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John Dewan's Stat of the Week

Stat of the Week: Who's the Next Larry Walker?

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By Mark Simon

It was a long, slow climb for Larry Walker from receiving 10% of the Hall of Fame vote in 2014 to being elected with 76.6% of the vote this year.

Walker’s candidacy was one that took time and consideration to appreciate. He was an excellent hitter and fielder and very good basestealer who played in a ballpark that likely boosted his offensive numbers. From a sabermetric perspective, Walker fared well in both WAR and Win Shares and as the voting base became more educated in the value of analytics, the ballot became less crowded, and public support increased, Walker’s vote total increased.

Looking ahead to future ballots, who among the holdovers could be the next Walker?

Putting aside those candidates whose vote totals are influenced by other factors (PEDs, off-field comments), let’s look at some of the possible electees through the lens of two Bill James-devised stats – Hall of Fame Value and Hall of Fame Support Score.

Hall of Fame Value was introduced by Bill in the 2019 Bill James Handbook. It combines Win Shares and four times WAR into one number, with 500 being an approximate cutoff for Hall of Fame worthiness. Walker scored a 598.8, indicating he was a deserving honoree.

Hall of Fame Support Score came from a series of Twitter polls that Bill summarized in the 2020 Bill James Handbook. Bill then placed players into tiers based on the level of public Twitter support they received.

Inclusion in Tier 1 indicated overwhelming support, Tier 2 was for strongly-supported candidates, Tier 3 was for those who were “credible but marginal.” Those in lower tiers did not have strong support. Walker was a Tier 1 candidate, as the public was strongly behind his candidacy.

The chart below shows the player’s Hall of Fame Value score and what tier of public support he achieved in Support Score.

Hall of Fame Candidates

Name HOF Value Support Score HOF Vote %
Bobby Abreu 596.0 Tier 4 5.5%
Scott Rolen 584.8 Tier 2 35.3%
Todd Helton 562.8 Tier 2 29.2%
Jeff Kent 560.6 Tier 2 27.5%
Andruw Jones 527.2 Tier 2 19.4%
Andy Pettitte 465.2 Tier 3 11.3%
Omar Vizquel 464.4 Tier 3 52.6%
Billy Wagner 292.8 Tier 4 31.7%

From this, we can gauge that the players who could receive a Walker-like boost in future years are those whose candidacies are highly credible and those for whom public sentiment is strong. Four candidates fall into that category.

For Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, and Andruw Jones, the door may be opening up for a future Hall of Fame breakthrough. Vizquel may have a higher percentage of votes than them, but may not get the kind of public push that Walker did. Abreu has strong statistical support for his election, but he has a long way to go both with voters and public perception to be considered Hall-worthy.

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