Is Omar Vizquel a Hall of Famer?
Hawk Harrelson never runs short on four things: clichés, catch phrases, nicknames and opinions. People can decide from there if this makes him a good broadcaster or a really annoying one. I find him entertaining in a “so bad it’s good” way, but catch phrases and weird opinions aside, the Hawk isn’t as horrible as some make him out to be. He grows on you, oddly enough.
Anyway, I believe it was Friday he was raving about Omar Vizquel. Vizquel has had a great month, there’s no denying that, but he said he believed that without question, Omar was a first ballot Hall of Famer. I’ve heard him say this before. Then also recently Keith Law got into a big Twitter war over Omar’s WAR, or lack thereof, and how Vizquel isn’t a Hall of Famer in his opinion. My inclination was to agree with Keith, as we both share a love for stats and snark. So I headed over to Baseball Reference to check out Omar’s case.
First, I looked at his similarity scores. These are the old Bill James’ similarity scores and I find them to be kind of antiquated now. But hey, we all look at them to get a sense of how comparable a player is to another—not necessarily in value—but in the shape of a career. The purpose for James making them was to give people a way to compare non-Hall of Famers to players in the Hall to see who was either on track to make the Hall or to find out who might have been snubbed. Bill James loves Hall of Fame arguments, and the similarity scores first appeared in his book Politics of Glory.
Here’s Omar’s most similar players:
- Luis Aparicio (921) *
- Rabbit Maranville (872) *
- Ozzie Smith (871) *
- Dave Concepcion (845)
- Bill Dahlen (833)
- Luke Appling (825) *
- Pee Wee Reese (822) *
- Nellie Fox (815) *
- Bert Campaneris (801)
- Red Schoendienst (796) *
* – Signifies Hall of Famer
That’s some good company, with Omar’s hero at the top. The problem I have with the sim scores is they aren’t adjusted for park and era and there’s a lot of counting stats that go into the formula, but Omar compares well with several Hall of Famers. (Rabbit Maranville is one of the most non-Hall of Famer Hall of Famers ever, but I’d say Bill Dahlen belongs)
Baseball-Reference also has another Bill James’, Hall of Fame argument toy: Gray Ink, Black Ink, the Hall of Fame Monitor, and the Hall of Fame Standards. I’ll spare you the details of those, as they are more of a fun little toy, but you can read about them more here. Getting to the point, the verdict is this: The Hall of Fame toy says that Omar falls short of the normal Hall of Fame standards, but predicts that he’ll probably get in anyway on the strength of his 11 Gold Gloves.
WAR does a better job of leveling the playing field, neutralizing for park, era, league, and everything else, so we’ll look at that. I probably could have done that 500 words ago, sorry.
|Pee Wee Reese||66.7||1940||1958||21-39||4.4||41.4||26|
What I’ve outlined here is the player’s top seven seasons to give us an idea of what a player was at his peak. It’s one thing to accumulate a lot of WAR over the years, it’s another to be truly amazing for a good, long period. I also have WAR/625 plate appearances. This is what the player averaged over the course of a season’s worth of plate appearances. Then we have Wins Above Excellence, which another fun little junk stat that Sean Smith came up with. Basically, anything more than a 3 WAR season is an excellent season. This is another way to decide the greatness or lack thereof in a certain player.
Anyway, this doesn’t look make Omar look good. Only Rabbit Maranville was worse WAR per year number, and even he had more peak value or Wins Above Excellence. Vizquel is well below the average Hall of Fame shortstop in every class.
I can hear argument coming: This stat includes Total Zone. Fielding stats aren’t super reliable, this is worthless, blah blah. Well, even if we gave Omar a +10 season automatically for every Gold Glove he ever won, that bumps him up to 53 career WAR, which helps his argument, but still is far from a lock. Alan Trammell and Barry Larkin, who I think should be in the Hall, have 68.9 and 66.9 WAR, respectively. Omar has over 2000 plate appearances than both players.
But if we fudge with Omar we have to do it with everyone, and while I’m not going to say Omar wasn’t deserving of his Gold Gloves because I don’t know, we do know there have been a lot of undeserved Gold Gloves given out. (Rafael Palmeiro, ahem!) He certainly does have a better reputation than say… Derek Jeter.
Omar has had a brilliant career, and there is no shame being part of the Ray Lankford Wing of the Hall of the Very Good. Vizquel was and is a terrific defender and a class act, but Little O is short of being a Hall of Famer, at least in my book.
Just if you Total Zone fans were wondering, here’s how Omar stacks up defensively with the other shortstops of baseball history:
|13||Pee Wee Reese||117||1940||1958|
Omar averaged +7 runs saved per season, Aparicio +8, Ozzie Smith +13 and Mark Belanger had +19. Whoa.