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Hall of Merit — A Look at Baseball's AllTime Best Tuesday, December 08, 2009Larry WalkerJohn (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy
Posted: December 08, 2009 at 07:47 PM  41 comment(s)
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1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 08, 2009 at 07:51 PM (#3406998)Walker, Larry 42.7 2.5 10 67.2
Johnson, Bob 48.6 0.5 1.5 60.5 (minor league credited)
Cravath, Gavy 54 0.8 2.3 59.4 (minor league credited)
Bonds, Bobby 34.6 2.5 5.5 54
Cuyler, Kiki 34.7 3.1 5.4 52.9
Well, he's way above the backlog. Gavy Cravath has him beat at the plate but gives it all back baserunning and fielding.
Clemente, Roberto 44.3 1.8 12.7 70.2
Jackson, Reggie 60.5 0.0 1.8 74.9
Slaughter, Enos 50.3 0.5 6.1 71.2 (war credited)
Heilmann, Harry 64.0 0.0 4.7 70.4
Keeler, Willie 43.5 1.3 11.2 63.6
Flick, Elmer 50.1 1.8 4.3 62.0
Evans, Dwight 37.2 1.1 8.3 66.0
Dwight Evans PLUS is a great way to think of Larry Walker. He comps well to Keeler also.
A few more comparables for Walker  LF
Williams, Billy 51.4 1.8 5.7 69.0
Simmons, Al 44.1 0.6 9.7 66.5
Sheckard, Jimmy 36.1 1.4 13.6 62.2
Wheat, Zack 47.1 0.2 4.3 64.6
Kelley, Joe 46.1 0.4 5.6 63.1
Al Simmons jumps out as another comparable.
1998: .363/.445/.630
1999: .379/.458/.710 37 homers
Man, Coors Field sure was a lot of fun back then. I'll always regret they never got a Manny Ramirez/ARod/Griffey type of player for one of those seasons.
Can you imagine Mike Piazza, 1997, in Coors Field? As it was, in Dodger Stadium (PF 93) he hit .362/.431/.638. It seems highly likely that he would have hit well over .400 in Coors, with 5060 HR. As it is, the bbref neutralizer puts that year in 2000 Coors at .417/.489/.732 with 50 HR  and given how hard Piazza hit the ball, I think that's underselling what would have happened to his doubles.
But indeed, had any of the guys you named (or a few others, like Belle) been there, the 62 HR mark would have fallen before McGwire.
What would his numbers look like if he played in a leagueaverage park instead of Coors?
From BR, here's a link to the Neutralized stats. It should place his stats in a neutral park, in a 4.42 R/G context. He still ends up with a .299/.384/.539 line.
So: why Walker and not Bobby Bonds?
Neyer covered this in one of his books; I think the gist of it was that it had little to do with his numbers and much to do with the fact that he was traded a zillion times and assume that someone traded that often was never very good.
Does anyone actually know how the park adjustments to OPS+ are figured? (I'm asking that honestly, because I have no idea.) I'd tend to lean toward using a parkadjusted run estimator in an extreme environment like Coors.
Got to just over 8000 PAs spread across 17 years so you spread his value thinner on a per pennant basis. You can add shortened 1994/95 seasons but this is also the 162 game season era. He just wasn't very durable, career is not long. Many players in the modern era of extended contracts, high levels of scoring (and in his case playing 1/2 time at Coors Field for a good part of his career) could get to 8000 plate appearances.
His peak hits the heights of two factors: Coors Field and its park factors in the 120s (prehumidor) and the steroid/long ball era of 19942005. The Coors effect is measured but there has to be an added bonus to being a home player in Denver compared to the visitors rotating thru the stadium. As for the era he played it seemed to inflate the high end on OPS+ leaders as we went thru two expansions.
Where does he fall among comtemporaries: Not as good as Gwynn, Sheffield. What about relative to Sosa, Bobby Abreu, Vlad Guerrero? What about the CFs of the time Bernie Williams and Jim Edmonds? I don't feel the HOM should get into the business of seeing the latest shiny toy, plop them on the top of ballot, and fill this era thinking "If Walker doesn't go in year one its an assault on mankind!" Edgar Martinez was the shiny toy last year and with splintered backlogs you get him going into the HOM with relatively limited debate.
Watch me say all this then put Walker in an electme spot...
Are we talking about a different Dwight Evans? Because the one I'm familiar with has 2606 games (36th all time) and 10569 PA (44th all time). As to the high run scoring environment issue, the PF associated with Fenway during his career was, on average, somewhere around a 105108. Colorado for Walker, however, was a PF of around 120. There are miles between those two values.
EDIT: That came out in a somewhat snarkier tone than intended. Sorry.
Dwight Evans and Larry Walker rank 8 and 17 at rightfield (fse RF games), 41 and 89 in the outfield. They played 13.6 and 11.4 full seasons OF games.
He had 64 unintentional walks, 14 intentional walks, 14 hit by pitch, 109 singles, 46 doubles, 4 triples, 49 home runs, 4 sacrifice flies, 90 strikeouts, and 270 fielded outs. According to Baseball Prospectus, his baserunning was 2.5 runs above average, and he hit into 2.17 fewer double plays than a league average batter would have given his opportunities.
OK, let's bust out the eXtrapolated Runs estimator. UIBB and HBP are worth 1/3 of a run, IBB are 1/4. 1B are 1/2, 2B are .72, 3B 1.04, and HR 1.44. SF are 0.37, as are net DP (before counting the effect of the extra out they consume). To make total league XR equal total league runs scored for the 1997 NL, fielded outs are worth .102 runs, and strikeouts are worth .111 runs. So Walker produced (64+14)/3 + (14/4) + (109/2) + (.72*46) + (4*1.04) + (49*1.44) + (4*.37)  (90*.111)  (270*.102) + 2.5 + (2.17*.37) = 159.1 runs.
The average team in the 1997 NL had 4,171 batting outs. Walker consumed 4 SF + 90 K + 270 fielded out  2.17 Net DP = 361.83 of them, leaving 3,809.17 for his teammates. The 1997 NL scored .1788 runs per batting out, and Coors Field had a park factor of 122, so an average lineup in Coors would generate .1788*1.22 = .2181 runs per out. .2181 runs per out times 3,809.17 outs yields 830.8 runs for Walker's teammates. Adding on his 159.1 runs means that an average 1997 NL lineup in Coors, with 664 PA replaced by Larry Walker, would have scored 989.9 runs.
Now, on to the defense. Walker spent time at three positions: first base, center field, and right field. In 25 innings at first base, all three metrics that show a statistically significant correlation to an average of PBP stats during the period they are available (TotalZone, Chris Dial's Runs Saved in playing time, and Simple Fielding Runs) find his fielding exactly average. In 13 innings in center field, both RSpt and TotalZone give him +1 (SFR is not available for the outfield before 2003), so he's credited with one run above average there. And in 1,235 innings in right field, RSpt has him at 2.4, while TotalZone has him at +4.1. The equation that provides the best fit to the PBP average in RF is .68*RSpt + .23*TZ, which comes out to 0.7. However, repeating this procedure on all the RF in the league produces an average that is slightly above 0; to zero it out, we have to subtract .0013 runs per inning, bringing his final RF range figure down to 2.3 runs. Finally, Sean Smith finds his arm to be 4.8 runs above average. I regress this figure 13% to the mean, because that provides the best fit to the Smith/UZRarm average for the years where both are available, reducing it to 4.2 runs above average. So his total defensive contribution is 1  2.3 + 4.2 = 2.9 runs above average.
A 1997 NL average team in Coors would score 746*1.22 = 910.1 runs. Walker's defense takes away 2.9 runs, leaving the Average Team Plus Walker's opponents with 907.2 runs.
A team scoring 989.9 runs and allowing 907.2 runs in 162 games has a Pythagenpat exponent of 2.016, meaning that the Average Team Plus Walker would win 88.1 games.
The 2005 standard deviation (which I use as a base) was 5.6% lower than the 1997 NL regressionprojected standard deviation, so we pull Walker 5.6% back to the mean, down to 87.7 wins.
My methodology for determining replacement level (explained at length in my WARP thread) finds that an average team with a replacement player in Walker's playing time and mix of positions would win 80.0 games in a league with the 2005 standard deviation. Thus, Walker was 87.780 = 7.7 standard deviationadjusted wins above replacement (WARP2).
If you want to back out just the offensive component as a test of OPS+'s reliability in such an extreme run environment, then you would just remove the baserunning, defense, IBB, NetDP, strikeout, and replacement level elements from this calculation. (I'm not sure what to do about SF, since it's included in OBP but not SLG, so I'll just leave it in for now). The average NL player had IBB in 7.42% of BB+HBP, which makes for an adjusted BB+HBP weight of (.0742*.25) + (.9258*.333) = .3268. And an average out, regardless of whether it was a K or fielded, was worth (.2692*.111) + (.7308*.102) = .1044 runs.
So here we have a player with 92 BB+HBP, 109 singles, 46 doubles, 4 triples, 49 home runs, 4 sacrifice flies, and 360 other outs. 92*.3268 + (109/2) + (46*.72) + (4*1.04) + (49*1.44) + (4*.37)  (.1044*360) = 156.3 runs in 360+4 = 364 outs. 4171 outs for the team  364 for Walker = 3807 for the teammates, times .2181 = 830.3 runs for the teammates, plus 156.3 runs for Walker, is 986.6 runs for the team. 986.6 RS and 910.1 RA yields a Pythagenpat exponent of 2.016 and 87.6 wins, 6.6 above average.
Walker had 96.9% of the PA of an average fulltime player, so using the translation equation of OPS+ = 11.43*BWAA/SFrac + 90.8, his offensive rate production was equivalent to that of a player with an OPS+ of 11.43*6.6/.969 + 90.8 = 169. His actual OPS+ was 178, so we can indeed state that OPS+ overstates his offensive value that season by 9 points.
Interestingly, I've just noticed that the 7.7 WARP2 I get here for Walker's '97 is 0.3 higher than the 7.4 listed on my publicly available sheet. I know why this is: because in my sheet I took the erroneous shortcut of simply dividing a player's XR by his PF, instead of applying the PF to his context. I suspect this means that my ratings of Coors players in general are too low by 0.10.2 wins a year (and perhaps that my ratings of Petco players are too high as well? or does it depend on the shape of the production?). I will look into this and post again on the subject in short order.
Thanks for this. If you have time, I'd love to see a few more Rockies from the same time period, just as a check on whether it's a systematic underadjustment in OPS+ or an effect from the shape of Walker's production somehow.
The differences: I have Walker with a decent edge in batting runs despite a few thousand less plate appearances. Once park/ league adjustments are considered, the difference is not so much in peak value, but that Dewey took a few years before he became a dominant hitter.
Walker was a better baserunner. He was often mentioned as one of the best baserunners in the league. My numbers agree.
The negative is the 30 games missed every year, where Dewey played about every day.
He's by far the candidate with the biggest margin for error this year. He really needs to go through the wringer, IMO.
But we need to make sure that we are adjusting properly for his crazy environment, properly accounting for his defense and baserunning, properly dinging him for his lack of durability, etc..
I don't want to just say, hey there's a 140 OPS+, let's put him in. I want to make sure he gets run through the wringer, that's all.
12.6 seasons with: Montreal (NL) 19891994; Colorado (NL) 19952004; St. Louis (NL) 20042005
Cap: Colorado Rockies (NL)
Walker was a great allaround OF in the 1990s whose presence in Colorado put them on the baseball map. One of only 17 players with 8,000 or more career PA who have a BA higher than .300, an OBP higher than .400, and a SLG higher than .500 (.313/.400/.565, good for a 140 OPS+). His 1997 MVP season was great, as he hit .366 and led the NL in HR (49), OBP (.452), SLG (.720), OPS (1.172), and TB (409). His 1999 season was almost as good, as he led the NL in BA (.379), OBP (.458), SLG (.710) and OPS (1.168). He also led the NL in BA in 1998 and 2001, led the NL in 2B in 1994, and won three Silver Slugger awards. Besides being a great hitter, Walker could run (230 career SB) and won seven Gold Gloves. Walker was part of two division winners (20042005) and a wildcard winner (1995) and made the World Series in 2004 (hitting .357/.438/.929 with two HR in a losing cause). Fivetime NL AllStar (1992, 19971999, 2001). Has the highest career BA (.334), OBP (.426), SLG (.618), OPS (1.044), OPS+ (147), and OWP (.789) of any Rockies player.
Walker was a great allaround OF in the 1990s whose presence in Colorado played a major role in putting them on the baseball map. One of only 17 players with 8,000 or more career PA who have a BA of at least .300, an OBP reaching .400, and a SLG of .500 or greater (.313/.400/.565, good for a 140 OPS+). His 1997 MVP season was one for the ages, as he hit .366 while leading the NL in HR (49), OBP (.452), SLG (.720), OPS (1.172), and TB (409). His 1999 season was nearly as productive, as he led the NL in BA (.379), OBP (.458), SLG (.710) and OPS (1.168). He also led the NL in BA in 1998 and 2001, led the NL in 2B in 1994, and won three Silver Slugger awards (1992, 1997, 1999). Besides his abilities with the stick, Walker added tremendous value with his legs (230 career SB) and fielding ability, as he won seven Gold Gloves while retiring with the 12th most RF assists over the course of his career with 150, leading the NHL in 2002 with 14. Walker was part of two division winners (20042005) and one wildcard winner (1995) and made the World Series in 2004 (hitting .357/.438/.929 with two HR in a losing cause). Fivetime NL AllStar (1992, 19971999, 2001). Has the highest career BA (.334), OBP (.426), SLG (.618), OPS (1.044), OPS+ (147), and OWP (.789) of any Rockies player.
There's a lot of b!tching about "idiots" who don't grasp that Walker's a clear HOFer. People would have a lot less to ##### about if they troubled to demonstrate how terrific Walker would have been even in an ordinary home park and a neutralized environment, then compared that (and not just WAR) to current Hall of Famers. This thread is a good example of how to be convincing wrt Walker's case. Elsewhere on this site, not so much.
My concern with Walker is that with the upcoming slamdunk guys and Walker barely topping 20% at the moment, that during the next several years he drops into the teens, we get to 2018, and he just can't get to a % (say, 45%) of the vote in time that causes writers who haven't voted for him to seriously examine Walker's case
http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/ifyouvoteforvladyouhavetovoteforwalker/
In agreement with DL that Dwight Evans is his closest comp.
There's an EvansandRice dynamic at play where the writers pick the wrong man in the duo because they still undervalue defense at "slugging" positions, base running, and walks.
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