Any Player/Any Era: Larry Walker

What he did: Clearly, if Graham can do a Does he belong in the Hall column on Walker, he had a long and storied career. I also added a blurb on Walker for Graham’s 50 Best Players not in the Hall:

Larry Walker is one of the greatest left-handed hitters in the history of baseball. Walker is tied for the 38th best average by a left-handed batter at .313. He has the 46th highest OBP in MLB history and the 15th best slugging percentage all-time at .565…Sure it was helpful to Walker to have played his home games at Coors Field during his relative prime, but kudos to him for taking full advantage.

Going beyond that, Walker finished with a higher OBP than Joe DiMaggio, Cap Anson and many others. When you combine his power with his ability to get on base, you generate the 17th highest OPS in MLB history, a number Alex Rodriguez, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays and others can only look up at. Adjusting his OPS for the era yields a 141 OPS+, tied for 69th all time and ahead of many baseball greats.

During his career, four times he would bat .300 with 30 HRs and 100 RBIs — that is tied for the 24th most seasons of all time. Walker is also one of just 24 players to bat over .300 and hit over 300 HRs in his career. Of all the left-handed batters in all the world that ever played baseball, Walker recorded the 16th and 17th highest slugging percentages in a season. The only immortals he trails: Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams. Those are the only lefties in baseball history to put up better slugging years.

Finally, he is tied with Carlton Fisk for 96th in wins above replacement (bWAR) — ahead of the likes of Eddie Murray, Pee Wee Reese, Craig Biggio, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Gary Sheffield and Mark McGwire.

While it is hard to parse out the Coors effect and how that improved his numbers (and you’ll see my attempt a bit below), from ages 22 – 27, Walker played for Montreal and would accumulate a pretty decent line: .281/.357/.483.

Quite simply, Walker had one of the most devastating bats from the left-side in MLB history.

And his parents are Larry and Mary and his siblings are Gary, Cary and Barry. Something tells me his family liked to have fun!

Era he would thrive in: For a variety of somewhat selfish reasons, I’m putting Walker on the late 1930s St. Louis Cardinals. While he might not have “thrived” in the ‘30s/’40s (as his power and speed bulk numbers would suffer somewhat), they won’t be that much worse and we can ignore steroids, Coors and whatever the heck baseball did to create an environment conducive to hitting during Walker’s era. In short, his numbers won’t look that much different and we can superficially get at how Walker would do in a bygone time when everything was great.

Why: If you normalize Walker’s career to the 1936 St. Louis Cardinals, you’d end up with a .301/.386/.545 line with 354 HRs and 218 SBs. Placing Walker’s numbers in the context of a different era would make him a near no-doubt Hall of Famer. For example, just look at how his career would have stacked up against his “teammate” Johnny Mize.

Mize: .312/.397/.562 with 359 HRs and 28 SBs

Walker in the 30s: .301/.386/.545 with 354 HRs and 218 SBs

Walker in reality: .313/.400/.565 with 383 HRs and 230 SBs.

Mize on the ’95 Rockies: .352/.440/.630 with 394 HRs and 28 SBs

In addition, Walker would be another in the long line of storied World Champions on the Cardinals and help a team that frequently just missed the post-season reach the promise land. In ’36, the club finished second and got horrible production from Terry Moore. In ’39, the club again finished second with not overly great production from Moore. It was the same story in ’41.

In 1942, Mize would leave the club, but Stan Musial would start his career. Walker could easily slide to first base and buoy a team that beat the Yankees in the World Series. The following year, Walker could slide back to the outfield to let Ray Sanders get at bats at first and replace Harry Walker and Danny Litwhiler in the outfield.