Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Future HOFer?: Omar Vizquel

Twins' news is pretty slow these days. Between rain-outs and off-days they've had quite a bit of time off. Given that they have a number of ailing players, this has been a welcome break I'm sure, and hopefully they can hit the ground running tonight at home against the Rays. In lieu of a rambling piece about the Twins or a Rays/Twins preview, I thought I would continue my series about potential future Hall-of-Famers. In case you're new to this blog, I've also done this with Carlos Delgado, Todd Helton, Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon.There are the obvious HOFers out there (Pujols, A-Rod, Jeter, etc) but I want to give the lesser-known guys, or perhaps even a few on-the-bubble guys, some pub.

Omar Enrique Vizquel broke into the Major Leagues with the Mariners in 1989 (Griffey Jr.'s rookie year) at the age of 22. He has played in at least 62 games in every season since then and just 3 days ago, he celebrated his 44th birthday. He's one of those ageless types, like Jamie Moyer, that just keep playing and playing and playing. I'll let you decide if the sheer length of his career should diminish his numbers in any way, all I'm going to do is share them, and try to find his place in the history books. Here's a look at his body of work to-date:

23 seasons
2,858 games played
10,292 at-bats (20th all-time)
2,807 hits
1,416 runs
445 doubles
80 homeruns
938 RBIs
1,014 walks
1,053 strikeouts
.273/.338/.354 hitting line
401 stolen bases
3 All-Star Appearances
11 Gold Glove Awards
2 World Series Appearances (both losses)
.985 career fielding% (best all-time at SS)

Even though Vizquel now plays for the hated White Sox, I have to stand in admiration of his overall numbers. While it's true that the simple longevity of his career has afforded him the opportunity to compile those stats, they are impressive nonetheless. The most impressive aspect of Vizquel's game is not even found on your average stat sheet, that being his defense. Between 1993 and 2001, Vizquel won 9 consecutive Gold Glove awards and is easily one of the best, if not the best, defensive shortstops to ever play Major League Baseball.

Over at, there is a section with sortable career stats. If you select the "SS" tab, and then select the "Value" tab...and then sort by "Positional Value", Vizquel's name is 6th all-time on the Shortstop list in terms of overall value. The number shown there incorporates batting skills, fielding skills and runs over placement level. He is behind only the likes of Luis Aparicio (HOF), Rabbit Maranville (HOF), Luke Appling (HOF), Bill Dahlen, and Ozzie Smith (HOF). If you sort by "replacement value", which is something that incorporates Vizquel's year-in, year-out health alongside his fielding and hitting abilities (read more here), Vizquel is 4th all-time among shortstops behind only Cal Ripken Jr., Robin Yount and Honus Wagner. That's some pretty good company.

In looking at his offensive stat sheet, I can't help but gape at his K/BB ratio. Here's a guy who never had much power, but managed a nearly 1:1 K/BB ratio throughout his career. That tells me he has a fantastic eye, and that he's exceedingly patient.

Aside from a discussion on Vizquel's HOF merit is the fact that he appears to be one of the good guys in baseball. Quiet, goes about his business, works hard, the kind of player that any manager would want and a guy the White Sox are lucky to have. Omar is very involved in the community, working with a variety of different charities and supporting people in his home country of Venezuela as well.

If I'm being honest, there's really not much doubt that Omar Vizquel has Hall of Fame credentials. His offensive numbers aren't all that eye-popping, but when you add in his defensive prowess, there is little doubt left that he is deserving of the Hall. If he was to reach 3,000 hits, which is still possible, I think that would make him a lock for 1st-ballot Hall of Famer. Vizquel probably only has a year or two left on his career, but his legacy will be one of outstanding defense, speed and longevity. Hats off to you Omar.

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