 3 likely ones (Jones, Ramirez, Guerrero), although, as Chris mentioned about Jones, their careers aren't over. Still, these comparisons make it look a little more likely. Of the four on this list who have retired AND have reached HoF eligibility, all are in the HoF. Also, in the PA/OPS+ comparison list, Walker has one of the higher BA's, which could help as well.

  4. Chris J. Says:

    Yeah, but of those Hall of Famers, two (DiMaggio & Mize) lost several years to WWII.

    That leaves Klein, a controversial choose who got in because of his uber-park inflated stats & that his candidacy was clearly superior to so many Friends of Frisch already in the joint.

    Manny Ramirez, Chipper Jones & Vlad Guerrero will both end up far north of Walker's career line. Moises Alou ain't getting in.

  5. Samurai Sam Says:

    Walker was an excellent fielder, too. He won 7 Gold Glove Awards. That will certainly help his chances for the hall.

  6. Chris J. Says:

    See, I dunno if that actually will help his chances though. How many outfielders have had their defense really help them in the voting?

    Dawson won 8 Gold Gloves. Despite getting over 2700 hits, 400 homers, and winning an MVP, he's still waiting to get in.

    Dale Murphy won 5 Gold Gloves while being a fearsome hitter & an MVP. He's ever even come close.

    Dave Parker had a trio of GGs, but hasn't even done as well as Murphy.

    All those guys have borderline (or better, in the case of Dawson) hitting stats for induction, yet none seem to be getting helped.

    Going back a bit, Richie Asburn combined the offensive career line that HoF voters typically love with a superlative defensive reputation in his prime. He had to go in through the VC because the BBWAA took a pass on him.

    There's Curt Flood, but his fighting the reserve clause had more to do with his support than his glove, IMHO.

    If defense makes a difference for outfielders, it's about 2-3%. They need 75%.

    Defense helps at shortstop, catcher, and to a lesser extent second & third bases, but that's about it.