Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Philly native and Germantown High graduate Bucky Walters is on the Hall of Fame ballot, but is he worthy of enshrinement?

PBR - Germantown native Bucky Walters is one of six former players on the pre-integration era ballot to be reviewed and voted upon during baseball's winter meetings for possible induction into the Hall of Fame next summer.
Along with six players, the ballot also includes three executives and one umpire. Candidates need to receive nine votes from a panel of 12 voters for enshrinement. Joining Walters on the ballot are Samuel Breadon, Wes Ferrell, Marty Marion, Tony Mullane, Hank O’Day, Alfred Reach, Jacob Ruppert, Bucky Walters and Deacon White.
Born in Mount Airy, Walters was signed by the Boston Braves out of Germantown High School in 1929. He made his major league debut in 1931 and struggled as an infielder until 1935, hitting .243 and putting together an OPS+ of 72. Part of his struggles in Boston can be attributed to a broken thumb.
Walters was sold to the Phillies on June 14, 1934 and was converted to a starting pitcher prior to the 1935 season by manager Jimmie Wilson. His numbers in Philadelphia were not stellar - over five seasons he went 39-53 with a 4.48 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP. His ERA+ during his time with the Phillies was 99.
The Phillies traded Walters to Cincinnati in June of 1938. In 11 seasons with the Reds he finished 160-107 with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. His 1939 campaign (27-11, 2.29 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) is still considered one of the best pitching seasons in baseball history and won him the Most Valuable Player award while also leading the Reds to the National League pennant. The Reds again reached the World Series in 1940 and Walters led the way, tossing a pair of complete games to lift Cincinnati past Detroit.
A six-time All Star, Walters retired in 1950. From 1935-1949, a 15-year span, he led major league baseball in wins with 198.

The chart to the right demonstrates how Walters compares to other starting pitchers of his time (HOF'ers that began their career between 1930 and 1950) that are in the Hall of Fame. The metric used is Adjusted Pitching Runs (APR). APR is an advanced pitching statistic used to measure the number of runs a pitcher prevents from scoring compared to the league's average pitcher in a neutral park in the same amount of innings. The statistics is similar to ERA+ but offers a quantitative counterpart.

Purely based on APR, you can easily see Walters falls a bit short. The average APR of the eight pitchers in the study (not including Walters) is 242.

Another means to compare Walters to his peers is via Command (Cmd) and Dominance (Dom.) The formula for Command is K/BB. The formula for Dominance is (K*9)/IP. Again, looking this time at the chart to the left, Walters falls short of his contemporaries.

Looking at the numbers, Walters does not appear deserving of a spot in Cooperstown. The average APR of Hall of Famers that began their career between 1930 and 1950 is 242 - Walters is 181.

Similarly, the average Cmd number of the HOF'ers that began pitching during 1930 and 1950 is 1.7 - the Dom number is  5.6; Walters' Cmd number was 1.0 and Dom number was 3.2.

Walters was good and certainly was one of the best professional players to have played in the majors from the Philadelphia area, but he's not a Hall of Famer.

- Patrick Gordon is the editor of the Philadelphia Baseball Review. Contact him at pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com or @Philabaseball on Twitter. 

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