Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Omar vs Ozzie

The other day the question was asked if Omar Vizquel is a Hall of Fame player.

The argument for Vizquel will paint him as every bit the equal to Ozzie Smith and here his supporters have an excellent argument to make.

Offensively, even though he's had 1,000 fewer at bats - Vizquel has already almost matched Ozzie's output.

Vizquel – 2301 H, 8387 AB, 1195 R, 760 RBI
Smith – 2460 H, 9396 AB, 1257 R, 793 RBI

Vizquel - .274 BA, .341 OBP, .358 SLG
Smith - .262 BA, .337 OBP, .328 SLG

Vizquel will almost surely pass Ozzie in hits, runs and RBI and really they are basically the same player at the plate. As their OPS+ marks illustrate - Vizquel at 85 (with 100 being average) and Smith at 87 - both were below average with the bat. It was the glove that opened Cooperstown to Ozzie Smith and it will be the glove that gets Vizquel into the Hall of Fame (if anything will do the trick).

Vizquel has won 10 Gold Gloves at short which compares very favorably to Ozzie's 13 Gold Gloves. Ozzie was more flashy with his backflips but Omar may actually have been the better fielder (witness the difference in errors - just 168 for Omar compared to 281 for Ozzie). This may be heresy to some but Omar was actually more reliable in the field (backed up by Omar's .984 fielding percentage vs Ozzie's .978).

What Omar has going against him is the fact that he played at the dawn of the big bopper shortstop. While Ozzie was going to 15 All-Star games - Omar went to just 3 because he had to play in the shadows of Cal Ripken, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

Growing up - kids didn't play shortstop pretending to be Omar Vizquel. They wanted to be a Ripken, a Nomar, a Jeter or an A-Rod. Omar may have also been hurt by playing in the relative obscurity of Cleveland where he was never even close to being the best player on his own team (that honor went to the Albert Belle's, the Manny Ramirez's and the Jim Thome's).

Vizquel probably was every bit the player Ozzie Smith was but that won't be good enough to get into the Hall of Fame. The supporters will say that's not fair. The detractors will point out that Omar is no Ripken and that Dave Concepcion (9 All-Star games and 5 Gold Gloves) isn't in either.

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