Barry Louis Larkin, The Captain Tapped for the HOF
By John Heitz
Reds Shortstop from 1986 till 2004, Barry Larkin embodied the post Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds. Larkin earned 86% of the votes today to become the 22nd Shortstop selected for membership in the Hall of Fame. He joins Johnny Bench as the second Cincinnati Reds player to earn admission to the Hall who played their entire career as a member of the Reds.
Larkin’s statistical performance is the reason he is a member of the Hall of Fame but for me it was the intangible willingness to listen, think, and learn how to win. He helped lead the 1990 Reds team to a World Series win when no one gave them a chance. He was a leader on the field, a role model off the field, a native of the Queen City and an ambassador for the game of baseball.
He compares numerically against his peers within the HOF and his entrance allows me another opportunity to talk about his idol and mine, Big Red Machine shortstop Dave Concepcion. Concepcion never posted the same offensive statistics but he always seemed to me as a young kid to be the amazing defender who got the hit needed to keep the machine moving.
I decided to offer a quick analysis of a few statistical factors of contemporaries to Barry and Dave. Remember they played three seasons together from 1986-88 including several games where Concepcion played second with Barry at short before Dave rode off into the sunset and Barry made his rise to prominence.
To give perspective to this group of talented shortstops:
- Dave Concepcion played from 1970-1988 all for the Reds.
- Barry Larkin played from 1986-2004 all for the Reds.
- Cal Ripken played 1981 to 2001. Also a single team (Baltimore Orioles) Hall of Famer. Inducted in 2007.
- Ozzie Smith played from 1978-1996 with San Diego and St. Louis. Hall of Fame Class of 2002.
- Robin Yount played from 1974-1993 all with the Milwaukee Brewers. Hall of Fame Class of 1999.
Here are their offensive numbers:
The dominant number among these is Larkin’s OPS. Not since players such as Honus Wagner and Joe Cronin have OPS numbers close to his .815 been posted. Larkin’s numbers suffer a bit from injuries when you compare his 19 seasons to Ozzie Smith who in the same number of seasons played in 393 more games. These injuries in my mind though accentuate just how magnificent he was. Larkin wracked up only 120 less hits in an astonishing 1459 fewer at bats.
And don’t forget the importance of the glove at this anchor position in the middle of the diamond:
- SS Fielding percentage refers only to plays made from the Shortstop position.
- RF/9 is the Players range factor over 9 innings as published by baseball-reference.com.
- lgRF/9 is the league average range factor over 9 innings for the season the player played the game.
- WAR is a number I am not a huge fan of but it represents and arbitrary Wins over Replacement for each players career.
Larkin demonstrates statistically why he had to be voted in and conversely Concepcion offers statistical arguements to the contrary, but I watched them play and for my money Dave Concepcion needs a plaque beside Barry Larkin. And that my friends, is in a nutshell, why I love baseball. The numbers, the speculation, and the arguments. Baseball is a beautiful thing and I for one enjoyed today’s oasis in my winter of hope before the 2012 season takes center stage. Maybe one of these days, one of Larkin’s other mentors will get his chance to step to the mic in Cooperstown. “Introducing Peter Edward Rose!”
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