Alomar vs. Larkin

Pop quiz: Which of these players is the more worthy Hall of Famer:

Player 1 Player 2
Avg. .295 .300
On-base .371 .371
Slugging .444 .443
OPS+ 116 116
Runs 1329 1508
RBI 960 1134
Hits 2340 2724
Home runs 198 210
Stolen bases 379 474
Gold Gloves 3 at SS 10 at 2B
All-Star 12 12
MVP 1 0
Top 5 MVP 1 2
Top 10 MVP 2 5
MVP Shares 1.10 1.91
Win Shares 347 375
Championships 1 2
Playoff games 17 58
Playoff OPS .862 .829

Player 1 is Barry Larkin, and Player 2 is Roberto Alomar. Before we examine the numbers, here is the glossary for some of the categories: OPS+ is on-base plus slugging, normalized to the league average and adjusted for a player’s home park; MVP Shares reflect how well a player did in MVP voting over his career; and Win Shares represent how all of a player’s skills translated into victories for his team.

Alomar has some decided advantages. He scored or drove in 371 more runs over the course of his career, but this is deceiving. According to the Runs Created formula, Larkin contributed 1381 runs to his team’s offense; Alomar 1575. Larkin had 6.2 Runs Created per 27 outs; Alomar 6.1. That means a lineup with nine Barry Larkins would score slightly more than nine Roberto Alomars. Much of Alomar’s advantage in runs and RBI is a result of playing with better offenses.

Alomar stole 474 bases with an excellent 81 percent success rate. But Larkin stole 379 with an 83 percent rate.

Both were middle infielders. Alomar has 10 Gold Gloves and Larkin has three. Alomar might have been a slightly superior fielder, but Gold Glove voting historically is rife with misjudgments and absurd selections, and Larkin had the misfortune of arriving in a league that had Ozzie Smith.

So Alomar has some advantages, while Larkin doesn’t really have any. Other than the fact he won an MVP award while Alomar never finished higher than third.

But it doesn’t make sense that Alomar is regarded as a slam-dunk Hall of Famer while Larkin is a maybe. Before the vote was announced Wednesday, the consensus was that Alomar would go in this year. He received 73.7 percent of the vote, just missing the requisite 75 percent; he’ll go in next year. Larkin was named on 51.6 percent of the ballots.

The big difference is that Alomar appeared in 58 postseason games, while Larkin played in 17. Alomar played extremely well in the playoffs; Larkin was even better. Alomar’s extensive postseason play made him infinitely more famous than Larkin, although they had essentially the same careers. You would think Hall of Fame voters would be savvy enough to see through this; alas, they aren’t.

In addition, Larkin learned Spanish so he could build a rapport with Hispanic teammates; he was the Reds’ first team captain in more than 20 years; he won the Roberto Clemente Award in 1993; he won the Lou Gehrig Award in 1994. He was one of the great teammates in recent baseball history.

Alomar once spit on an umpire, then publicly claimed the umpire was bitter because he had one son die of rare brain disease and had another diagnosed with it.

I have Alomar ranked as the ninth-best second baseman in history. I have Larkin ranked as the ninth-best shortstop. It just seems that if a voter thought Alomar is a Hall of Famer, they would probably realize that Larkin is one as well.

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