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.
The 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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?
- 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).
- 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?
For 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?