This isn't the beginning of this conversation and it certainly won't be the end, but I had a thought recently with all this Hall of Fame talk going on: if Coors Field is really the reason to keep out Larry Walker and (eventually) Todd Helton, shouldn't their stats away from home be much worse than their stats in the friendlier confines of 20th and Blake?
I've also been harping on a particular double-standard lately and I think Patrick Saunders at the Denver Post pretty much covered it in this tweet after his conversation with Larry Walker yesterday:
Former #Rockies star Larry Walker said if hitters are penalized for Coors Field, why aren't pitchers penalized for West Coast ballparks?— Patrick Saunders (@psaundersdp) January 8, 2014
But given that -- as things stand now -- Colorado hitters are punished for playing here and no pitcher I've ever heard of has had his home ballpark even mentioned during his HOF debate, I figure the first step is to take a look inside the numbers that Walker and Helton put up (min 100 PAs) over their careers in other parks.
Todd Helton's Career Splits, by Ballpark
|ARI-Bank One Bpk||454||32||13||53||.283||.399||.481||.880||.297|
|STL-Busch Stad 3||107||7||1||9||.223||.308||.330||.638||.282|
Larry Walker's Career Splits, by Ballpark
|ARI-Bank One Bpk||170||11||5||23||.350||.465||.550||1.015||.404|
|PIT-3 Rivers Std||251||13||10||29||.266||.323||.463||.786||.291|
I could pour through those stats for a while (and I will) but what struck me the most is right in line with what Walker mentioned to Saunders; I was expecting their numbers in the pitcher-friendly, west-coast parks to be killing their overall numbers and at first glance this didn't seem to be the case.
So I did some number crunching of my own (don't worry I'll recover from brain freeze any day now) and figured I would combine each guy's plate appearances at the NL West opponents not named Arizona (still a hitters park) and see how our purple-clad HOF candidates stood up.
Numbers for games in LAD, SFG, and SDP
As per usual, I'm not sure I've reached any conclusions here. Both guys take obvious hits when playing in these environments -- and so does almost everybody else -- but still, the stats are anything but abhorrent and suggest to me that although Coors Field clearly helps the overall numbers, there are plenty of other mitigating factors than "Coors" vs "Not Coors."
If the argument against letting these guys in the Hall is that "production is production and HOF players must produce on the road" then we need to pour into these numbers even deeper and take a look at the disparity in the home/road splits of Hall-of-Famers who didn't play at Coors.
However, if the argument is "Coors Field simply means you cannot trust the overall numbers because they inflate the entire notion of them as hitters" then I think the numbers above go a long way toward countering that argument.
In a large sample size, and under the worst possible hitting conditions, both Walker and Helton were still pretty darned good. These numbers show that they were not products of Coors Field -- simply masters of it while being mostly well-above-average everywhere else.
Beyond the Boxscore has their picks for the Hall of Fame. For the record (and since I'm not even close to getting a vote) here would be my ballot (in order of preference): Maddux, Thomas, Glavine, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Walker, Piazza.