Barry Larkin for the Hall of Fame!

I sponsor Barry’s Larkin’s page at BaseballReference.com and on it I have the message “It’s time to begin the Hall of Fame campaign!” Through a variety of sources, I’ve put together the following reasons why Barry Larkin deserves to be recognized as one of the greatest shortstops ever, and a worthy member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

From BBRef’s stats page:

· Elected to the All-Star team 12 times
· 1995 National League MVP
· 3 Gold Gloves (he unfortunately shared a good bit of his prime with Ozzie Smith, otherwise he would surely have won more)
· 9 time National League Silver Slugger Award as the best hitting shortstop
· Top 10 finishes in NL:
  AVG, 4 Times
  OBP, 3 Times
  Slg%, 2 Times
  OPS, 2 Times
  Runs, 4 Times
  Hits, 3 Times
  SB, 5 Times

Keep in mind, too, when reviewing his offensive production that he was a shortstop when shortstops weren’t expected to hit the way they do now, and most of his career was before the offensive explosion of the late 90s.

In The New Bill James Historical Abstract, James ranks Larkin as the 6th greatest shortstop of all time (through the end of the 2000 season), saying in part:

Larkin is one of the ten most complete players in baseball history. He’s a .300 hitter, has power, has speed, excellent defense, and is a good percentage player. He ranks with DiMaggio, Mays and a few others as the most well-rounded stars in baseball history…

HardballTimes.com ranks Larkin as the 72nd greatest player of all time (all positions), saying:

I wonder how the voters will handle Larkin’s Hall of Fame qualifications? Really, they should be unassailable. He had a long, productive and consistent career and had a number of peak seasons too. He was a great fielder, had fine speed, won an MVP and was an upstanding person and role model. He stole 51 bases in 1995 and hit 33 home runs in 1996. I’d suggest we start the campaign, but no campaign is really needed.

Rob Neyer of ESPN.com said in an interview apparently no longer on the web:
“Larkin’s one of the six or eight greatest shortstops ever, and I just can’t imagine the [Hall of Fame] voters will miss something so obvious. ” (Quote provided by Michael Howes on the Cincinnati Reds Mailing List)

Compared to other shortstops:

· Larkin played more games at shortstop than all but four shortstops currently in the Hall of Fame
· Although one of the knocks on Larkin was his lack of durability, Larkin ties for the most seasons in which shortstop was a player’s main position
· Further refuting that argument, Larkin played more games at shortstop than all but two HOF shortstops, and those were deadball era players, when the position was likely much less demanding
· In terms of productivity, seven shortstops in the Hall of Fame had higher OPS+ rates (on-base plus slugging, adjusted for league production and home field) than Larkin, but only two of those played shortstop more than 2/3rds of their career. And of those two, both retired early, skipping much or all of their decline phases, which would have brought down their OPS+ rate. Research by Steve Price of Cincinnati Reds Mailing List)

HardballTimes has another article by Aaron Gleeman titled simply “Larkin for the Hall?“. Some excerpts:

During his entire career, the average shortstop hit just .256/.317/.361, while Larkin hit .295/.371/.444 — an OPS difference of 20.2%. Very few players dominate a position like that for so long and only two big-name shortstops from the past 30 years have out-performed the rest of the position offensively more than Larkin did. … Also keep in mind that while Rodriguez and Garciaparra are ahead of Larkin on the above list, they have yet to go through their decline phases, which as Larkin learned, will bring down your career numbers. Plus, Rodriguez may never again be an everyday shortstop and has only 1,269 games there in his career, while Garciaparra has just 968 career games at shortstop. Larkin played the position in 2,085 games.

In the same article, he points out that Larkin is ranked third best shortstop of all-time by Runs created over position (essentially the player in question compared to an average player at the position in the time he played). More Gleeman:

I think two things become immediately clear from the above rankings: 1) Honus Wagner was a beast of epic proportions; and 2) Larkin is an elite offensive shortstop if there ever was one. And with three Gold Gloves and a reputation for good defense that lasted until his final few seasons, Larkin was certainly no slouch defensively either.

Larkin ranks eighth all-time in Batting Win Shares among shortstops and 23rd all-time in Fielding Win Shares. His total Win Shares ranking of eighth among shortstops is made to look less impressive by the fact that guys like Cal Ripken Jr. and Robin Yount accumulated tons of Win Shares at non-shortstop positions later in their careers.

(Link provided by Michael Howes on the Cincinnati Reds Mailing List)

Larkin’s “problem” might be the “Jack of All Trades” syndrome. He was so good at so many aspects of the game, without being a standout at any one of them. For example, Mark McGwire was a home run hitter who drew a lot of walks, but couldn’t play defense well and might lose a footrace to me. But until the steroids scandal blew up in his face, he was considered a no doubt about it Hall of Famer. Larkin is the opposite type player. All-around great play, but nothing obviously outstanding.

For example, Larkin was an excellent at stealing bases with 379 stolen bases in his career, only being caught 77 times, for an outstanding success rate of 83.1%. Unfortunately, he never lead the league, so his stolen bases don’t stand out. (His career high was 51 in 1995, but he finished second in the league that year to Quilvio Veras of the Florida Marlins.)

Take a look at where he stands on some career productions lists:
· 81st all-time in SB (379)
· 83rd all-time in 2B (441)
· 91st all-time in Runs (1329)

Remember, he’s a shortstop. Compared to shortstops with over 3000 plate appearances:
· Larkin hit .295, the 17th highest mark ever for a SS.
· Larkin hit 198 HR, the 5th highest total ever for a SS.
· Larkin had 960 RBI, the 12th highest total ever for a SS.
· Larkin scored 1329 Runs, the 6th highest total ever for a SS.
· Larkin had 379 SB, the 10th highest total ever for a SS.
· Larkin produced 3527 Total Bases, the 3rd highest total ever for a SS.
· Larkin reached base safely 3344 times, the 7th highest total ever for a SS.
· Larkin produced a .815 OPS, the 12th highest ever for a SS.
(Above stats provided in an email to the Society for American Baseball Research email list, forwarded to the Reds mailing list by Brian Lepley.)

Take the above stats, plus the universally accepted good defense (until he started declining at the end of his career), add them up and they spell, “DUH!”

Barry Larkin is a no doubt about it Hall of Famer.