Making the Case: Omar Vizquel and the 2018 Hall of Fame Ballot

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LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 16: Coach Omar Vizquel #13 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown complex on February 16, 2017 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Omar Vizquel had a long and successful career as an MLB shortstop. He began his career in 1989 and would play in parts of 24 seasons before retiring in 2012. Vizquel would finish his career with more than 2,800 hits and a .272 batting average. Not known for his offense, Vizquel made his biggest mark in the field with 11 Gold Gloves to his credit.

He certainly never hit for power like Cal Ripken or Ernie Banks, but did he do enough defensively to stand alongside other defensive-minded Hall of Fame shortstops such as Joe Tinker and Ozzie Smith?

Making the Case: Omar Vizquel and the 2018 Hall of Fame Ballot

Career Overview

Vizquel made his debut with the Seattle Mariners in 1989. Despite immediately making an impact defensively, he would not win his first Gold Glove award until 1993. He would join the Cleveland Indians after that season and would go on to win a Gold Glove in nine straight seasons. He would play at Cleveland until joining the San Francisco Giants in 2005 at the age of 38.

In total, Vizquel played for six teams over 24 seasons. He is best known for his work with the Indians where he spent 11 seasons and most of his prime. He won eight of his Gold Gloves and made three All-Star appearances during his stay in Cleveland.

Vizquel’s best season came in 1999 when he slashed .333/.397/.436 with an .833 OPS, five HRs, 66 RBI, 191 hits, and 112 runs scored. He finished his career with a slash line of .272/.336/.352, 80 HRs, 951 RBI, and 2,877 hits. His OPS+ of 82 is a big knock against his career profile, and he only managed an above average OPS+ in two seasons. A natural assumption may be that the light-hitting Vizquel made his living as a terror on the basepath, but that assumption would be wrong. He had just four seasons with 30 or more steals and finished with 404 in his career. That leaves him more than 200 steals outside of the top 10 in career leaders.

He certainly was never regarded as an offensive weapon, but he got on base enough to keep his glove in the lineup. With that being said, it is hard imagining Vizquel as a Hall of Famer when comparing him to other elite shortstops.

How he stacks up

It is certainly not worthwhile to try and compare Vizquel to Robin Yount or Honus Wagner. Both of those players are members of the 3,000 hit club and excelled in other areas. Both of these players slugged above .400, hit more than 100 HRs, and accumulated more than 1,400 RBI. Banks and Ripken are also out as they are two of the elite HR hitters all time to play at the position.

Barry Larkin is maybe a decent comparison, but he was certainly more of a threat than Vizquel. Larkin had a .371 OBP, .444 slugging percentage, and 198 HRs. It should also be noted that other light-hitting HOF shortstops such as Rabbit MaranvilleGeorge Davis, and Phil Rizzuto played in much different eras than Vizquel.

The best HOF comparison for Vizquel has to be Smith, but even that comparison leaves problems for Vizquel. Despite playing in five fewer seasons and finishing with more than 400 hits less than Vizquel, Smith accumulated a much higher WAR at 76.5. That’s more than 30 wins higher than Vizquel’s 45.3. Additionally, Smith trumps Vizquel in Gold gloves (13 to 11), All-Star appearances (15 to 3), and World Series rings (1 to 0).

Vizquel does trump Smith in various counting stats, but those categories lose their luster when service time and overall WAR are considered.

Conclusion

Vizquel certainly had a successful career, but his accomplishments put him on the fringe of inclusion into Cooperstown. Also, HOF voters should consider their stance on Andruw Jones when looking at whether or not to vote for Vizquel. Jones is another player who received a lot of value from his defensive contributions, but he also added 434 HRs and 111 OPS+. While it is difficult to compare players from different positions, it is inexplicable that certain voters would side with Vizquel and not vote for Jones.

Vizquel may get in as he did play at shortstop where defense is a premium quality, but his career numbers are well below HOF-caliber in multiple categories.

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1 COMMENT

  1. People side with Vizquel over Jones for three valid reasons: Jones had domestic violence issues, Jones had that huge drop-off and PED stories at age 29, and Vizquel was always solid, year-in, year-out. When didn’t you want Vizquel in the line-up? His offence was as good if not better than Smith’s, be fair, and his defence as good, just not publicized like Smith’s. If I had to start a SS, I’d pick Vizquel over Smith all the time, and if I needed a CF there are plenty I’d take before Jones. Was Vizquel one of the top 3 SS for at least 10 years? Heck yes, try 17 or more. That right there makes him worthy of going in, and if he does or doesn’t I don’t worry. He’s Ozzie without the media hype.

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