Omar Vizquel: A non-Hall of Famer

Some writers for the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) have picked sides on whether certain players are worthy of the Hall of Fame based on their willingness, or lack thereof, to interview, how they were treated by the player, and whether or not the player did anything illegal during their playing days. While the Steroid Era players are eligible for the Hall of Fame in droves right now, how Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mark McGwire perform once ballot results are released will be very interesting news.

vizquel1The point here, though, is that longtime shortstop Omar Vizquel shouldn’t ever be considered for the Hall of Fame.

Vizquel was a great defensive shortstop, posting an incredible .985 career fielding percentage over 24 seasons and 22,960.2 innings at short. Some, like NESN’s Tim Culverhouse, think that Vizquel is a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer. I disagree, and this is why:

  1. Vizquel played in 24 seasons and finished his career with 2,877 hits. He failed to reach the 3,000 milestone. Not that nearly 2,900 hits is a bad career, but the only players to participate in more seasons than Vizquel with 24 or more seasons were Rickey Henderson, Eddie Collins, Cap Anson, Ty Cobb, and Pete Rose, all of whom accumulated more than 3,000 hits. Vizquel only reached 2,877 due to his longevity and he only had that longevity on one tool – his glove – which wasn’t enough to make him an asset for at least the final seven years of his career.
  2. Vizquel only posted a WAR above two in 10 of his 24 seasons. Why is the number two important for WAR? Anything less than a two is considered a reserve and anything less than zero is a replacement level player. Vizquel posted 10 seasons below a two WAR and four seasons with a NEGATIVE WAR. He literally cost his team games, even with his stellar defense.
  3. Vizquel’s career WAR was only 40.5 over his 24 seasons. Barry Larkin, a 2012 Cooperstown inductee, had a 67.1 WAR and Alan Trammell, who also had a 67.1 WAR and won a World Series MVP, is still waiting and on his 12th ballot this year. His WAR7, which are his best seven seasons, was just 24.8, 61st among shortstops, below such stars as Tony Fernandez, Scott Fletcher, and the great Dave Concepcion (who should probably  get in for accomplishing as much or more than Luis Aparicio and Vizquel).
  4. Vizquel’s career slash of .272/.336/.352 would leave him 16th out of 22 shortstops, if he were to be enshrined, in batting average, 17th in on-base percentage, and 20th in slugging percentage.
  5. Using Total Zone Runs (the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made), Vizquel was the 5th best shortstop in baseball since 1951, when the stat started being used. He was behind Ozzie Smith (239), Mark Belanger (238), Cal Ripken (176), and Luis Aparicio (149), with his 134 mark. If defense is the deciding factor on the value that Vizquel provided, why isn’t Mark Belanger in the Hall of Fame? Because he hit .228/.300/.280 and posted a 37.6 WAR, not too far behind Vizquel’s 40.5, right?

vizquel2Vizquel does have some strengths to point out when considering him for the Hall of Fame:

  1. The only players with more hits than Vizquel who are not currently in the Hall of Fame are: Pete Rose, Derek Jeter, Craig Biggio, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez. A couple of those guys are still active, obviously, and Biggio looks like the only inactive who is going to be a lock due to the asterisk-ridden nature of the Steroid Era and its players (Jeter will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, while others will rely on the whims of the voters from year to year).
  2. The only shortstop with a higher career fielding percentage is Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies, whose .9851 fielding percentage is just a tick higher than Vizquel’s .9847. Vizquel’s 11 Gold Gloves are a bit more impressive than Tulowitzki’s two, but Tulo is just 27 and has several years left. Whether he maintains his fielding abilities is yet to be seen, but Vizquel was, clearly, one of the best, if not the best, defensive shortstops in the history of the game.

Omar Vizquel was a fine player and a great asset defensively; however, his longevity (24 seasons) was the only reason why he was able to accumulate so many hits.

Take, for example, Juan Pierre. The slap-hitting outfielder has a career .297/.346/.363 line with 2,141 career hits. If he plays 10 more seasons and retires after his age-44 season, receiving 300 at-bats per year and posting a .297 average, he’ll finish his career with 3,032 career hits. Is Juan Pierre a Hall of Famer due to longevity?

vizquel3For all of the Gold Gloves and 2,877 hits, Omar Vizquel wasn’t special enough to be a Hall of Famer. If players who accumulated more statistics, championships, and glory aren’t in, why should Vizquel be?

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13 Comments

Where I will agree that Visquel is not a first ballot hall of famer, offensive domination is not the only criteria for a great, and potentially, hall of fame player. In fact looking at Carter and Rice and a handful of others dominance may not matter at all. You spoke if his glove, but not how rare it is to sustain 24 seasons, most as a starter as a non DH or RP. That speaks loudly. You also didn’t assess how much his offensive stats improved at an age when most are winding down or selling cars. That speaks loud. If Trammel and Visquel do not get in on writers ballot, they certainly will get there through the veterans committee. Perhaps I agree with Reggie Jackson, there should be two halls.

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So…considering his offensive improvements occured at such a late age (33-37) and the seasons that they were happening (2000-2004), should someone wonder if Vizquel was doping? If Bonds can’t get that much better when he is aging, how can a slap hitting shortstop? Bonds at least hit homeruns prior to ‘roiding up.
The issue with his longevity is that he wasn’t producing enough offensively to even be CONSIDERED as a starter. He was doing enough to be a backup and that is about all. Is it sustaining a career or just hanging on? He was useful defensively, but there are 23-year-olds in Triple-A who are all glove and no bat. Was his defensively usefulness at replacement levels? The statistics show that they were.
I don’t see how Trammell keeps getting overlooked. He was just as valuable as some of the best SS who are in the Hall, offensively and defensively.
Vizquel is overrated due to his glove. He was great defensively but he didn’t do enough. Ozzie Smith wasn’t a great hitter, only hitting .262, but he got to 2460 hits in 19 seasons, not hanging around to get as many as he could to retire at 45. Focusing on his glove and wizardry as primary reasons for his inclusion in Cooperstown still makes him look better overall.

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Except, Omar Visquel was neer a back-up. Well, not a back up until his last few seasons. He had some injury plagued years prior. Through 2007, he averaged 145 games – 2008-2012 he averaged 75 games. One can argue he was in the clubhouse for his Hall of Fame leadership and interest in developing younger middle infielders during those last years.

I think of Gaylord Perry, Jim Hunter and Bert Blyleven – they made their stats through longevity and personality. I am not convinced any of them can go head to head with the Bob Gibsons, Nolan Ryans and Tom Seavers in the same era.

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He was never a backup but he, statistically, produced like one. Blyleven was great on awful teams. Perry was a cheater…documented. How is anything he did different from steroids? Stupid. There are great players and very good players. BBWAA needs to determine which level should actually be considered great. No one feared facing Vizquel at the plate and they never feared the likelihood of hitting the ball to him. Did he really do that much? The numbers add up to something respectable, but he isn’t one of the greatest players in history, he isn’t even a top 10 SS (overall) in the history of the game. If Trammell isn’t in, there is no way that Vizquel should be.

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Totally agreed. He’s definitely not a first-year HOFer and probably not one at all. Overrated as a fielder (the difference between him and Oz is at least as great as that and between Vizquel and the next best fielding shortstops of his era), and way overrated overall.

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Ummm to answer your question – If Juan Pierre gets 3000 hits, will he go into the HOF? My answer yes. I only say that because it’s not happening. Be interesting though as he’d be the first guy never to go to the all-star game (unless he bought a ticket).

The argument for Vizquel has been he’s the AL version of Ozzie Smith but, while he has all those GG I don’t think so. Usually most people wouldn’t consider AS game trips but, I do. 15 AS games to 3 tells me something. That Ozzie was the man at SS in his league for well over a decade and Vizquel was not. Yeah Ripken was there but, that’s the reality and one of my criteria is to dominate for over a decade. Vizquel did not.

Jack Morris, absolutely not. He’s in the hall of the very,very good. He was a good teammate and a leader. So what? I have to bet plenty of guys like that are not in the hall. This mystique that he was clutch in the post season is garbage because his numbers almost mirror his regular season numbers. The fact he won the WS with 3 different teams is interesting but, also flukey.

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morris was better than schilling…thats for sure…and omar played with more than ripken but nomar jeter and arod and company. ozzie couldnt hit were a bleep…and i not for his flips and name and color…would not of been known. like belanger who was a bettter defender but boring

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Berlanger was very boring offensively. I wouldn’t say his race had anything to do with it, as many Hispanic shortstops had redefined the position defensively before him.

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Concepcion was good and probably deserves a look as a HoF, too. Larkin came in towards the end of Smith’s career, but there weren’t many solid shortstops during his peak years.
Morris should NOT get in. He was mediocre at best statistically and we’d be redefining the value of playoff performance as a measuring tool for the greatness of a player over their longevity and accumulated worthiness.
I can understand why people would say that if Smith is in then Vizquel should be, but you could make that argument for a number of SS because of the weakest links in the hall, especially if you look at statistics over defense (Aparicio, Rizzuto).

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he was a better hitter than ozzie smith..except he couldnt do a flip or had a coold name or was black…omar also played with great shortstops…ozzie did not…

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Concepcion and Larkin were his closest competitors, in my opinion. Should players be compared to those in the Hall or by the players who they played alongside? Vizquel was mediocre, at best, when compared to Jeter, ARod, Larkin, and Ripken.

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Totally disagree. Omar is a much cooler name than Ozzie.
Not sure what blackness has to do with anything, but I’ll leave it to someone else to make fun of you for that.

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I’m tired of longevity being used as an excuse to exclude a player from HOF consideration. Really? Making a MLB team roster is no mean feat. Doing it at 45 years of age is a laudable accomplishment that few have ever achieved. There is a near endless supply of 22 year olds playing minor league ball that have yet to dislodge Visquel. Baseball isn’t a sentimental game–you either produce, or get cut. The question should not be how many at bats it took for him to get to 2877 hits, it should be who else has had that many hits and NOT gone to the hall? Who else has eleven Gold Gloves and isn’t in?

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