I mean seriously? Walker’s parents must have been pretty Brady Bunch quirky to name their children Larry, Gary, Cary and Barry. Larry I get — it was a big deal back in the day for the first born son to take his fathers name (heck I’m a third). And it’s merely coincidence that Larry married Marry — but seriously, how obnoxious do you have to be to rhyme all your kids’ names? Could you imagine introducing them at a party or school function? Blech.
While naming your kids ridiculous things (Apple?) is all fun and games, Walker’s career was seriously awesome.
No season would be more serious than his 1997 campaign: .366/.452/.720 with 49 HRs, 33 SBs and only eight caught stealings. Certainly, combined, it was a fine year, but his highest batting average (.379) and OBP (.459) would come in 1999. In fact, from 1997-2001, he would bat over .350 four times and over .360 three times.
Think I’m cherry picking some years to make him sound more phenomenal than he was?
Well, Walker has the 38th best average (.313) by a left-handed batter in major league history — tied with two others. He has the 46th highest OBP in MLB history – a sublime .400 – just .001 behind Ricky Henderson – but ahead of Joe DiMaggio, Cap Anson and many others. Walker is also tied for 15th all time with a .565 slugging percentage — ahead of Stan Musial, Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Mike Piazza, Frank Robinson and many others. Combine those two stats and you get the 17th highest OBP + SLG, which equals OPS, at .965. That number is higher than Alex Rodriguez, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Gary, Cary, Barry and on and on.
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. Not surprisingly he posted two of the top 21 highest OPS seasons by a left-handed batter – trailing only seasons by Bonds, Ruth, Williams and Gehrig.
Finally, he is tied with Carlton Fisk for 69th in wins above replacement (WAR) — ahead of the likes of Eddie Murray, Pee Wee Reese, Craig Biggio, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Gary Sheffield and Mark McGwire.
Of course, it’s hard to parse out the Coors effect and how that improved his numbers. But, if you remember, from ages 22 – 27, he played for Montreal and would accumulate a pretty decent line: .281/.357/.483. Sure it was super helpful to have played in Coors during his relative prime, but kudos to him for taking absolute full advantage of it. Ultimately, his career compares favorably to Vlad Guerrero, Duke Snider, DiMaggio and Ellis Burks. And, clearly, you could argue that he had one of the most devastating bats from the left-side in MLB history.
Quite simply, it’s amazing to me how many Hall of Famers his career is similar or better than. He is up for the first time for enshrinement this coming year along with first-timers Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Kevin Brown and Juan Gonzalez. I’m betting he doesn’t get in, but I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if he and Bagwell (and perhaps Kevin Brown) enter Cooperstown.
For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.