Larry Walker: The case for Cooperstown

by on January 2, 2014

walker

Subscribe to our newsletter

* Stats guru Neil Munro looks at the case of Larry Walker for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Walker is on a ballot for a third time. ….

2015 Canadian draft list
2014 Canadian draft list
2013 Canadians in the Minors 

Letters of Intent

 

Walker’s AV Points greater than HOFers Duke Snider, Goose Goslin, Hank Greenburg, Hack Wilson

Walker’s Career splits, 1989-97

Walker Career splits 1998-2005

Home/road splits of HOF outfielders

Baseball Hall of Fame BBWAA Voting Patterns and Trends

 

By Neil Munro

I had been working up several angles for Larry Walker’s Hall of Fame qualifications (and chances for election) for a while now. Here are the files I have composed:

The first uses my own personal ranking system for evaluating a player’s career and season value (described in some detail in my article on the best second baseman which looked at Robbie Alomar’s place among all-time second sackers). This file lists the career AV points for all Hall of Fame players, along with some special notes about many of those players (some were elected as managers, some as a result of outstanding Negro League performances, and catchers never have long careers, etc.).

Walker fits in quite well with most HOF members using my ranking system (although he is nearer to the bottom than the top). On the last page of that document you will see the top AV figures for all of the best Canadians.

The second document shows the progress that middle-of-the road candidates have tracked for their eventual HOF election. Again, Walker may well fit into this category. I surmised that he will not make a serious move towards election for another five or six years from that analysis, and noted especially that he may make a backward move on the 2013 ballot because of the long list of highly regarded candidates.

The third document is my VERY detailed record of Walker’s batting career, giving splits in almost every category that you can imagine.

Finally, in the fourth file, I limited my focus primarily to outfielders but have included several others as well (at the bottom of the file). I was quite surprised to observe that NY Giant players (who benefitted from the short foul lines in the homer-friendly Polo Grounds generally had lower batting averages and reduced totals for doubles and triples. There is a wealth of information contained in this file (I used several different sources to compile the data).

It is clear that a few HOF members obviously did benefit substantially  from the ball parks they played in. Perhaps Walker’s most similar match is Chuck Klein in that regard. Klein always responded to the critics that complained that he posted such superlative batting stats merely as a result of playing in the Baker Bowl, by saying that you still had to hit the ball against major league pitchers no matter where you played.

In addition to Walker’s batting exploits, it must be remembered that he is among the very best right fielders in major league history (outstanding arm, good range and reliable fielder) and that he was a very good base-runner. Those attributes do not depend on his playing in Coors Field.

I was curious as to how the vote results for Hall of Fame candidates – in particular, those in the mid-range of percentages (15% to 30%) – have changed over the 15-year eligibility period for specific HOF candidates. It does not require a great deal of prognosticating skill to predict that Cal Ripken will be elected and that Eric Young will not be elected (or make the 5% cut-off).

Obviously I was trying to figure out if Walker will ever begin to see his percentage of the vote creep into the 40% level (when many candidates begin to be taken seriously by the majority of the voters and have a serious shot at getting elected).

 

Walker

2011 BBWAA (20.3%)

2012 BBWAA (22.9%)

2013 BBWAA (21.6%)

 

The presence of so many first time candidates with outstanding credentials (and steroid/HGH clouds) will make it the most interesting HOF ballot in history. Whether Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are elected, their vote totals are sure to reduce the number of votes that Walker and other middle-prospect candidates would otherwise receive.

I prepared the following graphs for a number of candidates. The first three show the progress of Bruce Sutter and Orlando Cepeda during their (very similar) runs at election. In the end, Sutter and Rice made it (just barely) while Cepeda did not (again, just by a hair). Of course Cepeda would eventually receive the nod from the Veteran’s Committee in 1999.

 

Sutter

1994 BBWAA (23.9%)

1995 BBWAA (29.8%)

1996 BBWAA (29.1%)

1997 BBWAA (27.5%)

1998 BBWAA (31.1%)

1999 BBWAA (24.3%)

2000 BBWAA (38.5%)

2001 BBWAA (47.6%)

2002 BBWAA (50.4%)

2003 BBWAA (53.6%)

2004 BBWAA (59.5%)

2005 BBWAA (66.7%)

2006 BBWAA (76.9%)

 

Cepeda

1980 BBWAA (12.5%)

1981 BBWAA (19.2%)

1982 BBWAA (10.1%)

1983 BBWAA (15.8%)

1984 BBWAA (30.8%)

1985 BBWAA (28.9%)

1986 BBWAA (35.8%)

1987 BBWAA (43.3%)

1988 BBWAA (46.6%)

1989 BBWAA (39.4%)

1990 BBWAA (47.5%)

1991 BBWAA (43.3%)

1992 BBWAA (57.2%)

1993 BBWAA (59.6%)

1994 BBWAA (73.5%)

 

Rice

1995 BBWAA (29.8%)

1996 BBWAA (35.3%)

1997 BBWAA (37.6%)

1998 BBWAA (42.9%)

1999 BBWAA (29.4%)

2000 BBWAA (51.5%)

2001 BBWAA (57.9%)

2002 BBWAA (55.1%)

2003 BBWAA (52.2%)

2004 BBWAA (54.5%)

2005 BBWAA (59.5%)

2006 BBWAA (64.8%)

2007 BBWAA (63.5%)

2008 BBWAA (72.2%)

2009 BBWAA (76.4%)

 

It appears to me that most candidates who eventually make it directly through the BBWAA vote (and are not of the Cal Ripken-Tony Gwynn category, or even of the Barry Larkin-Roberto Alomar mold) follow the patterns shown above, starting off in the 15 to 30% range, and then moving up gradually and finally take off (often when they get close to their 15th year of selection) as witnessed by Rice and Sutter (shown above). The most recent successful candidate to exhibit this pattern was Bert Blyleven (whose graph is seen below):

I would contend that if I removed the names of the candidates in the title of each, it is quite likely that the most astute observer would have a hard time matching the player with the respective vote percentage graph. There are some notable exceptions to this usual progress in voting percentage however. Steve Garvey is the one most notable candidate that does not follow this patter at all. Garvey started off much better than any of the four candidates shown above (three of who were successful and one getting in via the “back door”). It is also likely that Garvey’s post-career off-field escapades certainly did not help his cause very much. Still he initially had a much better start in the vote than did Sutter/Rice/Blyleven but he never did follow their eventual vote pattern.

 

Garvey

1993 BBWAA (41.6%)

1994 BBWAA (36.4%)

1995 BBWAA (42.6%)

1996 BBWAA (37.2%)

1997 BBWAA (35.3%)

1998 BBWAA (41.2%)

1999 BBWAA (30.2%)

2000 BBWAA (32.1%)

2001 BBWAA (34.2%)

2002 BBWAA (28.4%)

2003 BBWAA (27.8%)

2004 BBWAA (24.3%)

2005 BBWAA (20.5%)

2006 BBWAA (26.0%)

2007 BBWAA (21.1%)

 

The likelihood of two more current candidates bears some scrutiny as well I believe. They are Lee Smith and Alan Trammell.

 

Trammell suddenly started to make the climb from relative obscurity in the last three years. His percentage is still not as high as the current level exhibited by Smith, but he is heading in the right direction at a faster pace. My guess is that neither one will make it, but that Trammell will come closer than Smith in the end.

 

Trammell

2002 BBWAA (15.7%)

2003 BBWAA (14.1%)

2004 BBWAA (13.8%)

2005 BBWAA (16.9%)

2006 BBWAA (17.7%)

2007 BBWAA (13.4%)

2008 BBWAA (18.2%)

2009 BBWAA (17.4%)

2010 BBWAA (22.4%)

2011 BBWAA (24.3%)

2012 BBWAA (36.8%)

 

Smith

2003 BBWAA (42.3%)

2004 BBWAA (36.6%)

2005 BBWAA (38.8%)

2006 BBWAA (45.0%)

2007 BBWAA (39.8%)

2008 BBWAA (43.3%)

2009 BBWAA (44.5%)

2010 BBWAA (47.3%)

2011 BBWAA (45.3%)

2012 BBWAA (50.6%)

 

It is clear that one has to consider the general trends and not place too much emphasis on the showing in any single year. In many cases (such as 1999 and 2007, and again in 2013) a large number of strong candidates significantly lowered the vote totals of many future successful candidates (see Bert Blyleven and Sutter).

 

Blyleven

1998 BBWAA (17.5%)

1999 BBWAA (14.1%)

2000 BBWAA (17.4%)

2001 BBWAA (23.5%)

2002 BBWAA (26.3%)

2003 BBWAA (29.2%)

2004 BBWAA (35.4%)

2005 BBWAA (40.9%)

2006 BBWAA (53.3%)

2007 BBWAA (47.7%)

2008 BBWAA (61.9%)

2009 BBWAA (62.7%)

2010 BBWAA (74.2%)

2011 BBWAA (79.7%)

 

So, it appears to me that Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell have the momentum (as least as seen on their graphs) to eventually make the 75% cut-off.

 

Raines

2008 BBWAA (24.3%)

2009 BBWAA (22.6%)

2010 BBWAA (30.4%)

2011 BBWAA (37.5%)

2012 BBWAA (48.7%)

 

Bagwell

2011 BBWAA (41.7%)

2012 BBWAA (56.0%)

 

It is also clear that Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy will never begin to climb any higher than they are now (nor will Mark McGwire I would venture to say).

 

Mattingly

2001 BBWAA (28.2%)

2002 BBWAA (20.3%)

2003 BBWAA (13.7%)

2004 BBWAA (12.8%)

2005 BBWAA (11.4%)

2006 BBWAA (12.3%)

2007 BBWAA ( 9.9%)

2008 BBWAA (15.8%)

2009 BBWAA (11.9%)

2010 BBWAA (16.1%)

2011 BBWAA (13.6%)

2012 BBWAA (17.8%)

 

Murphy

1999 BBWAA (19.3%)

2000 BBWAA (23.2%)

2001 BBWAA (18.1%)

2002 BBWAA (14.8%)

2003 BBWAA (11.7%)

2004 BBWAA ( 8.5%)

2005 BBWAA (10.5%)

2006 BBWAA (10.8%)

2007 BBWAA ( 9.2%)

2008 BBWAA (13.8%)

2009 BBWAA (11.5%)

2010 BBWAA (11.7%)

2011 BBWAA (12.6%)

2012 BBWAA (14.5%)

 

McGwire

2007 BBWAA (23.5%)

2008 BBWAA (23.6%)

2009 BBWAA (21.9%)

2010 BBWAA (23.7%)

2011 BBWAA (19.8%)

2012 BBWAA (19.5%)

 

The more open question is: “What lies ahead for Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Trammell and Walker?”

 

 

Neil Munro
Neil is a retired secondary school mathematics teacher with a life-long passion for the collection and analysis of baseball statistics. A North Bay Ontario resident for almost 50 years, Neil has fuelled his interest by serving as a research consultant with STATS Inc. He was the former chair of the Records Committee of SABR – the Society for American Baseball Research.

Read full bio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>