A Post All About Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies

"YES! Larry Walker got into the HOF! That means I'll get in!"

Hall of Fame voting this year will provide a valuable barometer for coming years. Larry Walker, one of the best hitters of the 90s/00s, is up for induction. How his stats are perceived by the HOF voters may dictate how they vote when Todd Helton’s turn comes around.

The unfortunate stank that emanates out from the careers of Helton and Walker is the “Coors Effect”. Many baseball pundits (great buzzword) believe that their stats, as well as other Colorado Rockies players, are inflated by playing half their games in atmospherically-challenged Coors Field. The two main advantages purportedly being:

  • Thin air, balls travel further
  • Thin air, less air resistance, breaking balls straighten out

I’m not a naive little baseball fan. When someone puts up monster stats at home I completely understand what happens next; Haters gonna hate. It’s the nature of things. But I can’t get behind the logic of voting against a player based on where he played the majority of his home games.

Don’t vote for someone because of steroid use. I can understand that argument. I might not agree with it but I wouldn’t tell someone they’re wrong for doing so. Now, voting against the likes of Walker and Helton because they mashed at Coors? That’s just a little too subjective for me. Steroids are illegal in baseball. Playing for the Rockies is not. Helton and Walker are reportedly clean of all PEDs. So why should we hold their home park against them? The baseball writers didn’t hold it against Ty Cobb because he played against pitchers who threw only 85MPH fastballs. They also didn’t hold it against Ty Cobb when he killed a guy.

This may all be a moot point, though. Walker could get in on his first ballot and then the precedent is set. That brings the question of, “Is Todd Helton a Hall of Famer?”.

Looking at the major statistics, Walker and Helton are pretty similar players. Walker does have a large lead in SBs but they match up well in most other categories. If Walker gets in, I’d say that’s a pretty good baseline to predict Helton’s candidacy. It all depends on perception, however. Perhaps the writers won’t believe that Helton dominated his era like Walker had. I’d argue that Helton was just as valuable as Walker and spent the majority of his career as one of the top five first basemen in baseball.

Here’s my case for Todd Helton as a HOFer:

Baseball is all about statistics and Hall voters love their milestones; 300 W, 500 HR, 3,000 hits, etc. One that is usually considered is 500 2Bs. Helton currently has 527 two-baggers to go along with 333 HRs. The home run total is impressive, but not mind boggling. A career slugging percentage of .555 is downright dandy, though. That puts Helton 23rd all-time. A look at the players in the top 50 is like a stroll through Cooperstown itself. And for those Moneyballers out there, Helton is 11th in OPS. My biggest argument supporting Helton’s HOF possibilities is his away splits. The Toddfather has been great at Coors Field. That’s a fact. But the perception that he is terrible away from Denver is a farce. Here’s a look at Helton’s career splits:

       G  GS   AB   R    H  2B  3B HR  RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS   
 Home 977 937 3479 788 1239 283 26 204 748 24 13 634 414 .356 .454 .628 1.082 
 Away 953 917 3425 482  997 244  9 129 491 12 14 563 559 .291 .392 .481  .873

Helton played better at Coors. Yes, that’s true. But there aren’t many players that don’t play better at home. There also aren’t many players that have an .873 OPS in 953 away tilts. Helton sports three Gold Gloves in addition to his offensive contributions. We all know that Gold Gloves aren’t what they used to be (we’re looking at you Jeter), but Helton always has been considered an above average fielding first basement.

So there’s my piece about Todd Helton. I know he’ll be discussed in length when he is eligible for HOF voting. I’m a supporter if only for the fact that Helton has received much less notoriety for his quiet production.

Moving on, it’s quite evident that Helton is in the twilight of his career. Fortunately, this twilight involves declining power/average instead of angst filled vampires. He’s signed through 2013 and will be 39 at the end of that final season. If I were a betting man I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t make it to 2013. He only hit 8 HR last season at a power premium position and could be relegated to a platoon/PH role. Those are just my personal assumptions but I don’t think the Rockies could afford to keep putting Helton out there if he can’t hit for power or average. Colorado has the roster of a contender and need production from the first baseman slot.

So what does Colorado do in order to move on from the Todd Helton era? Let’s first look at internal options:

  1. Jason Giambi – Giambi had the second most ABs last year at 1B. He’s older than Helton and can’t be considered a viable option.
  2. Brad Eldred – Former prospect hit 30HR in AAA last year. May be an option but is already 30 years old. Also, just ask Mike Hessman how easy it is to hit home runs in AAA.
  3. Ty Wigginton – Most likely to get ABs against LH starters in 2011. Wigginton can only be described as a stop gap/insurance policy. I can’t imagine those in Denver are excited at the thought of Ty Wigginton getting 300+ ABs.

Not a lot going on within the organization. Other understatements include: water is refreshing, women be shopping, kids are growing up so fast these days.

External options? Sure, let’s the get the rumor mill up and running.

As I drove home after my New Years festivities, I had a crazy thought in my head. Who is a hitter, similar to Carlos Gonzalez, who could thrive in Denver based on his current hitting statistics? Answer: Billy Butler.

Crazy? I think not. CarGo was primarily a doubles hitter during his minor league and Oakland days. Then, Coors happened.

Butler? Well, Billy is doubles machine in his own right. He’s hit 51 and 45 doubles the last two years. With a trade to Coors Field you could take those doubles…and double them. In which case they’d become home runs.

From a Royals perspective the trade makes sense. They have Eric Hosmer, Super 1st Baseman Number One!, ready and waiting in the minors. Hosmer projects to hit for a bit more power than Butler and could be ready as soon as 2011. Say, package Butler with former HOFer Alex Gordon and the Kansas City Royals might be able to get something pretty decent in return.

There are absolutely no indications that the Royals are shopping Butler or that the Rockies are looking to trade for a first baseman, but I just wanted to share a crazy idea that I had.

But if it happens, you heard it here first.

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