If Alomar, Why Not Larkin?

Roberto Alomar is going to Cooperstown. Barry Larkin is not. I don’t get it.

They are the very definition of contemporaries. Larkin began his career two years earlier, but they both retired at the end of the 2004 season, having their careers almost entirely overlap. They are both middle infielders with essentially the same exact skillset. Their career lines are practically identical. Seriously.

In 9,057 plate appearances, Larkin hit .295/.371/.444. In 10,400 plate appearances, Alomar hit .300/.371/.443. Their rate statistics are as close as any two players could possibly be over that time period. Alomar was considered a great defensive second baseman. Larkin was considered a very good defensive shortstop. The fact that he could play the more challenging position, and play it well, eliminates any possibility that voters should give Alomar a significant boost for defensive value, as second base is where players who can’t cut it at shortstop go.

Alomar doesn’t have a stronger peak value argument than Larkin either, with five seasons of +5 WAR or more, while Larkin had six such seasons. His very best year was marginally better than Larkin’s very best year, but given that Larkin won the NL MVP in his best season and Alomar never finished higher than third would eliminate that as a potential reason for the voting differences. In fact, we can basically throw at-the-time-they-happened awards voting out the window entirely. Both made the All-Star team 12 times. Alomar landed in the top 20 of MVP voting six times, Larkin five. As mentioned, Larkin actually won of those.

Identical offensive players who participated in the same era. One played the more challenging side of second base, while the other took the easier side. The latter gets in while the former does not. The only explanation is counting stats, while Alomar wins out on because of the extra playing time. He stayed healthier than Larkin – who lost good chunks of his 1989, 1997, and 2011 seasons to injuries – and was thus able to accumulate the equivalent of two extra years worth of at-bats.

However, it’s hard to imagine that the difference in those counting stats is the divider between enshrinement and rejection. Alomar is going in on his second chance, having only been turned away from his initial chance due to the John Hirschbeck incident. He got 90 percent of the vote this year. He’s not considered a borderline case. By most accounts, he’s an easy selection for most voters. He is not being treated like a player who is anywhere near the line that separates in from out. And yet, Larkin had the exact same career, just minus 1,350 trips to the plate that produced no extra value. While the “compiler of stats” label is used as a denigrating term to keep players with long careers and low peaks (such as Lou Whitaker) out of the Hall Of Fame, that is exactly what Alomar’s extra plate appearances amount to.

Congratulations to Roberto Alomar, a deserving Hall-Of-Famer. Hopefully, we can say the same to Barry Larkin next year. They really should have gone in together.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


145 Responses to “If Alomar, Why Not Larkin?”

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  1. Short says:

    Maybe there’s a bonus for spitting on umpires. !@#$@ umpires.

    Note – I think Larkin lost 2011 to oldness, not injury.

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  2. Person says:

    Larkin went from 51% to 62% right? Looks like he’ll get in eventually, although it every year definitely won’t be an 11% jump.

    But I agree Larkin should be in. Then again, I feel that way about Raines, who is getting up but still stuck well below 50%.

    Your prediction of 30% for Bagwell ended up a bit low. That is good. He still only got 42%. Not so good.

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    • BlackSwan says:

      Good point on Raines. His WAR graph is also similar to Alomar’s, but he had the distinction of being an outrageous base stealer in the early 80s. He was the “Pepsi” to Rickey Henderson’s “Coca Cola.” One clearly had the edge, but both were legitimate household names.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        IMHO, the problem with Raines is not Rickey …. it’s Vince Coleman.

        Raines was the “best base stealer in the NL”. Coleman showed up, stole 100 bases in each of his 1st 3 seasons, and made Raines SB totals (70-90) look “not so good”.

        Don;t get me wrong, Raines had a much better career than Coleman (I was not clear on this in a previous discussion), but Raines, henderson, and Coleman are known primarily for Stolen bases.

        Rickey is my all-time favorite player, and even before sabermetrics, I would tell folks that Rickey’s best value is that he walks all the time. I understand how people could think it was the stolen bases, especially after he owned the ALCS against Tornoto.

        IMO, that value has increased in the mainstream. Walks for leadoff guys are very important. That will benefit Raines.

        But, during his career, I think Coleman stole Raines’s thunder, rather suddenly and not so gently.

        Raines’s value will eventually be appreciated for what it was, a HoF worthy career.

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      • Graham says:

        Oh boy – not this argument again. Look, Vince Coleman may have taken attention away from Tim Raines in the 1980; but after the SB torch was passed, Raines had a long and productive career while Vince Coleman threw a lit firecracker at a fan and then watched his career do a pretty good firework impersonation. Twenty years later, Vince Coleman is a non-factor.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        It’s gotta be something. We all agree that via WAR, Raines should be in. Not being as good as the greatest lead-off hitter of all-time isn’t enough to keep anyone out. There has to be more to it than that for why Raines is not appreciated as he should be.

        I have stated three things ….
        [1] Lead-off hitters have traditionally been measured by speed and runs scored.
        [2] Walks are becoming more appreciated.
        [3] Tim Raines was known as the best base stealer in the NL, stealing between 75-90 SBs a season in the early80s. Coleman shows up in the mid 80s and blows that away. Now what is Raines known for? Walks? Not in the mid 1980s.

        [I would add a 4th ... playing in Canada in the early 80s, perhaps the greatest one]

        I find it interesting that Raines made the All-Star team every one of his full seasons from 81-87. Then Coleman took over in 88 and 89. Raines never made another all-star game.

        Dawson left Raines alone in Montreal, Coleman and mates went to 2 WS in 3 years on teams that featured speed and defense.

        Let me repeat.

        NL AS LF 1981-87: Tim Raines
        NL AS LF 1988-89: Vince Coleman

        Coleman made an All-Star team with -0.1 WAR. If you want to talk as if SBs had no affect on the perception of the value of a lead-off hitter … you can. But I think the stats clearly describe it differently. Coleman was better than Raines in only one way.

        I don’t think I could say this is the ONLY reason, because there are others. But to say that Coleman had no affect of the perception of Tim Raines would be inaccurate, IMHO.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Twenty years later, Vince Coleman is a non-factor.

        That’s a strong possibility. I have no idea how much of the mid80s perception remains in the minds of writers. It likely has more to do with playing Canada in the early 80s than anything else. Had Dawson not gone to Chicago (exposure, MVP, etc) he might not be in as well.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I’m trying to figure out just how the perception of Raines changed. I wonder that both because [1] I’m a huge fan of speed guys, and during my youth Henderson and Raines were IT, as evident by Raines being viewed as the best LF in the NL (7 straight AS in early/mid 80s) and Henderson in the AL (8 AS in the 80s), and [2] I don’t want to keep forwarding an idea that may be inaccurate..

        I am talking about “perception” of being the best and not WAR, as it is evident that many voters go by their perception or feel, and not actual value statistics.

        Digging some more, here’s the “facts” (for lack of better term) that I find.

        [1] Raines led the league in SB’s from 81-84.
        [2] All Star from 81-87.
        [3] The expos were basically the same quality of team throughout the decade, ranging from 2nd to 5th, and ranging from 78 to 86 wins per year.
        [4] Raines stops leading the league in SBs.
        [5] Raines stops being an All-Star.
        [6] Galaragga and Dennis Martinez start being the Expos’ rep in the ASG.

        It doesn’t make logical sense to me since Raines is 5th AT in SB and 50th in Runs (2 big categories for leadoff hitters). His team was consistent, so it wasn’t like the team went in the crapper and he was forgotten. So, I’m left looking for something that drastically changed the perception of Raines from being the best LF in the NL to being under-appreciated … and I’m left with Coleman’s 3 unbelievable seasons stealing bases and how big of a deal that was at the time (and how Coleman became the NL AS LF until the Tarp Monster tackled him).

        20 years later, I’m wondering if that perception remains? (Or if it is just my biased memories from the 80s). As a kid/teen in the 80s I remember Raines being “The Stuff” until he wasn’t. He’s got the WAR, he’s got the counting stats (for a leadoff hitter), but he doesn’t have the credit he should, and I’m left trying to figure out why?

        What am I missing?

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      • Greg P says:

        CircleChange,

        One thing you may be missing is that Raines didn’t have any dominating seasons. If one defines HOF-worthiness by dominating for an extended period, Raines falls short despite a high career WAR. He has less than 3 wins above MVP (6 WAR).

        I am not saying I agree with this agrument, but I can understand it.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I understand that. I strongly favor heavy weighting of dominant seasons (WAM), almost to the point of excluding seasons below say, an All-Star level. I haven’t reached that point in my mind. But, i am leaning that way wWAR is a decent compromise (IMO).

        It could be my impression that that is wrong. i am under the impression that through 1987, the thought was that Raines was a certain HoF, and the drug use issue would have been behind him at that point.

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      • Mitchello says:

        Tim Raines also had a cocaine problem which likely hurt his image…

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  3. Larkin will make it eventually, I’m almost certain of it. I’m much more worried about Tim Raines, whose vote trend makes me far more pessimistic.

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    • philosofool says:

      I predict Raines to be the next Blyleven: someone who ulti ately gets in because he is a poster boy for the new thinking about baseball. It will take time, but once Bert is in, we hqve to have a new cause to champion, right?

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      • Graham says:

        Let’s hope so. One thing Raines does have on his side is that his case isn’t going to be diminished by the arrival of any similar players on the ballot. Chris Jaffe often points to the demise of Luis Tiant and Jim Bunning’s HOF candidacies with the ballot arrival of Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Tom Seaver, etc. But in Raines’ case, there really hasn’t been a truly comparable player since, so even when the ballot gets really crowded in 2013-14, he will hopefully continue to stand out.

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      • AustinRHL says:

        The thing is, Graham, that while there may not be any really comparable players to Raines in the glut that will come in a couple of years, many voters are still uncomfortable voting for more than a certain number of players. On these ballots, Raines will be “squeezed out,” and I feel like his career will also look a bit more meager to the vacillators when compared to the considerable number of all-time greats. So I don’t believe that he will continue to “stand out.”

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    • sbmke says:

      Paul Molitor had a much bigger cocaine problem and he made it.

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  4. Bo says:

    Larkin will go in next year or the following year, though probably not with 90% of the vote.

    It still amazes me that nobody has ever been unanimously elected… Any guesses at who the first one will be?

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    • Josh says:

      Maddux has as good a chance as anyone. However, some people refuse to let anyone get a unanimous vote simply because it’s never happened before. Stupid and petty, but real. So inevitably, someone will not vote for Maddux.

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      • Bo says:

        Maddux is the guy that jumps out to me as a possible 100%. If he gets like 97%, I think the other 3% should have their voting privileges withdrawn on the basis of stupidity.

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      • Ben says:

        If memory serves, at least one of the small handful of writers who voted against Ripken did so because he said he was voting against everybody from the steroid era. Assuming that a) he’s still voting b) he hasn’t changed his mind and c) I’m not remembering this incorrectly, then Maddux won’t get 100%. I have to assume he’s going to make an awfully strong push for the highest percentage ever. Then again, many people thought the same about Cal. Maddux certainly seems likely to be the highest vote getter of his generation. If he can’t get in unanimously, I would imagine we’ll have to wait for Pujols to make a serious run at it.

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      • Jason B says:

        I would wager dollars to donuts that no one will *ever* go in unanimously in my lifetime. Not that it matters – a HOF’er is a HOF’er. But still, I can’t imagine it happening for anyone, ever, at least anytime soon. Hell there were five blank ballots turned in this year that we know of.

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      • Raf says:

        I bet someone will hold Maddux’s postseason record against him.

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      • JimNYC says:

        Ok, I’ll say it: I was a big baseball fan for Greg Maddux’ entire career, and he never really impressed me that much. He’s the kind of guy where you look at the stat sheet and it’s unbelievable at the end of the day, but actually watching him pitch, he never seemed particularly great — of course, I’d say that 90% of the times I saw him pitch were in the postseason, but still.

        You watched Pedro Martinez or Randy Johnson in their primes, and you were just blown away by how amazingly awesome they were. Watching Pedro Martinez after Randy Johnson got traded to the Astros, he had the best curveball, best changeup, AND best fastball in the American League — it was an event to see him just demolish the opposition. It was never an event to watch Greg Maddux pitch.

        To be honest, I always thought that Greg Maddux was just David Wells with slightly better control (and, uh, right handed). He has one of the best stat sheets in history, and he’s a no-doubt Hall of Famer. But because I tend to rely more on my eyes than on stat sheets, I can’t see him as a better pitcher than Pedro or Johnson, and, strange as it might seem, he just doesn’t feel like a first-ballot Hall of Famer to me.

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      • Old Hoss says:

        “To be honest, I always thought that Greg Maddux was just David Wells with slightly better control (and, uh, right handed).”

        Clearly scouting ability is not in your blood.

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    • Friedman says:

      Nobody will as long as stanton is voting…

      But assuming he continues the way he is, Pujols has a legitimate shot. If he’s lucky enough to play until he is in his early 40s he’ll have a chance at pretty much every offensive record out there.

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      • Locke says:

        There is zero chance that Pujols goes in as the first ever unanimous vote getter. I would bet my life on that. Some voter some where will think Pujols used PEDs and will not vote for him in his first year of eligibitly. Guaranteed.

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      • Bill says:

        Pujols sweats HGH.

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    • Steve says:

      TEH JETER!!!

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    • philosofool says:

      Randy Johnson? He’s going to the hall on hs first ballot, is second all time in strike outs, four consecutive Cys.

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      • Locke says:

        Didn’t he push a photographer once? That seems like enough to get someone to hold off on voting for him under the character guideline in the voting instructions.

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      • Graham says:

        And he has a well-publicized illegitimate child.

        On another note: anyone want to help start a movement to get the character clause removed; or, that failing, have one inserted into BBWAA membership? The hypocrisy of, say, withholding a vote for Robbie Alomar for a year because of the Hirschbeck incident is mindboggling.

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      • Justin Bailey says:

        Johnson fathered a child out of wedlock? I really did not know that and I have to say I’m shocked. That a woman had sex with Randy Johnson, I mean.

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      • bc says:

        There’s also the bird. We all know he was aiming at it.

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  5. Josh says:

    “The fact that he could play the more challenging position, and play it well, eliminates any possibility that voters should give Alomar a significant boost for defensive value, as second base is where players who can’t cut it at shortstop go.”

    You really give the voters too much credit in regards to defense. Voters don’t care that SS is more challenging than 2B. They care that Alomar had the better defensive reputation.

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    • Drakos says:

      I agree with this thought. I have a feeling that in the eyes of many voters Alomar’s 10 Gold Gloves vs. Larkin’s 3 is all that needs to be said about their defense.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Not to mention Larkin’s defense being compared to Ozzie’s and Alomar’s being compared to ?

        Sometimes players are lookat through the “who they are not” lens, instead of the “who they are” view.

        Not fair, but likely reality.

        Looking at Larkin’s defensive metrics, he is consistently -0.8 to 0.9 WAR, which would put him as basically a league average shortstop defensively (assuming defensive metrics are accurate). 10 positive seasons, 7 negative, 1 right at 0.0. His dWAR for the 3 years he won the Gold Gloves (94-96) is -0.3

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      • AA says:

        As inconsistent as defensive metrics are now, they are as reliable as OPS compared to what existed then.

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      • JimNYC says:

        In my mind there’s a quite obvious answer to why Alomar gets more love than Larkin in the Hall of Fame voting — Alomar was considered THE best player at his position for more than a decade (he was always considered superior to Biggio). Even though he won an MVP award, Larkin was never considered the best SS in baseball — first there was Ripken, then there was the Holy Trinity of Nomar, ARod, and Jeter.

        Also, whenever the discussion of Barry Larkin came up, there was always that “yeah but” lingering around of his constant injuries — seemed like the guy spent most of his career on the DL, so even when he was playing well, he was still considered a disappointment (see also: Griffey’s years with the Reds).

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    • JR says:

      Also, you see a lot more slick-fielding shortstops than you do second basemen. Which could give Alomar’s defense even more cache with voters.

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    • JCA says:

      Unfortunately, I see this all the time on message boards. There are plenty of folks who do not realize or take account for the extra value and difficulty of playing SS well. A very good SS is regarded as a very good defender, while an outstanding 2B is regarded as an outstanding defender without being “penalized” (in their view) for playing the less demanding position.

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    • Ben Hall says:

      I think many people regard second and short as almost equal–as people wanting their defense to be strong “up the middle.” In the same vein, I think most people think second is a much more important defensive position than third. So, as several people have pointed out, Alomar’s defensive reputation means that his value is just considered much higher than Larkin’s. Imagine that WAR graph if Alomar got more weight for playing second and Total Zone thought he was the greatest defensive second baseman of all time. The lines wouldn’t overlap–they’d essentially be parallel.

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      • Exactly. Comparing arguably the greatest defensive second baseman of all time to a very good defensive shortstop in his time makes it difficult to equate WAR across positions in a direct comparison here. With the way Alomar played second, its difficult to argue he was stuck at second as a result of being a terrible shortstop.

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      • JimNYC says:

        Greatest defensive second baseman of all time?

        Bid McPhee would like a word. Also, I think I see Bill Mazeroski waving his hand somewhere in the background.

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  6. Person says:

    Actually, a bit further reading and the consensus seems to be he should get in next year. And I guess if Alomar could get such a huge jump in just one year, maybe Larkin can too.

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    • jsolid says:

      the reason Alomar got such a big jump was from the voters who refused to check his name in his first year, knowing they would vote for him in his second – that stupid unwritten rule that “only the immortals” should get a first-year vote. Larkin has no such bump coming.

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      • philosofool says:

        I kinda like like the immortals first ballot thing actually. I think it will be valuable going forward as the size to the hall continues, necessarily, to expand, to distinguishninner circle guys from fringe members.

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      • Bob says:

        The bump will be because of a lack of candidates and the desire to vote someone in.

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  7. Joe R says:

    Check the link in my name, I estimate Larkin will have a 92% shot of enshrinement. He’ll get in, no doubt.

    I’m more concerned that Edgar’s support dropped in 2011.

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    • JamesDaBear says:

      I’m not concerned about this much at all. Some people had to drop off ballots with Blyleven, Alomar, Larkin, Raines and Morris’ support increasing and Walker, Palmeiro and Bagwell coming on the ballot. Some had to get dropped off. Edgar will be back in a big way next year when there won’t be Blyleven and Alomar on the ballot and only Bernie Williams gets added.

      If the Blyleven people have any integrity, they’ll stay in this fight to keep worthy members in the Hall and work to get Larkin and Edgar in the Hall.

      He might have to wait another 5 years to get another spike in his numbers… which should come after Griffey and Johnson’s induction speeches.

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      • Paul says:

        If the Blyleven people have any ‘integrity’, they’ll…?

        Seems like a very strange turn of phrase to use…

        But I agree that the next year is where the major fight for position occurs, because the years after that the good arguments will be lost in the noise (quality of 1st year guys, steroids etc…) – so if you have any good persuasive arguments, then use them before Dec 31 2011.

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  8. Adam says:

    The writers view a pecking order, which I think is fine. He’ll get in in a year or two.

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  9. James says:

    Alomar had more postseason appearances – could that added exposure have had some impact on his vote percentage? Who knows, trying to rationalize HOF voting is irrational.

    Either way, Alomar and Larkin were arguably the best all around players at their respective positions for a decade, which should be enough for the HOF.

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  10. The Nicker says:

    The WAR graph is a bit misleading because the defensive projections in fWAR have Alomar as average/below average throughout his career, yet he’s considered excellent by most.

    Give him a 5-10 run swing on defensive runs saved each year (if you can imagine what the defensive value assigned to him is, right or wrong) and you might get a better (albeit abstract) view of what the writers were thinking.

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    • fred says:

      That is a good point.

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    • todmod says:

      Agreed, this point is massively overlooked in this article. There’s a difference between having confidence in your defensive metrics and ignoring any possibility that they are wrong.

      Alomar gets a negative fielding rating in 3 of his 4 best offensive seasons. They would look even better if you rate him slightly above average defensively those years.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      Excellent point here. When I looked at his page it says that he had negative defensive value over the course of his career – when many consider him one of the better defensive 2B of all-time! If he was a plus-defender instead of below average, that would shift his WAR above Larkin and would partially explain the varying opinions that people have.

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    • bmt says:

      Derek Jeter has been considered a good defensive shortstop by many too. He even has a few GGs to support the argument. I’m not trying to undermine Alomar’s defense, but to say that the defensive metrics are incorrect because they go against popular opinion is hardly a convincing argument.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        bmt, I think the difference is that Jeter has A LOT of detractors that say he’s average at best, and terrible at worst. Whenever he wins a gold glove, there are articles about how he doesn’t deserve it. Until reading Nicker’s post, I have never heard one single negative about Alomar’s defense. Not from fans, not from players, not from managers, and not from stat guys. So to me, it does seem very weird that the numbers say he’s below average for his career, but nobody questions his gold gloves.

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      • AA says:

        Jeter has never had range and has always been overrated defensively 1) because he plays for the Yankees and 2) because his signature play looks cool.

        On the other hand, Alomar is heavily underrated by TZ. Especially in Toronto. I can’t help but think that metric has a hard time quantifying fielding on turf.

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  11. Kevin says:

    It looks like Larkin will get in with tthe jump in votes he received this year and the weak ballot next year.

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  12. bookbook says:

    The worst outcome this year was that Kevin Brown fell off the ballot. I’m not sure he should be in, yet still.

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    • Joe R says:

      Agreed.
      I would’ve liked to at least see Brown stick around for consideration.

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    • Scout Finch says:

      Enough with the Kevin Brown lobby. Really good pitcher with nasty stuff and nasty attitude. Not a HOF’er.

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    • suicide squeeze says:

      yeah, but if we’re still considering jack morris after 12 years, then we could at least give kevin brown a 2nd year

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    • eric says:

      Oh I don’t know 77.2 WAR isn’t too bad?

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        His rWAR is ~64, 2 WAR behind Rick Reuschel.

        Of the folks that use WAR, I think most folks use the WAR from BRef.

        I don’t think Brown’s career is viewed to be as dominant as fWAR credits.

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      • AustinRHL says:

        Sigh…

        I suspect that you know this, but rWAR can’t be directly compared to fWAR because it uses a higher replacement level. Yes, it likes Brown a little less than Fangraphs’ system does, but 64 rWAR is darned close to “virtual lock” territory. It’s dumb to pick some random guy not elected to the Hall who one system believes is higher than Brown and use that as justification (or misleading “illustration”).

        But of course you’re right that his career wasn’t perceived as being particularly dominant, largely because of timing. Brown wasn’t particularly exceptional until his thirties, so people kind of already had an image in mind of the kind of pitcher he was – good, and reasonably durable, but certainly not Hall-worthy. And then when he was injured multiple times during his big contract, people assumed that he wasn’t worth the money, which seemed wrongly to imply that he wasn’t elite. Also, people are less willing to concede the label of “greatness” to someone as unlikeable as Brown.

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      • AustinRHL says:

        And then throw in the Mitchell Report stuff, and he had long odds to overcome.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        My comments were not without purpose …

        I know the differences between fWAR and rWAR. My main point was that when I see discussions taking place outside of FG, I notice most people use B-Ref as their source, and as a consequence rWAR.

        I’m not debating which is more accurate or not, or which should be used.

        But, the difference of 77 and 64 is huge. 64 WAR is more often considered “borderline” than “virtual lock”. 77 WAR would be virtual lock.

        I picked Reuschel because his name came up in a different conversation and he and Brown had these similar traits, which are under-valued …

        [1] Moderate K-rate
        [2] Low walk rate
        [3] Low HR/9

        In short, they keep guys off base, keep the ball in the park, without striking out a lot of batters.

        Rick Reuschel was no punk. Now, that Blyleven is in the HoF, Reuschel is the pitcher with the highest career WAR, also eligible for the HoF, that is not in. Everyone above him, save perhaps Mussina, is either in the Hof or viewed to be a “1st ballot type”.

        Reuschel at FG has 30 WAR, and that’s only for half of his career … the least dominant half. If FG had WAR for the duration of his career, he may have a higher fWAR than Brown.

        I was not insulting Kevin Brown. Rick Reuschel could pitch, he just didn’t look like he could pitch.

        I certainly hope you were talking to me, or this post isn’t going to make any sense. *grin*

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      • AustinRHL says:

        Yep, I was replying to you. My thinking was that since most people use rWAR, they’ll have a good sense of what a given number means Hall-of-Fame-wise. As I understand it, 64 rWAR translates to something like 69 fWAR, and guys with 69 fWAR (with which I’m more familiar) usually get in, Whitaker notwithstanding. I did say “darned close to virtual lock territory” and not “virtual lock” for a reason – there are plenty of players, particularly pitchers, well above this threshold that voters have a hard time seeing as a Hall of Famer, often for many of the same reasons as Brown, which I think we both understand pretty well.

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  13. Ken says:

    Alomar won 2 World Series and had more postseason appearances and significantly more postseason play with very good postseason numbers and clutch hits. Larkin won 1 World Series and had 1 or 2 other appearances. I’m not saying I agree that this makes the difference, but it certainly deserves mention as a possibility.

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  14. Rally says:

    Alomar gets in because unlike Larkin he was an MVP type player.

    Uh, wait a minute, that’s not right. I got nothin.

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  15. eric says:

    On the other hand, I didn’t like this post about Carson Cistulli:

    http://praiseball.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/im-important-im-on-wikipedia/

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  16. Mike says:

    Larkin was a SS at the same time as A-Rod and Jeter. He’s simply over shadowed.

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  17. PL says:

    This article should read:

    “If Alomar, why not Grich, Whitaker & Randolph?”

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  18. bSpittle says:

    I don’t like this.
    Alomar lacks class, and I have doubts (not evidence) about his career being ped-free.

    Larkin should be in over Alomar.

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    • eric says:

      I think it’s dangerous to make PED claims like this out of thin air, even in this context.

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      • JamesDaBear says:

        I don’t think it’s that dangerous. I think it’s dangerous to cast a ballot for the player until he goes before everyone and says he didn’t AND had no knowledge of his teammates, contemporaries, etc., doing them AND nobody finds sufficient character flaws or outright evidence to show he could be lying.

        Even the “clean” players benefited greatly from playing in an era where most either stuck their heads in the sand and ignored this issue or tried to use it as a bargaining chip. The “clean” players should have stood up for themselves, and they didn’t. They should have stood up for the intergrity of baseball, and they didn’t. Those who never spoke out are complicit in the conspiracy to taint this whole era.

        As an inclusionist who wants most of these guys in the Hall, including most borderline cases, I have a high standard on this because I don’t want to be made a fool later. I’m ok with some of them having to wait.

        I’m giving them all the chance to make good on ruining many great moments of my adolescence and young adult life. The players that do so will gain my respect and advocacy. I won’t feel bad for any of the others that don’t get in.

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      • Wally says:

        You’re only made a fool out of the actions of others if you choose to make yourself one.

        By caring so greatly about the actions of people you drew entrainment from as a child, doing just that, setting yourself up to be a fool. You only compound this issue by believing these people if they stand up and say X or Y.

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    • Josh says:

      I have doubts about the clean-ness of any player between 1990 and 2005. But I won’t discount a single one of them without actual evidence of PED use. And even then, it might not sway my vote (e.g., I might have voted for McGwire).

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  19. NEPP says:

    The injuries and health issues are keeping Larkin down. He’ll get in soon enough (I’d guess in 2-3 years probably). Honestly though, that’s why.

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  20. Jason says:

    Whitaker needs more attention. Why was he so easily dismissed? Did he personally knock on the voter’s doors armed with Watchtower propaganda? It’s crazy!

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  21. aweb says:

    Two full years of playing time extra, even if it had minimal value, is nothing to sneeze at – that’s how players make it to the HoF, except in rare special cases.

    If Larkin had been able to stay healthy and play full seasons, he’s have had a lot better chance at being in already. He missed 20+ games every year except 1988, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2002. Throw in some mediocre teams not driving him in, and he rarely reached in-season milestones (100 runs twice, 50 SB once). As a result, he was often the “if he could stay healthy for a full season” afterthought to SS discussions. Deserving in retrospect, yes, but exactly the profile of a guy where retrospect is required.

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    • Pete says:

      “(Larkin) missed 20+ games every year except 1988, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2002″ In ’94, Larkin played in 110 games, but remember the strike – the Reds only played 112.

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    • NEPP says:

      Exactly. He’ll still get in but that time off is clearly hurting him with the voters.

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  22. Jason says:

    All of this shows how people tend to put too much stock on their unreliable memories and too little credence to standards of measurement that are more objective in nature. The Gold Gloves award is so arbitrary.

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  23. jason461 says:

    Larkin did not win the MVP in his best season. It was more like his 5th or 6th best season. Not that it matters, but in the interest of accuracy and nit-picking…

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  24. Pete says:

    Barry Larkin is a Hall of Famer, and it’s a shame he’s not yet recognized as such.

    This, though, is not correct: “And yet, Larkin had the exact same career, just minus 1,350 trips to the plate that produced no extra value.” Those extra 1350 PA produced significant value – they were the same rate stats as Larkin’s career numbers. Unless you think Larkin, on average, was replacement level at the plate.

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  25. Matt says:

    “Alomar landed in the top 20 of MVP voting six times, Larkin five. As mentioned, Larkin actually won of those. ”

    Off topic but probably the most effective typo I’ve ever seen. :)

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  26. JayT says:

    I think that Larkin should get in, but it wouldn’t be automatic to me. He played two more years then Alomar, and yet had two full season’s worth of at bat’s less then Alomar. At some point just being there means a lot to me when I think about how good a player is.

    Larkin averaged ~114 games per year, Alomar averaged ~140. What kinds of players did hte Reds have to run out there in all the games Larkin missed? One quick example is 1997. Larkin missed a bunch of time, but still put up a good 3.1 WAR, but when he wasn’t playing short, Pokey Reese was, and he had a negative WAR.

    I don’t think that the durability issues are enough to keep Larkin out, but I also don’t think he was as good as Alomar.

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  27. Rudy Gamble says:

    Wondered the same thing of why Alomar and not Larkin.

    My take on http://razzball.com/alan-trammell-barry-larkin-roberto-alomar-2011-hall-of-fame/ is:

    1) Alomar played on more 90+ win teams.

    This gave him a boost in MVP voting. He was in 5 top 10s compared to Larkins 2 top 10s. This also gave him more press coverage than he would otherwise given he starred on mid-market teams.

    2) The last 30 years saw an unprecedented boom in SS

    “…we have seen the best post-WWII SS (Cal Ripken), the best fielding SS ever (Ozzie Smith), the best peak SS (Alex Rodriguez top years edge Ernie Banks), the first two shortstops to reach 3,000 hits (Ripken, Jeter soon enough), and that doesn’t include great players like 2-time MVP Robin Yount (one at SS), one-time MVP Miguel Tejada or Nomar Garciaparra (6 seasons of 5.9+ WAR).)….There have been good 2Bs in the past 30 years (Ryne Sandberg, Jeff Kent, Chase Utley, Lou Whitaker) but they do not cast nearly the same shadow.”

    The above two things also hurt Trammell’s case.

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  28. Jurgen says:

    Larkin is gonna play this season?

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  29. OzzieGuillen says:

    I agree their rate statistics are remarkably similar, but fame counts. Alomar was a more popular and famous player than Larkin, and that will always factor into the voting…especially since the Hall of Fame has the word fame in its name.

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    • NEPP says:

      Alomar was widely recognized as the best player at his position for a solid decade…Larkin never had that type of run so Alomar gets in on year 2 instead of Larkin (who will likely get in by Year 4-5). Thus, Alomar gets in fast. Hell, Alomar would have likely gotten in on the 1st ballot had he not spit in an umps face.

      Now on to Trammell…lets get him in already!

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  30. Half Eaten Oreo says:

    The difference was defense. If Alomar’s defensive reputation matched his defensive stats he would probably get in with or even after Larkin like their WAR graphs seemed to indicate it should happen. But there is a massive gulf between Almar’s rep (one of the best ever) and his stats (about average).

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    • NEPP says:

      Well, considering the issues that we all recognize with defensive metrics (the multiple arguments) we could consider that he was one of the best ever.

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  31. Carl says:

    The biggest character issue with Roberto Alomar is not the spitting incident. It’s the question of whether he knowingly gave at least two women (his wife and his ex-girlfriend) HIV. That’s f%&#ed up beyond all recognition if he did. Worse than gambling on baseball, I’d say.

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    • AA says:

      And no one actually knows if he did that. He has vehemently denied it.

      As for the spitting incident, there are two sides to that story. Hirschbeck, if you believe what everyone who was there has said, was at least as at fault.

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  32. Breadbaker says:

    Alomar won the 1991 Gold Glove in the AL. Look at his stat line compared to Harold Reynolds’. They are essentially identical in everything except one statistic: double plays. Reynolds had about 50 more. Alomar got his Gold Gloves because of a reputation for making flashy plays.

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    • AA says:

      Have you compared pitching staffs, stadia, shortstops, etc. Indeed, Reynolds had Omar Vizquel, which probably helped just a little. Alomar? The oh-so-fondly-remembered Manuel Lee. The Seattle staff that year, including a not quite what he became Randy Johnson, allowed tons of guys on base. Which means more chances for DPs. On the other hand, the Blue Jays didn’t have a starting pitcher with a WHIP over 1.228.

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  33. steve mc says:

    as for the title topic if not larkin, why not Trammell? most similar comps from baseball reference and stats a very similar.
    Larkin in the media on mlb network getting fawned over since dec/09 and jan/10 by the cast on the station and they completely ignore Trammell as hof worthy? What are they afraid of, saying something good about the Tiger and thinking it will take votes away from larkin. They both should go in but the vote percentages disparity makes me scratch my head.

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  34. Jay Levin says:

    “The fact that he could play the more challenging position, and play it well, eliminates any possibility that voters should give Alomar a significant boost for defensive value, as second base is where players who can’t cut it at shortstop go.”

    This is generally the case but not for Alomar. I think there is a pretty broad consensus that Alomar would have made a fine shortstop. He certainly had the arm and the range for it.

    As for your main question, WAR holds that Alomar was a weak defender for much of his career, -34 runs over 1991-1997, which is completely at odds with his reputation. That is the reason why public perception doesn’t match your WAR graph.

    Having said that, I think the real answer here is that Alomar was the more memorable player for most. He was arguably the best player on two different powerhouse teams, separated by several years, and Gold Gloves count for a lot at the skill positions.

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  35. Kevin J says:

    My thoughts exactly. If Larkin, why not Trammell. Their careers are probably more similar than Alomar and Larkin’s. In my book all 3 are very HOF worthy especially when you look at the shortstops in past generations who have made it (Phil Rizzuto for instance). All 3 were elite fielder’s and great offensive middle infielders. Anyway with next years HOF ballot very weak with newcomers I hope Larkin and Timmy Raines make it. By the looks of it Trammell will have to wait a few more years. Happy New Year.

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    • Jason B says:

      “especially when you look at the shortstops in past generations who have made it (Phil Rizzuto for instance)”

      Again, let’s put this bad argument to rest. Don’t compound past mistakes by repeating them. Compare to the *average* HOF’er at a given position, not the lowest denominator.

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  36. Kevin J says:

    Going back 10-12 years remember when Tejada, ARod, Nomar, Jeter, Ripken were at the top of their careers, Trammell was definitely overshadowed. Nomar faded. Miggy was a juicer while Trammell just kept on ticking for 20 great years. Trammell is a baseball lifer, eventually he will get his proper due. BTW I’m bummed Harold Baines got bumped. 2866 hits, 1628 RBI and zero controversies. Like Tommy John and Jim Kaat, Baines put up his number with longetivity but should longetivity be a negative. No way. Baines, John and Kaat are all HOF’ers in my book.

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    • IHateJoeBuck says:

      The biggest knock against Trammell is Ozzie Smith. Ozzie was a great fielder, with no offensive ability, but he did back flips so he got media attention. Trammell was a very good hitter and good defensively. I would have taken Trammell over Ozzie any day.

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      • AA says:

        Ozzie was the single best defensive player in the history of baseball. That means something.

        And I wouldn’t take Trammell over Ozzie.

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  37. CircleChange11 says:

    I was at US Cellular for Harold Baines Day. Not surprisingly, it was a very short speech.

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  38. pft says:

    Domestic violence, allegations of infecting partners with HIV, spitting incident, steroid allegations. Hmm. Anyways, Alomar deserves the HOF based on what he did on the field, as do some others who were unfortunate enough to hit too many HR’s, or bet on some games.

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    • NEPP says:

      As we all know…an allegation makes it true. Especially when said allegation is against a famous person. I mean, there has NEVER been a case of someone trying to make money by making a BS false allegation against a pro athlete.

      Basically, your stupid comment is stupid.

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  39. Clifford says:

    Hey dumb asses Rogower and Godfrey,

    Alomar will elected to the HOF on his second attempt and was named on more than 90% of the voters’ ballots.

    Is Alomar still being punished for “disobeying white authority,” as you termed his failure to be elected last year and the possibility that the spitting incident played a role?

    I hope now you realize that racism had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Alomar wasn’t elected last year. HOF voters only put the best of the best, and the cleanest of the clean, in on the first ballot. Alomar still got 70% last year, and this year eclipsed 90% even though he made a mistake when he spit on Hirschbeck.

    Let’s stop with this idiocy of calling individuals racist even though the supposedly racist decision was rational, well-considered, and decent, stops immediately.

    Just because a certain outcome was reached regarding a person of color doesn’t mean that the color of his/her skin was the determining factor in the result.

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  40. Nightrider says:

    Don’t tell me if Alomar, why not Larkin. Both should not be in. That primadonna
    Alomar, spitting in an ump’s face, playing like he was in sandlot baseball in the ghetto. Bad character if you ask me. Larkin, always allowing himself to be injured so he should get no votes for ‘what if.’ Blyleven is a good choice, a workhorse for mostly non-contending teams and still came out with a bunch of victories. Palmeiro was definitely steroid material so he should not be in, he with his 500+ homers put guys like Aarron, Williams, Mays, Snider, Mantle to shame. If you want to go back on some deserving guys, check out Roger Maris and Jackie Jensen.

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  41. lmaozedong says:

    lol.
    “Allowing himself to be injured”–are you a troll?

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  42. CircleChange11 says:

    If Alomar, why not Larkin?

    If Larkin, why not X?

    If X, why not Y?

    If Y, why not Z?

    Where does it end? Actually, it ends at “Z” because that’s the 26th letter, but you know what I mean.

    If we rank player, in order, by WAR … there is very little separation between the player above and below. The separation could easily be described as minor differences in randomness or the bias/fluctuations in defensive metrics, etc.

    There not appear to ever be a clear line (WAR gap) to draw the line. So, while these discussions are interesting (BTW, Robbie and Barry are both “Yes”), there’s simply no clear end to the “If A, why not B?” argument, until we get to the point where BJ Surhoff is getting real HoF votes, and not just hometown ones.

    I said this elsewhere, but someone has to be the “best player not in the HoF”, just as someone has to be the “worst player in the HoF”, and there are very good chances that the differences between those 2 players in minimal (actually I think we can safely state that there are players not in the HoF that are better than some players in the HoF).

    No matter what system is in place, there will always be very little difference between the worst guy in and the best player out. This is why I think it has to be a “small HoF”, otherwise there is no separation between the “in” and “out” guys in the 50-70WAR range, and there are A LOT of them. Throw in the 40 WAR guys that the voters elect and now any player from 40-70WAR can say “Hey I have as many WAR as him, why not me?”

    It might make for an interesting discussion to have an article/debate between authors as to “where to draw the line?”

    I said in another thread that Reuschel and Brown are the two pitchers with the highest WAR that are not in the HoF. I am fine with them not being elected. The difference between them and Blyleven is insurmountable. I am especially fine with them not being in if it means Morris does not get in. But, if Morris gets in with 40 WAR, then the system, as we view it through the WAR lense, is busted.

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  43. Paul says:

    I think Larkin is a deserving HoF and gets in next year.

    But the whole point of the OP comparing Alomar to Larkin using the WAR graph to say they are the same value can actually hurt the impression of WAR for the non-initiated.

    The idea is to show that Larkin = Alomar;
    The outcome is that the reader trusts defensive metrics even less than before

    e.g. the curious BBWAA voter wants to do some research, has a reasonable open mind to new measures of player value including defence (such as WAR, notwithstanding the fWAR vs. rWAR issue) and sees this post.

    (S)/He knows from the bballref page and from watching the players play that Alomar wasn’t injured as much (played more than Larkin), and played ackowledged great defense at a premium position (ok SS>2B but 2B is ‘up the middle) yet the WAR graphs seem to indicate that Alomar/Larkin is a wash. Reading further, it is because Alomar is penalised for his defense.

    Something doesn’t equate in the voters mind. Either the measurement is off, or Alomar was a defensive negative despite all the prasie during his career and the GG (this is not a Jeter situation).

    To answer the OP’s Question, take the WAR graph, add some credit to Alomar for not being as injured and having more PA, and take the Alomar Defensive Subtratction away giving you a result in the voters mind that Alomar was a Hof on the 2nd ballot (should have been 1st); and Larkin, goes in on his 3rd try (maybe 2nd if RA and BB got their deserved votes last year)

    Simples

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  44. Kendall says:

    Hey Justin—I’m shocked that you are shocked! Randy will be first ballot in the Hall, there’s no doubt of that. I’m shocked that a woman may (or may not) may have sex with you…(just kidding) But there are WORSE people than Randy for a woman to have sex with… (Bonds comes to mind)

    Anyway—–sorry to hear that Tino didn’t get in this year…hopefully he will next year. Doubt on Larkin…might have to wait for the Veteran’s vote. I also don’t think that Roger (Fizzled out Rocket) Clemens will EVER get in….if he does, then they need to put Rose in!

    Rose bet on baseball—-geeze it happens even in the NFL…minor crime

    Clemens————–STEROIDS…..hmm to me that’s the worse crime here

    Anyone to debate that??

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  45. midwest says:

    What about Orel Hershiser

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  46. J.Ro says:

    This argument has been danced around a little, but isn’t it a big difference that Alomar was perceived as the best 2B of his era, while Larkin shared the spotlight at SS with Ripken and Ozzie, and then Jeter, Nomar, A-Rod, and Tejada? Sure, maybe Larkin or any of those guys could have been as good or better at 2B than Alomar. But I think voters heavily reward being known as the best at your position, and rarely, if ever, think about converting value between positions like that.

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  47. Jeff Wise says:

    I’m quite upset that Edgar’s numbers went down this year.

    The stinkin Seattle sports writer didn’t even vote for Edgar. He really needs to cover a different team or possibly ice fishing in northern Canada.

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  48. R says:

    “However, it’s hard to imagine that the difference in those counting stats is the divider between enshrinement and rejection.”

    Why is that hard to imagine?

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  49. spud77 says:

    The votes that went to Alomar this year will go to Larkin next. The difference is that Alomar is one of the top 3-5 2b of all time. Larkin is farther down the all-time depth chart at short.

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  50. Alex Batlle says:

    Can someone at FanGraphs please put together an analysis showing what production the Cincinnati Reds actually got out of their shortstop position during Larkin’s career? It seems like his Hall of Fame case is being made on nice rate stats like his OPS being .815 when he actually played. However, he was hurt so much that his team actually received a full yr of that kind of production (.815+) for 145+ games three times (1996, 1998 & 1999) in 19 seasons. I just cant see how this equates to a Hall of Fame career. If you remove his first couple of seasons and last 4 seasons, because most players experience wild fluctuations in games played in those years (leaving 1988-2000 as his “prime”)- what did the Reds actually get? I was hoping to see what “larkin+reserve shortstop” actually meant for the Reds. My guess is that this will show that Larkin’s injuries caused the Reds to get significantly less value out of their shortstop position than is reflected by the back of Barry Larkin’s baseball card. This could make an interesting discussion as to whether Larkin has a legitimate case for the hall, or whether he was yet another guy whose chance was derailed by injuries. I have yet to see any significant adjustments or cogent discussions around the fact that 13 years of HoF performance over 19 years played simply might not be helping a team that much. Having nice rate stats when he did actually play is great for Barry, but what was his team getting? One might argue that this puts too much weight on whomever the Reds had as the backup shortstop during this era, which was not under Larkin’s control. My view is that the Reds likely didn’t invest much in a backup (I have not substantiated this) SS BECAUSE OF the significant hopes riding on, and $ investment in, Larkin. It likely makes sense to make adjustments such as only adding the backup SS statistics through whatever the average amount of games played is for an established starting shortstop on an annual basis (145-150?), or adding in years from the nose and tail of his career to match the ages of production from typical starting shortstops of his era. I imagine that the resultant stats will likely remain high for shortstops, especially compared to his era, but they probably would lose a good amount of their shine. What the team actually receives in production from the player’s position should be the gauge in a tough case like this. Larkin might be a good test case for using an analysis like this in HoF debates going forward.

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