Barry Larkin – Hall Bound?
Growing up watching Barry Larkin play I can remember his entire 19 year career with the Reds include 12 all star appearances, 3 gold gloves, a career .295/.371/.444, and 397 steals with only 77 caught stealing for an impressive 84% steal percentage. He would retire with 9 silver slugger awards, 441 doubles and 198 home runs. More important for his bid into Cooperstown is how he performed in clutch situations. He hit 338/.397/.465 in his postseason career and .353/.421/.529 in the World Series, along with 8 steals in 9 attempts.
While these numbers may sound Cooperstown worthy at first glance, there is one unfortunate kink in Barry’s armor that could hold him back from making it, perennial injuries. Appearing in 145 games only 4 times and 125 games only 8 times, Larkin would retire with a career average of 119 games played per year. To put it into perspective, Cal Ripken Jr appeared in 610 more games with 2,828 more at-bats then Larkin in those same 19 years.
With that said, Larkin’s absenteeism did not matter in 1995 when he was awarded an MVP award when in only 131 games played he hit .319/.394/.492 with 98 runs scored, 29 doubles, 15 home runs and 51 stolen bases in only 56 attempts. Although he essentially missed 4 full seasons to injury, his numbers hold their own in comparison to current Hall of Fame shortstops.
Compared to the 22 current Hall of Fame shortstops Larkin holds his own. While he may not compare to elite offensive shortstops like Honus Wagner, Ernie Banks and Robin Yount, he does compare well to the second tier offensive players like Luke Appling .310/.399/.398, Lou Boudreau .295/.380/.415, Joe Cronin .301/.390/.468 and Joe Sewell .312/.391/.413. He also compares well to the speedy and defensive shortstops like Luis Aparicio .262/.311/.343 with 505 stolen bases and 9 gold gloves, Ozzie Smith .262/.337/.328 with 580 stolen bases and 14 gold gloves, Rabbit Maranville .258/.318/.340 with 291 stolen bases, and Pee Wee Reese .269/.366/.377 with 231 stolen bases.
Offensively, Barry Larkin would fall between the elite and the second tier. His 198 career home runs and 397 stolen bases are in the top 5 amongst current Hall of fame shortstops and his average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, and runs batted in are in the top 10. It is worth mentioning the integrity and character of Barry Larkin, a winner of both the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award and Roberto Clemente Award.
Another factor in determining whether or not Barry Larkin will make it into Cooperstown is the weakness of the next few Hall of Fame classes. The 2010 class features Roberto Alomar, Kevin Appier, Andy Ashby, Ellis Burks, Andres Galarraga, Pat Hentgen, Mike Jackson, Eric Karros, Ray Lankford, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Shane Reynolds, Robin Ventura, and Todd Zeile. The only two names on that list worth mentioning are Roberto Alomar, Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff.
In 2011 features Kevin Brown, John Olerud, Tino Martinez, BJ Surhoff, Marquis Grissom, Al Leiter, Raul Mondesi, two steroid users in Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro, one “on the bubble” in Larry Walker and two definates in John Franco and Jeff Bagwell. So, if by some chance Larkin does not get inducted in 2010, he should in 2011.