I know, I know, the time isn't exactly perfect for this considering that it's a nearly a year before everyone will get back into Hall of Fame voting discussion mode. But the post by our newest addition, Adam Darowski, got me scouring over the Top 500 all-time WAR leader board for position players compiled by Sean Smith. And, well, there isn't a whole lot else to write about and I found this interesting.
I got into the range where you start to get into some of the biggest fringe Hall candidates, in the 65-70 WAR range, where guys like Jim Thome, Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell, all deserving Hall guys based on the previously set standard in my opinion, come in.
But sandwiched in between Martinez and Thome, two of the great hitters in recent memory, is another big bopper from the same era, a guy who I was surprised to see so high on the list: Larry Walker. Of course, everyone remembers Walker's incredible talent, but just as quickly, his inability to stay healthy would come to mind as well.
Looking at his numbers though, it seems that people may have written Walker off as a Hall candidate a bit too soon. Not only is his career WAR better than guys who had no trouble finding their way into the Hall, such as Eddie Murray, Willie McCovey and Ernie Banks, but his other numbers are almost equally as impressive.
His career OPS of .965 is 17th all-time, his .565 SLG is 16th all-time, and his adjusted OPS+ is tied for 71st, not nearly as impressive but still markedly better than some of his peers. He's one of only 58 players to finish his career with an OBP over .400. He posted OPS marks over 1.075 on four occasions, won three batting titles, an NL MVP and seven Gold Gloves, while going to the All-Star Game five times.
He posted WAR marks above 2.0 in 14 seasons, marks above 4.0 in 8 seasons, and marks above 5.8 in 4 seasons, peaking with an awesome 9.0 WAR in his 1997 MVP season. He spent his entire career in right field, and was an above average defender there, with a career TotalZone mark of +41, and the seven Gold Gloves certainly don't hurt.
He got docked for putting up his huge numbers in pre-humidor Coors Field, but even when adjusting for park and league factors, he was still an impressive hitter. Look at his wRC+ marks in each of his seasons with at least 450 plate appearances: 118, 131, 148, 131, 154, 133, 184, 163, 172, 169, 152, 125. He finished with a career wOBA of .414 and a career wRC+ of 145. His wOBA is good for 35th all-time, and his wRC+ is still a solid 61st all-time, tied with Rickey Henderson and Duke Snider.
And for a little bit of extra perspective, Andre Dawson finished with a 56.8 WAR (130th among position players), Tony Perez finished with a 50.3 WAR (167th), Orlando Cepeda finished with a 46.6 WAR (197th) and then there's of course Jim Rice, who finished with 41.5 WAR, 258th among position players all-time.
Yeah, Walker had trouble staying healthy, but he was consistently healthy enough to be a near star-level player for most of his career, and during his full seasons he was among the best players in the game. If all of the guys listed above are in the Hall, then there certainly should be a place for Larry Kenneth Robert Walker.
And even if you're in the camp that doesn't consider any of those guys deserving, as I am, then Walker still deserves a very long look, because his statistical pedigree is simply too impressive to ignore. This is merely a relatively early plea for the baseball world to give Walker's candidacy the close look that it deserves, because he had one helluva career.