Larry Walker is one of the most prolific hitters on this year's Hall of Fame ballot.Back for his fourth season on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, Larry Walker hasn’t received much of a response or movement in his voting. It was 20 percent in 2011, 23 percent in 2012 and, right in the middle, 21.6 percent, last year.
This isn’t likely to change much this year as the candidate pool deepens, but Walker’s candidacy is worthy of examination within that context.
Walker’s career 72.4 WAR ranks 21st all-time among players who played at least 50 percent of their games in the outfield. Of the players ahead of him, 18 are in the Hall of Fame, one is Barry Bonds, and the other isn’t yet eligible (Ken Griffey Jr.).
Among position players on the 2014 ballot, Walker ranks fourth in Wins Above Replacement among those on the Hall of Fame ballot, trailing Bonds, Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas, and ahead of players such as Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza – all of whom received a higher percentage of votes than Walker on the 2013 ballot.
However, looking at Walker’s numbers, the obvious question is, how did playing in Colorado affect his career?
Walker came to the Colorado Rockies from the Montreal Expos just as he was entering the prime of his career, and from 1995-2002, Walker had a .341 BA, and a 1.062 OPS. He also averaged 39 homers, 44 doubles and 123 RBI per 162 games.
Larry Walker - MLB Ranks
He won three batting titles in that time, giving him the same number for his career as Hall of Famers George Brett and Carl Yastrzemski, and baseball’s all-time hit king, Pete Rose.
However, Walker missed large parts of the 1996 and 2000 seasons, and for his entire career, only once played more than 143 games in a season. In 1997, Walker played 153 games and won the National League MVP, leading the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
While Walker’s numbers take a hit due to injuries, they also get a big boost from him playing at Coors Field.
In that same span from 1995-2002, Walker had a .392 batting average and a 1.207 OPS at home. He batted just .286 with a .906 OPS on the road in that time, and in a similar number of games, hit 52 fewer home runs.
Home vs Road From 1995-2002
But the fact that Walker was better in the confines of Coors Field than on the road is not surprising, nor would it be surprising even if his home games occurred elsewhere – many players, great or otherwise, play better at home.
In addition, Adjusted OPS, or OPS+, can help us compare Walker’s contributions to players across eras. Even considering the offense-heavy era in which he played, Walker’s OPS+ ranks 14th among all outfielders to debut since 1920. Of the 13 players ahead of him, nine are already in the Hall of Fame, with the candidacies of Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Lance Berkman still to be determined.