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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cooperstowners in Canada: Larry Walker should be the second Canadian player elected to Cooperstown

Signed by the Montreal Expos in 1989, Walker was arguably the best all-around player of his era. Many feel, however, that his Hall of Fame case will be hampered by the fact that he didn’t record 500 home runs or 3,000 hits. That may be true, but I challenge baseball writers to try to find a weakness in Walker’s game?

...Critics say Walker’s stats were inflated because he played the bulk of his career at the hitter friendly Coors Field. But Walker’s OPS+ (an adjusted OPS figure that takes into account the ballpark he played in) is still a solid +140, which compares favorably with those registered by Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Eddie Collins and Duke Snider. Let’s also not forget that Babe Ruth was aided by the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium and that Ted Williams benefited from playing at Fenway Park.

Wha? and Wha?

In an era rife with steroid allegations, Walker’s name was never dragged into the discussions. Various injuries denied the Canadian outfielder a shot at 500 homers and 3,000 hits, but had he been injury-free, there’s no question we would be talking about a first ballot Hall of Famer.

But setting his statistics aside, it’s safe to say that Walker has been the most influential player in Canadian baseball history. Ask Justin Morneau, Jason Bay or Joey Votto whom they idolized when they were growing up and whom they model their career after now? They will all tell you Larry Walker.

Repoz Posted: December 14, 2010 at 08:37 AM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, history, sabermetrics

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   1. Cooper Nielson Posted: December 14, 2010 at 02:44 PM (#3710288)
Signed by the Montreal Expos in 1989, Walker was arguably the best all-around player of his era.

I'd hate to be the one making that argument.

Was there even a single year where he was a better all-around player than Barry Bonds? In 1997, Walker's MVP year, his OPS+ was 178 compared to Bonds' 170, but Bonds stole more bases and hit more triples (a proxy for "base-running"), and they both won Gold Gloves. I guess if you want to consider throwing arm as separate from defense, he had Bonds beat there. Walker was also a little better in 1999, when Bonds only played 102 games.

But, come on. Seriously.

Ridiculous statements aside, Larry Walker really did have a good career, even with a Coors adjustment.
   2. BDC Posted: December 14, 2010 at 03:29 PM (#3710338)
If you define "his era" as the eleven years 1992-2002, when Walker was excellent every year (so the definition is most biased toward him), he ranks ninth in WAR after Bonds, Bagwell, Junior, Piazza, Sosa, Lofton, AROD, and Thomas. Walker's about even with Edgar Martinez, and not far ahead of Biggio, R.Alomar, or Pudge Rodriguez.

"All-around" is factored into WAR, so as Cooper says it's an uphill argument. Even if you note Walker's wide range of abilities and give him extra credit for "balance," it's hard to say that Bonds, Griffey, Lofton, AROD, Biggio, or Alomar was inferior in terms of cross-the-board skills and achievements.
   3. Baldrick Posted: December 14, 2010 at 03:37 PM (#3710346)
Do y'all really not know what is meant by "all-around" in this context?

You may justifiably think that being the best "all-around" player is not a reason for induction into the HOF--I would agree. You might even credibly argue that there is someone else who was more "all around" (Bonds, maybe Griffey). But you can't just point to WAR or OPS+ to deny the claim that he was the best all around.
   4. BDC Posted: December 14, 2010 at 04:11 PM (#3710393)
you can't just point to WAR or OPS+ to deny the claim that he was the best all around

I agree: WAR, OPS+, things like that should be used as a starting point.

But that's all I've done here. Right in the very heart of Walker's career, WAR suggests that Griffey and AROD performed better than Walker (despite AROD getting a late start), let alone Bonds, and Lofton is up there, and Biggio and Alomar not far behind. Leaving out guys who you'd perhaps consider "one-dimensional" (Thomas certainly, Piazza maybe; but even Bagwell and Sosa were pretty good all-rounders) there are a lot of candidates there, and I have a hard time seeing Walker as clearly better than any of them "all-round." In particular, Bonds and AROD are so far superior that the "arguably best" claim is just not tenable. I'd say he's arguably top five or ten, how's that :)
   5. Baldrick Posted: December 14, 2010 at 04:15 PM (#3710403)
Fine. I read "arguably the best all-around player" as "he had the most all-aroundedness" which has nothing at all to do with WAR, not even as a starting point.

But your reading (he was the best of the players who were all-around players)also totally makes sense--probably more so.
   6. Cyril Morong Posted: December 14, 2010 at 09:03 PM (#3710720)
Ruth was not helped that much by Yankee Stadium. For the years Retrosheet has home/road data, Ruth had the following AVG/OBP/SLG at home: .350/.489/.717. In road games it was .342/.474/.695.
   7. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: December 14, 2010 at 09:11 PM (#3710731)
Do y'all really not know what is meant by "all-around" in this context?
Sure - it means he's a Canadian.
   8. cardsfanboy Posted: December 14, 2010 at 09:14 PM (#3710738)
agree with Baldrick, all-around has nothing to do with war, even if it was an accurate stat it would point to best overall, not all around. You need a more specialized metric like power/speed number that incorporates defense into the equation. Of course no matter how you cut it, Bonds is going to beat Walker in an all around category, for any bonus you give Walker for the arm, Bonds gets a bigger bonus for the stolen bases.
   9. tshipman Posted: December 14, 2010 at 09:18 PM (#3710747)
Walker played less than 2000 games. Generally, that takes a lot of leeway to make the HoF.
   10. OCF Posted: December 14, 2010 at 09:25 PM (#3710757)
We did elect Walker to the Hall of Merit. (Also Bagwell and Kevin Brown.) If you want a vigorous defense of Walker's candidacy, go provoke Dan Rosenheck.

If you're going to have a Hall of approximately the size it is, then very few of its honorees would ever have been clearly the best player in baseball at any given moment - and Walker wasn't that. His candidacy is broad-based and includes hitting, baserunning, and defense. So in that sense, he's an "all-around" candidate. I can't wrap my mind about what being the most all-around could possibly mean, so I'm staying away from that one.
   11. Cyril Morong Posted: December 14, 2010 at 09:32 PM (#3710764)
I came up with an measure of "all-aroundness." Not saying it means alot, just that maybe it is the kind of thing the voters have in mind: multiply homeruns times SBs times Gold Gloves. Of course, players before 1957 or 1958 don't get to be on this list. I found all the guys with 5000+ PAs through 2009. Then if HR*SB was at least 50,000, I found how many Gold Gloves they had (hope I did not miss anyone). So then I did HR*SB*GG. Here is the top 10

Barry Bonds 3133344
Willie Mays 2676960
Ken Griffey Jr. 1159200
Andre Dawson 1100256
Roberto Alomar 995400
Mike Schmidt 953520
Joe Morgan 923260
Ryne Sandberg 873072
Dave Winfield 725865
Larry Walker 616630
Andruw Jones 554840
Cesar Cedeno 547250
Al Kaline 546630
Hank Aaron 543600
Carl Yaz 531552

Everyone ahead of Walker is either in (and probably first ballot) or will get in or would without any scandals. Here is the list of all those players with HR*SB at least 50,000 who had at least 1 GG and 1 MVP

Barry Bonds
Willie Mays
Ken Griffey Jr.
Andre Dawson
Mike Schmidt
Joe Morgan
Ryne Sandberg
Larry Walker
Hank Aaron
Carl Yastrzemski
Dale Murphy
Barry Larkin
Frank Robinson
Jeff Bagwell
Mickey Mantle
   12. Cooper Nielson Posted: December 15, 2010 at 01:01 AM (#3710926)
I suppose the "best all-around player" argument could go like this (keep in mind this is not my argument and not one I even agree with, but one that could conceivably and logically put Walker #1 in his era):

There are five traditional baseball tools: hitting (for average), hitting for power, running, playing defense, and throwing. We can grade all of those tools for each player on a 1-10 scale (20-80 just gets confusing). To be considered an "all-around" player, you have to score 7 or above in every category (eliminating Bonds because of his arm, eliminating Biggio and Alomar because of their power, maybe eliminating Griffey because of his speed).

Then of those "all-around" players who score 7 or above in every category, you do a simple tally of their ratings in the five categories. And maybe Walker comes out on top (e.g., 9 hitting + 8 power + 7 speed/baserunning + 8 defense + 10 arm = 42 "all-around" points).

Though I think even doing it this way, A-Rod would beat him, as he had more power, more speed (at least as it applies to base-stealing), and was probably a better fielder if you factor in the difference between SS and RF.
   13. Swoboda is freedom Posted: December 15, 2010 at 01:21 AM (#3710937)
That may be true, but I challenge baseball writers to try to find a weakness in Walker’s game?

Durability.
   14. Sunday silence Posted: December 15, 2010 at 03:51 AM (#3711030)
well, who is the first canadian in the HoF? Is it Lajoie??


Never mind I googled it. I'll let someone else take a guess..
   15. Dan Contilli Posted: December 15, 2010 at 02:30 PM (#3711224)
Fergie Jenkins.
   16. Cyril Morong Posted: December 15, 2010 at 05:52 PM (#3711439)
I came up with another crude measure of "all-aroundness." Here is how it works:

Multiply Gold Glove awards times 30. The idea here was to scale a great player in this stat to a great player in HRs or SBs. Brooks Robinson had the most GGs among position players with 16 and 16*30 = 480, close to 500.

Divide non-HR hits by 5. If a player had 2500 non-HR hits, you get 500.

Multiply SB*HR*non-HR*GG (with the above mentioned adjustments being made for GG and non-HR). If player had no GGs, I stopped multiplying so they did not end up at zero.

For Willie Mays it was 42,129,996,480. That is way too high a number to work with. So I raised it to the .25 power. That gave him 453, a more familiar kind of number to baseball fans. But that was divided by PAs and then multiplied by 10 to get the final number. Mays then had .363 (a nice number, close to the highest all-time batting average of .366 belonging to Ty Cobb). Here is the top 25:

1 Willie Mays 0.363
2 Torii Hunter 0.362
3 Barry Bonds 0.357
4 Larry Walker 0.355
5 Ichiro Suzuki 0.352
6 Ryne Sandberg 0.349
7 Eric Davis 0.345
8 Cesar Cedeno 0.345
9 Roberto Alomar 0.337
10 Devon White 0.333
11 Andruw Jones 0.330
12 Andre Dawson 0.327
13 Garry Maddox 0.325
14 Bobby Bonds 0.316
15 Andy Van Slyke 0.313
16 Mike Schmidt 0.311
17 Ken Griffey Jr. 0.309
18 Carlos Beltran 0.302
19 Paul Blair 0.296
20 Joe Morgan 0.295
21 Marquis Grissom 0.293
22 Ivan Rodriguez 0.292
23 Dwayne Murphy 0.291
24 Bill White 0.285
25 Jimmy Rollins 0.284
   17. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 15, 2010 at 06:13 PM (#3711464)
well, who is the first canadian in the HoF? Is it Lajoie??


Never mind I googled it. I'll let someone else take a guess..


Jenkins is the only HOFer from Canada. In fact, he's one of only 8 HOFers born outside the US, a number which will go up substantially in the near future. Who are the other 7 and where are they from?
   18. SoSH U at work Posted: December 15, 2010 at 06:20 PM (#3711472)
Rod Carew, Panama.
Tony Perez, Cuba?
Cristobal Torriente, Cuba
   19. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 15, 2010 at 06:27 PM (#3711481)
Rod Carew, Panama.
Tony Perez, Cuba?
Cristobal Torriente, Cuba


The first 2 are correct. #3 is also, but I was not counting NeL players. Not that I have anything against them, but I was using BBREF "Places of Birth" lists, which includes only players with at least 1 MLB game played.

So, 5 more, not including NeL only players.
   20. Esteban Rivera Posted: December 15, 2010 at 06:39 PM (#3711496)
Roberto Clemente - Puerto Rico
Orlando Cepeda - Puerto Rico
Luis Aparicio - Venezuela
Juan Marichal - Dominican Republic
   21. tshipman Posted: December 15, 2010 at 06:44 PM (#3711499)
Roberto Clemente - Puerto Rico
Orlando Cepeda - Puerto Rico


Puerto Rico is in the United States. Just saying.
   22. DL from MN Posted: December 15, 2010 at 06:45 PM (#3711500)
repeat
   23. DL from MN Posted: December 15, 2010 at 06:47 PM (#3711501)
Bert Blyleven will make the list next year
   24. BDC Posted: December 15, 2010 at 06:51 PM (#3711505)
Also, isn't Carew as American as John McCain? :)

Harry Wright was born in England.
   25. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 15, 2010 at 06:59 PM (#3711525)
Roberto Clemente - Puerto Rico
Orlando Cepeda - Puerto Rico
Luis Aparicio - Venezuela
Juan Marichal - Dominican Republic

Harry Wright was born in England.


All correct.

That number is likely to at least double in the next 10 years or so. Bert, Alomar, Manny, Pedro, Ichiro, Vlad, Pudge, and Rivera are no-brainers. Sosa, Palmiero, Bernie Williams, Walker, Edgar, and Vizquel all have a shot, some better than others. I probably missed a few.
   26. cardsfanboy Posted: December 15, 2010 at 07:23 PM (#3711551)
Cyril I love what you are trying to do, but if Ichiro scores well on the list, I'm not sure it's measuring what we are trying to get at. I guess we kinda need to identify what is an all around player, post 12 defined it as the five tools, I'm not sure I really agree with that I think of it in simpler terms Ability to hit for power, hit for average, field and run.(some argument could also add batting eye/ability to walk)

I don't know of an easy way to measure something like that in an easy formula. You could take batting average * 100, walk pct * 20, hr *.6, sb *.6 and gold gloves *30 and average it out. (this makes a number around 300 for each as very good) (or you could multiply if you like, not really sure what the difference would be)

I don't know, just spitballing here.
   27. Ron Johnson Posted: December 15, 2010 at 07:32 PM (#3711559)
Cyril, Pete Palmer compiled full home/road splits for Ruth.

For the years 1923-1934 he was .349/.485/.695 at home and on the road .345/.473/.685. He hit a grand total of 7 HR more at home during this time.

And then there's Ruth 1914-1919

AB  H  2B 3B HR  BB   BA  OBP  SLG
Home 519 162 47 17 11 102 .312 .425 .532
Road 591 180 35 13 38  87 .305 .394 .601 
   28. Ron Johnson Posted: December 15, 2010 at 07:34 PM (#3711560)
#24 I know Carew missed some time in 1969 due to National Guard commitments. Not that this proves anything.
   29. Cyril Morong Posted: December 15, 2010 at 07:50 PM (#3711574)
Ron, thanks, I think I have thos Palmer splits on my computer.

cardsfanboy, I agree that the ability to walk matters. I was only trying to capture the conventional wisdom
   30. Ron Johnson Posted: December 15, 2010 at 08:02 PM (#3711594)
A definition that has always served me well in all-around discussions is to rank players by the weakest part of their game. Not that I see "all-around" as anything more than trivia. As Bill James pointed out, Henry Cotto did more things well than Ken Phelps did. Phelps only did two things well but did them well enough to be a fairly good player. Whereas to quote Bill James, "If Henry Cotto is a major league ballplayer, I'm an airplane."
   31. Cyril Morong Posted: December 15, 2010 at 08:24 PM (#3711617)
If I started with his stats from 1957 on, when they started giving out Gold Gloves, Mays gets .378.
   32. cardsfanboy Posted: December 15, 2010 at 08:43 PM (#3711640)
A definition that has always served me well in all-around discussions is to rank players by the weakest part of their game. Not that I see "all-around" as anything more than trivia. As Bill James pointed out, Henry Cotto did more things well than Ken Phelps did. Phelps only did two things well but did them well enough to be a fairly good player. Whereas to quote Bill James, "If Henry Cotto is a major league ballplayer, I'm an airplane."


I like the first part, but the problem is when dealing with the best of all time, or even a top list, you need someway to break it down. It's nice to say Mays was the best all around player of all time (and you might be right) but it would be nice to have some numbers to back it up.

the second part has been discussed more or less, all around is not better player, but nobody is trying to argue that. It's like saying who was the fastest player of all time over a sustained career, nobody thinks that means better, it just means who was fastest. Of course all around is more subjective than fastest.

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