Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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Larry Walker

2020 Hall of Fame Ballot Series: Larry Walker

Five facts about Larry Walker: The first two tables below present Larry Walker's career as measured by Player won-lost records, in and out of context.

Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWORL pWOPA
1989MON22
20
1.61.40.20.1
1990MON23
132
14.913.61.80.4
1991MON24
136
16.315.31.3-0.2
1992MON25
143
20.614.76.64.9
1993MON26
138
22.714.88.76.9
1994MON27
103
16.011.44.93.5
1995COL28
131
19.218.11.5-0.3
1996COL29
83
9.08.51.00.1
1997COL30
153
24.818.17.35.2
1998COL31
130
16.014.22.30.7
1999COL32
127
16.613.23.92.4
2000COL33
86
11.310.51.20.1
2001COL34
142
19.514.55.63.8
2002COL35
136
19.414.45.74.0
2003COL36
143
17.715.03.21.6
37
82
10.08.22.21.3
2005SLN38
99
14.08.95.64.5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
1,984
269.5214.763.039.2
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
28
3.43.10.40.1
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
2,012
272.9217.963.439.3


Expected Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games eWins eLosses eWORL eWOPA
1989MON22
20
1.41.6-0.2-0.4
1990MON23
132
15.413.12.91.5
1991MON24
136
16.415.21.5-0.0
1992MON25
143
19.915.35.23.5
1993MON26
138
21.216.35.63.8
1994MON27
103
15.611.74.12.8
1995COL28
131
20.416.94.02.1
1996COL29
83
9.08.60.8-0.0
1997COL30
153
24.818.07.55.4
1998COL31
130
17.312.94.83.3
1999COL32
127
17.212.65.03.5
2000COL33
86
11.110.70.7-0.3
2001COL34
142
20.313.67.45.7
2002COL35
136
18.715.14.32.6
2003COL36
143
17.515.23.01.4
37
82
10.57.73.22.3
2005SLN38
99
12.710.22.91.8
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
1,984
269.3214.962.738.9
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
28
3.62.90.80.5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
2,012
272.9217.963.539.4


This is Larry Walker's tenth, and final, year on the Hall-of-Fame ballot. I have been writing articles about Hall-of-Fame candidates since 2013 - Larry Walker's third year on the ballot. Much of these earlier articles are somewhat obsolete due to changes to my Player won-lost records over time. But, for the sake of posterity, these old articles are linked at the end of my general article on Player won-lost records and the Hall of Fame.

Vote Prediction
(note: I wrote this section of this article in late November, shortly after the BBWAA ballot was released but before any ballots had been entered into Ryan Thibodeaux's Hall-of-Fame tracker. I'll go ahead and stand by this prediction here.)

The next table shows Larry Walker's vote totals his first nine years on the Hall-of-Fame ballot.

Year Votes Percent
2011 118 20.3%
2012 131 22.9%
2013 123 21.6%
2014 58 10.2%
2015 65 11.8%
2016 68 15.5%
2017 97 21.9%
2018 144 34.1%
2019 232 54.6%


Larry Walker has had one of the more unusual vote histories in the history of Hall-of-Fame voting. His vote total was destroyed by the ballot crush that hit full force in 2014 with his vote total more than falling in half. Then, perhaps even more surprising, his vote total increased by 47 votes in 2018 and by 88 votes in 2019. The latter number is especially interesting, because Larry Walker fell exactly 87 votes short of election last year.

On the one hand, it becomes harder to pick up 87 votes the higher one's base percentage increases - when Walker was at 34.1%, nearly two-thirds of all voters were possible additional votes. But now, at 55%, only 45% of voters are possible additional votes. And yet, that same logic should have suggested that it would be harder to build on his 47-vote increase in 2018.

So can Walker get another 87 (or more) votes this year and get elected? I think he can. He has two things going for him. First, this is his last year on the ballot and players typically get a last-year boost - even candidates who are going nowhere. Last year, Fred McGriff gained 71 votes in his final year on the ballot. Three years before that, Alan Trammell gained 42 votes.

Second, and, I think, more important, while Larry Walker is only the fourth-highest vote getter among returning candidates, I think he is widely viewed as the most likely returning candidate to get elected this year. He also lacks the character issues that hound the three candidates ahead of him - Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling. Last year, Mike Mussina, who was not the leading returning vote-getter but who had made a strong surge the year before (+39) increased his vote total by 58. The previous year, Vlad Guerrero increased his vote total by 75.

Of course, none of the examples cited yet saw an increase of 87 votes. Two recent players, however, have had the same double-advantage of Larry Walker, a real chance at election in his final year on the ballot. In 2017, Tim Raines gained 73 additional votes in his final year on the ballot, to go from 69.8% to 86.0% and fairly easy election. Then, last year, Edgar Martinez increased from 70.4% (297 votes) to 85.4% (363 votes) in his final year on the ballot, a gain of 66 votes.

Okay, that's still nobody who gained 87 votes - except, of course, for Larry Walker last year. On the other hand, there are really no recent examples of a player who surged as strongly as Walker has over the past two years only to come up short. Lee Smith saw no real surge in his final year on the BBWAA ballot (he gained one vote), but he was only at 34.1% in his next-to-last year. True, he peaked at over 50% on a BBWAA ballot, but that was back in 2012. Jack Morris also made it over 50% (in fact, Morris made it over 60%) before falling short. But he actually lost ground his final year in 2014, a victim of the same ballot crush that halved Larry Walker's support.

Will Larry Walker sail into the Hall of Fame with a vote percentage comparable to Tim Raines or Edgar Martinez? No, he's starting from farther away than either of them. But will he make it? I think he will. I think he gains somewhere between, say, 90 and 95 votes, which would push him up to, let's say 76.5%.

Player Won-Lost Records and Larry Walker
Larry Walker's Hall-of-Fame case had a lot of trouble gaining traction. I believe there were three reasons for this. First, as I discussed above, Walker faced extraordinarily crowded ballots. Second, Larry Walker's prime came with the Colorado Rockies, so that Walker played his home games for nearly a decade in perhaps the most favorable hitting environment in major-league history.

Third, Larry Walker had an extremely well-balanced skill set. He was not an all-time great hitter like, say, Frank Thomas. He was not an elite baserunner like, say, Tim Raines (who also strugged to gain traction among Hall-of-Fame voters). And he was not an historically great fielder on the level of, say, Ozzie Smith. Rather Larry Walker was "merely" well above average at all three of these facets: batting, baserunning, and fielding.

I have created a set of way of identifying the most similar players to a particular player based on various factors. My default "similars" look at similarity in six factors: pWins, eWins, batting, baserunning, pitching, and fielding. One can vary the relative weights one assigns to these factors - including eliminating some.

Rather than simply look at the players most similar to Larry Walker, I thought it would be fun to look at the players most similar to Larry Walker in each of the three non-pitching factors: batting, baserunning, and fielding. In all three cases, similarities are evaluated in two dimensions: quantity and quality. The former is evaluated by comparing total (context-neutral) wins. The second compares a measure of the factor versus a baseline. For batting and baserunning, the baseline is non-pitcher average. For fielders, the baseline is replacement level. Replacement level is chosen for fielding in an attempt to allow one to compare fielders across positions - i.e., a good-fielding third baseman may be comparable in value to an average-fielding (or poor fielding) shortstop, or, more relevant to Larry Walker, a good right fielder may have similar fielding value to a less good center fielder.

First up, then, here the 10 players most similar to Larry Walker in terms of career batting, as measured by Player won-lost records.

Most Similar Players to Larry Walker in Value
Batting Only
Player Games eWins eLosses eWOPA
Larry Walker1,984180.2133.741.6
Edgar Martinez2,055182.1138.843.0
Indian Bob Johnson1,863177.2132.239.8
Carlos Delgado2,035189.5145.442.4
Norm Cash2,087179.4132.142.4
Lance Berkman1,879177.6129.644.0
Mike Piazza1,911183.6139.839.1
Will Clark1,976181.5139.239.0
Frank Howard1,892173.6127.541.3
Jack Clark1,992184.7134.745.9
Todd Helton2,247197.7152.540.1


I kind of love how this one turned out. The player most similar to Larry Walker as a hitter is arguably the one player in the Hall of Fame as a designated hitter, Edgar Martinez. (Frank Thomas played first base when he won his two MVP awards and Paul Molitor played more games at DH than at any specific fielding position, but he played more games in the field across all positions than at DH). What could be a better Hall-of-Fame argument? Larry Walker hit as well as at least one guy who is in the Hall of Fame entirely for his hitting. And (as well will see next) Larry Walker did a lot more than just hit!

That said, there is only one other Hall-of-Famer in the above table.

Next, the 10 players most similar to Larry Walker in terms of career baserunning, as measured by Player won-lost records.

Most Similar Players to Larry Walker in Value
Baserunning Only
Player Games eWins eLosses eWOPA
Larry Walker1,98416.913.62.7
Carlton Fisk2,49816.613.82.8
Ray Durham1,97516.813.92.8
Rafael Furcal1,61316.913.62.9
Arky Vaughan1,81717.414.12.7
Pie Traynor1,94017.414.32.5
Jeff Bagwell2,15018.114.72.8
Don Buford1,28616.413.02.9
Al Bumbry1,49317.113.93.2
Juan Samuel1,71818.414.73.2
Elvis Andrus1,62317.213.83.4


This is definitely the most eclectic of the three similarity tables. It includes four Hall-of-Famers (Fisk, Vaughan, Traynor, and Bagwell), although none of the four were particularly well known for their baserunning or their speed).

The quality of Walker's baserunning is perhaps better seen by looking at the non-Hall-of-Famers here. Ray Durham had 4,542 career plate appearances in the leadoff spot in the lineup out of 8,423 total (53.9%). Rafael Furcal was a leadoff hitter in 89.6% of his career plate appearances. Don Buford was a leadoff hitter in 65.2% of his career plate appearances. And Al Bumbry was a leadoff hitter in 92.1% of his career plate appearances. Larry Walker was a good enough baserunner that he probably could have been a very good leadoff hitter.

And finally, the 10 players most similar to Larry Walker in terms of career fielding, as measured by Player won-lost records.

Most Similar Players to Larry Walker in Value
Fielding Only
Player Games eWins eLosses eWORL
Larry Walker1,98470.569.28.2
Eddie Mathews2,38970.469.87.8
Bing Miller1,82171.370.58.2
Reggie Smith1,98671.169.18.9
Tony Cuccinello1,70466.565.87.6
Cesar Cedeno2,00670.569.67.7
Toby Harrah2,15570.870.07.7
Vern Stephens1,72071.070.97.4
Orlando Cabrera1,98574.874.27.8
Chet Lemon1,98872.271.67.5
Willie McGee2,19969.166.78.9


The most similar player to Larry Walker in all three factors is a Hall-of-Famer. Although, as with batting, the Hall-of-Famers are kind of sparse on the rest of the list (there are literally none here).

The selling point here, for Walker, is the positions played by his most similar players. Walker was a right fielder - and a very good one. Bing Miller was also primarily a very good fielding right fielder. Reggie Smith played more right field than any other position. But he was a regular center fielder for the first four years of his career - for his career, Smith played 879 games in RF, 808 games in CF. The other three outfielders on the list - Cesar Cedeno, Chet Lemon, and Willie McGee - were center fielders who won a combined 8 Gold Gloves (5 by Cedeno, 3 by McGee). Larry Walker was as valuable defensively in right field as a Gold-Glove winning center fielder.

There are also three shortstops on the list - Harrah, Stephens, and Cabrera. Stephens played before Gold Gloves were awarded and Harrah was shifted to third base mid-career. But Orlando Cabrera won two Gold Gloves. Again, Larry Walker put up as much defensive value as a corner outfielder as a two-time Gold Glove winner at the most important infield position.

So, in summary, Larry Walker hit like a Hall-of-Fame DH, had the baserunning ability of a good leadoff hitter, and was as valuable defensively as a Gold-Glove up-the-middle defender. That sounds like a Hall-of-Fame resume to me.

Article last updated: January 2, 2020

2020 Hall of Fame Ballot Series




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