Larry Walker was this year’s 2nd largest HOF gainer, but time is running out

226553.jpg.0 - Larry Walker was this year’s 2nd largest HOF gainer, but time is running out

Former MVP outfielder up to 54.6% in penultimate BBWAA ballot

It took nearly a decade, but Baseball Writers Association of America voters are finally coming around on Larry Walker. The longtime Expos and Rockies outfielder made the largest strides of any player returning on the 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, but he needs a lot more support to make it to Cooperstown.

Walker was named on 232 of the 425 ballots revealed on Tuesday, his 54.6% of the vote a huge increase from his 34.1% in 2018. The only player who made a larger jump was Mike Mussina, who saw a 21.9% jump in getting elected to Cooperstown.

But this year was Walker’s ninth year on the ballot, meaning he has just one more year of eligibility left to be elected by the BBWAA. Final-year pushes have vaulted two players into the Hall of Fame in the last three years, with Edgar Martinez getting inducted in his 10th and final season this year and Tim Raines getting the call in 2017.

There is a lot of work yet to be done for Walker. He gained an astonishing 49 votes from returning voters from 2018 to 2019, per Ryan Thibodoux and his Hall of Fame tracker, but Walker remains 87 votes shy of induction.

Walker hit .313/.400/.565 with 383 home runs and 471 doubles in his career, winning the National League MVP in 1997. He was an excellent defensive outfielder too, winning seven Gold Glove Awards. Walker played in the offensive mecca of Coors Field for 10 of his 17 seasons, which included three batting titles while in Colorado. But after adjusting for park and league, Walker’s career 141 OPS+ is tied for 28th in the integration era (1947-present), tied with Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, for instance.

Hypothetically, if in the 2020 voting Walker gains the same support from new voters (six of eight), and the total number of ballots remains the same, he’d need a net gain of 81 voters to get to the required 75%.

It’s a long shot.

“Not making it isn’t going to knock me down. I haven’t built myself up to be (knocked) down,” Walker told Shi Davidi of SportsNet on Jan. 12. “I don’t feel like I’m a Hall of Famer, which makes it easy for me to accept if I don’t make it. That’s how I feel about it, as crazy as it sounds.”

Other gainers

Fred McGriff had the third-largest gain on this year’s ballot behind Mussina and Walker, earning 39.8%, up from 23.2% in 2018. Sadly for McGriff, this was his final try on the writers’ ballot, and will need to get the nod from the veteran’s committee if he is ever going to get the Cooperstown call. This was a high-water mark on the BBWAA ballot for McGriff, who hit 493 home runs in his 19 major league seasons, with a 134 OPS+.

Martinez, one of four players inducted to Cooperstown this year, got 85.4% of the vote, up 15% points from 2018. Other gainers included Curt Schilling (up 9.7%) and Scott Rolen (up 7%).

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