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.