Walker HOF Struggle Looms Over Helton
Todd Helton began his professional baseball career and ended it with the same organization – the Rockies. His number 17 was the first number of a Rockies player to be retired. Now he is in line to find his name on the Hall of Fame ballot that will be sent to veteran members of the Baseball Writers Association of America next December.
Will he be elected? Not on the first ballot. And as things stand right now it will be difficult on any of the 10 times he will be eligible without a major change in the attitude the bulk of BBWAA members have about Coors Field.
Ask Larry Walker.
Understand, I see both of them as Hall of Fame players. No debate on my part, but there are more than 500 voters so the decision extends past me.
That said, if the knock on Walker that he played home games at Coors Field with the Rockies is going to keep him from the Hall of Fame then Helton’s candidacy is in jeopardy, too.
How big a challenge has Walker faced? Well, in this, his eighth year on the ballot, Walker received support from a personal best 34.1 percent of the voters, an increase of 12.2 percent from a year ago, and 11.2 percent from 2012, his previous highest vote total.
Walker Year By Year Hall of Fame support Support (75 percent required for induction)
Voters argue his stats are the creation of Coors Field, and he did dominate at Coors Field, but he played two months less than 10 seasons with the Rockies out of a 17-year big-league career, and he did hit .2780 on the road, which is higher than the road average for 34 of the 126 Hall of Famers who had a minimum of 1,500 career at-bats on the road. Walker, in fact, had only 30.6 percent of his career at-bats at Coors Field. Helton played home games at Coors Field his entire career.
PlayerAVG Player (cont.)AVG
Larry Walker.27803Reggie Jackson.268
Sources: Stats, Inc.
That, however, is ignored by voters, who have created an image of Coors Field as a bogeyman. They have overlooked Walker despite the fact he was a five-time All-Star, including four times as a member of the Rockies. He won three battle titles. He was the 1997 NL MVP. And in voting by coaches and managers he earned seven Gold Gloves, and three Silver Slugger awards.
And he reaches Hall of Fame level in various methods featured on Baseball-reference.com:
Hall of Fame Statistics
Batting – 24 (86), Average HOFer ≈ 27
Batting – 116 (180), Average HOFer ≈ 144
Batting – 148 (94), Likely HOFer ≈ 100
Batting – 58 (44), Average HOFer ≈ 50
Right Field (10th):
72.6 career WAR / 44.6 7yr-peak WAR / 58.6 JAWS
Average HOF RF (out of 24):
73.2 career WAR / 43.0 7yr-peak WAR / 58.1 JAWS
Helton, meanwhile, did hit .287 on the road, nine points higher than Walker, but had 142 home runs and 547 RBI outside Coors Field compeared to 227 home runs and 859 RBI while hitting .345 at Coors Field.
Helton was a five-time All-Star, who won one batting title, finished a career-best fifth in MVP voting in 2000, was a three-time Gold Glove winner, and four time winner of a Silver Slugger Award.
And Helton, like Walker, does have Hall of Fame type levels in the comparisons included by Baseball-reference.com:
Hall of Fame Statistics
Batting – 16 (149), Average HOFer ≈ 27
Batting – 143 (107), Average HOFer ≈ 144
Batting – 175 (61), Likely HOFer ≈ 100
Batting – 59 (38), Average HOFer ≈ 50
First Base (14th):
61.2 career WAR / 46.4 7yr-peak WAR / 53.8 JAWS
Average HOF 1B (out of 20):
66.4 career WAR / 42.7 7yr-peak WAR / 54.6 JAWS