Is Omar Vizquel Hall of Fame Worthy?

An article by posted on October 4, 2012

Last night was a great night for Venezuelan Baseball.

We all know the story by now, Miguel Cabrera is the first non-American born player to ever hit for the Triple Crown, and even when he didn’t have to – he went out and played in a meaningless game on the road, and had 2 at bats before Manager Jim Leyland took him out of the game. He deserves not only a ton of respect for his major accomplishment, but also for asking Leyland to let him play last night when he didn’t have to.

I still feel Miguel Cabrera is not getting the proper respect he deserves not only for the Triple Crown, but for playing last night. Many of us last night witnessed something incredible, and in most cases it’s overshadowed in the media by reports of whether or not Ozzie Guillen or Bobby Valentine will lose their job.

Speaking of Venezuelan’s who aren’t getting the respect they deserve; I’d like to talk about Omar Vizquel.

Last night, the 45 year old played in his final Major League game, and in his final at bat, he singled to CF in the 7th inning.

I was watching the MLB Network after the game, and they interviewed Vizquel and then I heard something – “We’ll see you in Cooperstown,” Harold Reynolds said to Vizquel. I said to myself…

“Self, is Vizquel a Hall of Famer?”

First, let us be up front about what we know about the Hall of Fame. At times, players get in that maybe do not deserve being labeled “all-time great.” Second, we recognize that in most cases, offensive numbers are the most important. Third, we keep players out of the Hall for not playing long enough (Mattingly, Munson for example), but we also shun players for playing too long – creating a classic double standard.

Vizquel began his career in 1989 with Seattle after being signed by them in 1984. From the age of 22 through his 40th birthday, Vizquel averaged 136 games played. Think about that for a second.

When you talk about Vizquel’s candidacy, you automatically compare him to two players. Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio. If you want to get real crazy, throw in Rabbit Maranville. But let’s not since most people reading this probably didn’t even know somebody named Rabbit Maranville existed.

Offensive Resume

Luis Aparicio played 18 seasons from 1956-1973. Over those 18 seasons he had: 1,335 Runs Scored, 2,677 Hits, 394 Doubles, 83 HR, 791 RBI, 506 SB, .262 Average, .311 On Base, .343 Slugging.

Through 18 seasons, Vizquel had: 1,283 Runs Scored, 2,472 Hits, 398 Doubles, 73 HR, 818 RBI, 366 SB, .276 Average, .342 On Base, .360 Slugging.

So through the same amount of time: Vizquel had more Doubles, RBI, and a better OBP and SLG than Aparicio who made the Hall of Fame on his 6th try, gaining 84.6% of the vote.

Ozzie Smith played for 19 seasons mostly with St. Louis. Over those 19 years:  1,257 Runs Scored, 2,460 Hits, 402 Doubles, 28 HR, 793 RBI, 580 Stolen Bases, .262 Average, .337 On Base, .328 Slugging.

Through 19 years, Vizquel had: 1,337 Runs Scored, 2,598 Hits, 416 Doubles, 77 HR, 869 RBI, 380 SB, .274 Average, .340 On Base, .357 Slugging.

Ozzie Smith received 91% of the vote, and through the same amount of years played, Vizquel had more, Runs Scored, Hits, Doubles, HR, RBI, less Stolen Bases and a better Average, OBP and SLG percentage.

To put a bow on Vizquel offensively, he played 5 more seasons than Smith and 6 than Aparicio. Vizquel finished his career with 1,445 Runs Scored, 2,877 Hits, 951 RBI, 404 SB, a .272 Average, .336 OBP and a .352 SLG.

I understand you can find any metric you want to disprove most player’s values.

I prefer to look at what really happened, and not formula’s built to create a lack of value on things that actually happened.

In terms of Hits, there are only four retired players to reach 2,877 hits and NOT be elected to the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Craig Biggio and Pete Rose.

Defensive Wizard

Defense is the hardest performance to measure after the fact. Do you like errors, range, dWAR, zone rating? Here’s what I use when it comes to the Hall of Fame and defense.

Gold Gloves+My Memory.

Vizquel was the best defensive SS I ever saw.

He won 11 Gold Gloves at SS, and was 39 years old when he won his 11th. I honestly do not think you need to know more about Vizquel defensively than that.

By comparison, Smith won 13 Gold Gloves and Aparicio won 9. Smith through 19 years committed 281 errors, and finished with a fielding percentage of .978. In 24 seasons, Vizquel finished with 183 errors and a .985 fielding percentage.

To give you an idea of the value of Gold Gloves, the only retired players who are (were) Hall of Fame eligible to win double-digit gold gloves and NOT be in the Hall of Fame are Jim Kaat (16), and Keith Hernandez (11). Hernandez’s flaw was he didn’t put up the big offensive numbers at a position known for such a thing.

In Conclusion

I’m not suggesting that Ozzie Smith or Luis Aparicio are not worthy of the Hall of Fame. They were defensive wizards and for their position, respectable at the plate. What I am suggesting is that if they are Hall of Famers – then there is no way you can tell me Vizquel is not.

He was as good if not better defensively, and as good if not better offensively and he managed to play longer.

Vizquel may be the most under-appreciated ballplayer of his generation and I hope the Baseball Writers of America make it up to him by putting him into the Hall of Fame 5 years from now.

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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