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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Larry Walker

Eligible in 2011

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 08, 2009 at 07:47 PM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 08, 2009 at 07:51 PM (#3406998)
hot topics
   2. DL from MN Posted: December 08, 2009 at 08:00 PM (#3407024)
player BWAA2 BRWAA2 FWAA2 WARP2 (Dan R's numbers)
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.
   3. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: December 08, 2009 at 08:12 PM (#3407053)
1997: .366/.452/.720 49 homers
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/A-Rod/Griffey type of player for one of those seasons.
   4. OCF Posted: December 08, 2009 at 10:10 PM (#3407244)
Man, Coors Field sure was a lot of fun back then. I'll always regret they never got a Manny Ramirez/A-Rod/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 50-60 HR. As it is, the bb-ref 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.
   5. CraigK Posted: December 08, 2009 at 10:15 PM (#3407250)
IMO, going to Coors was the worst possible outcome for him; he'll be thought of as a hitter that thrived in Coors and was Juan Encarnacion at sea level in terms of the Hall of Fame.

What would his numbers look like if he played in a league-average park instead of Coors?
   6. RJ in TO Posted: December 08, 2009 at 10:23 PM (#3407260)
What would his numbers look like if he played in a league-average park instead of Coors?


From B-R, 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.
   7. Alex_Lewis Posted: December 08, 2009 at 10:34 PM (#3407286)
Easily one of the most exciting players of his era. The man could do everything, and a good quote to boot.
   8. OCF Posted: December 08, 2009 at 11:14 PM (#3407341)
My ancient and creaky offensive system (which I increasingly mistrust) turns up the following players of similar offensive value: Minoso, Kiner, Keller, Bobby Bonds, Dwight Evans, Pedro Guerrero. In particular, it makes him a dead ringer for Bonds. (Evans I would push ahead because of greater bulk; Kiner and Guerrero I would push back because of defense).

So: why Walker and not Bobby Bonds?
   9. CraigK Posted: December 08, 2009 at 11:19 PM (#3407348)
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.
   10. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 08, 2009 at 11:20 PM (#3407350)
A dead ringer for Bobby Bonds offensively? In career PA, sure. But what about, um, those eleven points of OPS+? It seems your mistrust is well-placed...
   11. OCF Posted: December 08, 2009 at 11:45 PM (#3407382)
I'll admit that the fact that Walker played in the highest run environment of any 20th-21st century ballplayer we have ever seriously considered plays serious havoc with many kinds of formulas. In particular, the RC from the Stats Handbook I've been using and the RC from bb-ref do a worse job of matching than I've seen with anyone else.
   12. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: December 09, 2009 at 02:58 AM (#3407570)
But what about, um, those eleven points of OPS+?

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 park-adjusted run estimator in an extreme environment like Coors.
   13. Howie Menckel Posted: December 09, 2009 at 06:12 AM (#3407668)
I realize we technically elected Edgar Martinez just now, but this old HOM dog sees no blasphemy in that comparison here either.........
   14. Al Peterson Posted: December 09, 2009 at 03:26 PM (#3407860)
I'm going to use extra caution with Walker before placing. Others have expressed their love for him, the warts on his case.

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 (pre-humidor) and the steroid/long ball era of 1994-2005. 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 elect-me spot...
   15. DL from MN Posted: December 09, 2009 at 05:07 PM (#3407976)
You can use most of those caveats for Dwight Evans - short career, high run scoring environment, not the best of his era. Dewey got in on the first ballot. Larry Walker is the same type of player - great defensive RF with a great bat, not a long career player. I think Walker's better than Dewey (better peak) which makes me unworried about "rushing" him in.
   16. RJ in TO Posted: December 09, 2009 at 05:14 PM (#3407990)
You can use most of those caveats for Dwight Evans - short career, high run scoring environment, not the best of his era.


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 105-108. 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.
   17. DL from MN Posted: December 09, 2009 at 05:19 PM (#3408006)
Good point, I was thinking more in terms Evans of not hitting the big career milestones (3000, 500).
   18. Paul Wendt Posted: December 09, 2009 at 07:00 PM (#3408216)
Measuring games as full seasons equivalent, 1871 to 2006,
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.
   19. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: December 09, 2009 at 07:15 PM (#3408256)
How does he compare to Chuck Klein? I've always thought of them as two peas in a pod . . .
   20. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 09, 2009 at 08:29 PM (#3408384)
This isn't rocket science here. Let's look at Walker's 1997.

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 regression-projected 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 87.7-80 = 7.7 standard deviation-adjusted 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 full-time 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.
   21. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 09, 2009 at 08:31 PM (#3408387)
Walker blows Klein out of the water! Just check my spreadsheet, Joe Dimino...

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 0.1-0.2 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.
   22. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: December 09, 2009 at 10:01 PM (#3408503)
His actual OPS+ was 178, so we can indeed state that OPS+ overstates his offensive value that season by 9 points.

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.
   23. AROM Posted: December 09, 2009 at 10:14 PM (#3408533)
I like the Walker to Dewey Evans comparison. Both were excellent all around hitters, defensive right fielders, with great arms.

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.
   24. DL from MN Posted: August 11, 2010 at 04:54 PM (#3613920)
bump
   25. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: November 04, 2010 at 03:24 PM (#3683748)
bump
   26. rawagman Posted: November 05, 2010 at 01:07 AM (#3684256)
I guess the RF eligibles are no great shakes, as Walker jumps right to the top. There are so many things that I wish he could just do a wee bit more (like play in games) but I guess what he did was enough. I am one of Tony Olivo's biggest supporters, and he had the same general narrative, only lacking those qualities that much more. So, yes, Walker is my new top RF, but still unsure of where I'll slot him overall.
   27. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: November 05, 2010 at 07:43 PM (#3684692)
I need to re-read this thread and would love to see a lot of discussion on Walker.

He's by far the candidate with the biggest margin for error this year. He really needs to go through the wringer, IMO.
   28. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: November 06, 2010 at 01:51 PM (#3684902)
Joe D, what's the case against him unless you're a huge stickler for in-season durability? With the defense and baserunning he looks like an obvious choice to me...
   29. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: November 08, 2010 at 05:37 AM (#3685706)
Hey Dan, not saying there's necessarily a case against him. I'm an Expos fan, I hope there isn't one :-)

But we need to make sure that we are adjusting properly for his crazy environment, properly accounting for his defense and base-running, 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.
   30. John DiFool2 Posted: November 08, 2010 at 11:52 PM (#3686298)
What happened to "Grandma" Murphy? Haven't seen him post in about a year.
   31. OCF Posted: November 09, 2010 at 12:03 AM (#3686316)
I've been in contact with him, and with Joe Dimino, today. There are some technical issues to resolve, but one or the other of them should post a ballot thread soon.
   32. Juan V Posted: November 09, 2010 at 11:01 AM (#3686502)
So, I wanted to asked since I worked on my prelim: Where are you guys ranking Walker, all time? For me, he's ending up in the Tim Raines/Roberto Clemente/Tony Gwynn neighborhood of corner outfielders.
   33. DL from MN Posted: November 09, 2010 at 12:28 PM (#3686514)
Enos Slaughter / Roberto Clemente / Billy Williams territory. Gwynn, Reggie and Fred Clarke are one notch higher.
   34. theorioleway Posted: December 23, 2011 at 03:45 PM (#4022621)
Larry Walker—RF—2011
12.6 seasons with: Montreal (NL) 1989-1994; Colorado (NL) 1995-2004; St. Louis (NL) 2004-2005
Cap: Colorado Rockies (NL)

Walker was a great all-around 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 (2004-2005) and a wild-card winner (1995) and made the World Series in 2004 (hitting .357/.438/.929 with two HR in a losing cause). Five-time NL All-Star (1992, 1997-1999, 2001). Has the highest career BA (.334), OBP (.426), SLG (.618), OPS (1.044), OPS+ (147), and OWP (.789) of any Rockies player.
   35. rawagman Posted: December 23, 2011 at 11:07 PM (#4022831)
Suggested changes:
Walker was a great all-around 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 (2004-2005) and one wild-card winner (1995) and made the World Series in 2004 (hitting .357/.438/.929 with two HR in a losing cause). Five-time NL All-Star (1992, 1997-1999, 2001). Has the highest career BA (.334), OBP (.426), SLG (.618), OPS (1.044), OPS+ (147), and OWP (.789) of any Rockies player.
   36. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 24, 2011 at 12:51 AM (#4022863)
Leading the NHL? Well, he is Canadian...
   37. rawagman Posted: December 24, 2011 at 04:47 AM (#4022912)
I have hockey on the brain - most of sports analysis these days is devoted to the icy game, with my work on hockeyprospectus.com. Anyways, good catch.
   38. theorioleway Posted: December 24, 2011 at 03:44 PM (#4022982)
Rawagman: Your changes are good with me. And very cool that you work on hockey prospectus.
   39. Something Other Posted: January 03, 2012 at 06:45 PM (#4028196)
What would his numbers look like if he played in a league-average park instead of Coors?

From B-R, 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.
It's .294, fyi. The Neutralized stats give credit for the strike years, much to my displeasure. That slash line seems credible, fwiw. Walker had an away OPS of 865 over his career, and if he'd been in a neutral home park, he would have had the advantage of playing at Coors for some of his away games. That makes the neutralized home OPS of something close to 951 fairly credible.

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 slam-dunk 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

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