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Assessing the Hall of Fame chances of Larry Walker

A look at one of the best all-around players of our era.

Larry Walker, 1991
Larry Walker, 1991
RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Larry Walker played for three clubs in his 17-year career: Montreal, Colorado, and St. Louis. In the first 15 seasons of his career, he appeared in a grand total of four postseason games. If he does get elected to the Hall of Fame, Walker would get there with as low a profile as anybody in modern history. But where you play and whether you play for teams shouldn't matter when we're talking about career value, and Walker has it in spades.

The case for Larry Walker

Just about everything Walker did on the baseball field was outstanding. He was an excellent defender, and although he didn't steal many bases, he was a very good base runner. And then there's his hitting. Walker finished his career with a .313/.400/.565 line (141 OPS+), combining excellent power, a great batting eye, and the ability to make contact. He was as complete a hitter as you'll ever see, and as complete a baseball player as you'll ever see.

Walker won the 1997 NL MVP, took home seven Gold Gloves, and three Silver Sluggers. He led the NL in OPS twice (1997 and 1999), and in Batting Average thrice (1998, 1999, 2001). He remained an outstanding player right up until his retirement at age 38,

The case against Larry Walker

There are two major arguments against Walker:

1) He played a good portion of his career in Colorado, so his outstanding offensive numbers should be discounted Walker played in the hitter-friendly ballpark at the peak of the ridiculous run environment that was the late-90s/early-00s. Voters looking at his case may dismiss his candidacy because his Colorado number may be too good to believe.

2) He was not a durable player. Walker appeared in 140+ games in a season just four times in his career. and in five seasons he appeared in 100 games or fewer. That's a lot of production lost for a player that has outstanding rate stat. And because of all that lost time, his "counting stats" aren't all that impressive when you compare them with his peers.

My two cents

Earlier in this series, I took a look at Gary Sheffield, and thought that he should be in (though borderline). Sheffield finished his career with a 140 OPS+ and 79.9 career WAR. Well, Larry Walker has a remarkably similar career profile, with a 141 OPS+ and 72.6 WAR, and although they were dramatically different types of players, in Hall of Fame assessments they turned out similar. I would vote for Walker, though I do admit he's a borderline candidate.

If you've been tracking the final assessments in this series, you'll have noticed that the yeses have well surpassed the ten-player limit on the Hall of Fame ballot. That will hurt players like Walker and Sheffield, who although they aren't sure-fire Hall of Famers, nonetheless deserve to stick around on the ballot long enough for voters to make thorough examinations of their careers.