Over his two dozen big league seasons, Omar Vizquel was the gold standard for defensive shortstops. In 2018, we will see how he fares on the highly competitive hall of fame ballot. Can Vizquel’s golden glove and solid bat earn him a call to the hall?
Whenever the name Omar Vizquel is mentioned, the first thing anyone ever thinks of is his stellar defense. It seemed like he could do no wrong defensively when he was at shortstop or anywhere else on the diamond.
But what most people don’t realize is that he could hit the ball just as good as he caught it.
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Over his 24 big league campaigns, Vizquel would rack up some impressive offensive statistics. In his career, he would attain a batting average of .272 while collecting 2,877 hits.
One of the most impressive parts of Vizquel’s offensive game was his plate discipline. Over his 24-year career, he struck out only 1,087 times out of 12,013 plate appearances. Even more impressive, he walked 1,028 times, only 59 times less than he struck out.
When he got on the base paths, he wasn’t just a frog on a log. Vizquel would accumulate 404 stolen bases over his career and would score 1,445 runs.
Vizquel’s most impressive all-around season would come in 1999 at age 32 with the Cleveland Indians. He would have a slash line of .333/.397/.436 while collecting 42 stolen bases and only getting caught 9 times.
That season, He would be invited to one of his two all-star games, win another gold glove (shocking) and finish in the top-16 of the MVP voting.
In the era where the league drooled over the longball and RBI’s, it’s impressive that a scrappy player like Vizquel would even be considered for the award.
Does He Compare To Other Hall of Famers?
Omar Vizquel at his time was the best defensive shortstop in the league, and few can argue that. He took over that role from another shortstop who is currently in Cooperstown, Ozzie Smith.
“The Wizard” was magical whether he was catching the ball or hitting it, and these two defensive magicians compare quite well.
Smith ended his career earning 11 gold gloves, the most ever for a shortstop. Vizquel is right behind him with 9, tied for second with another HOF’er, Luis Aparicio. Vizquel would end his career having a higher batting average than Smith by 10 points.
Although they are not identical, Vizquel seems to be in the same company as players already enshrined into Cooperstown.
Aparicio and Smith defined their eras with flashy defense and a solid bat, which the former Mariners shortstop did as well.
Defense like a Goalie
In 24 campaigns, Vizquel was the standard for a defensive shortstop. Besides the nine gold gloves, he would only make 183 errors in almost 3000 games.
Over his career, he would turn 1,734 double plays and accumulate a .985 fielding percentage.
Finally, when it came to the brightest lights, Vizquel would never shy away. In 11 postseason series, he would hit .250 overall and would hit .314 whenever he played in the ALDS.
For the fans who like to look beyond the numbers, Omar Vizquel was a trendsetter. When he was in his prime, the players who were deemed the greatest were launching the ball over the fence and didn’t play great defense.
Vizquel was different. His modern day comparison would be Jose Altuve to give a current example. He was short, he could run, hit the ball for average, played defense like a god, and epitomized a scrappy player. Many people would love to field a team full of Omar Vizquel’s.
In my opinion, when the time comes and Vizquel hits the ballot, he will be enshrined in Cooperstown. His amazing defense along with the base stealing presence and his solid bat makes him someone who could possibly be a first ballot hall of famer.