Column: Vizquel is a Hall of Accumulator, not Hall of Famer
Omar Vizquel played a long time as an MLB player, but he was a Hall of Accumulator, not a Hall of Famer.
Being a productive major leaguer for 24 years is impressive. That being said, the 11-time Gold Glove winner is not worthy of a Cooperstown induction.
At face value, he may appear like a no-brainer inductee. Nearly 2,900 hits, 11 Gold Gloves, three All-Star appearances, 400 stolen bases, 450 doubles, etc. At face value, those are Hall of Fame-caliber numbers––but there’s a lot more to Vizquel’s candidacy from his playing days that detract from what he accumulated.
For starters, despite playing the 13th-most games in league history (2,968), he ranks tied for 285th all-time in FanGraphs wins above replacement (fWAR) and tied for 250th in Baseball-Reference wins above replacement (rWAR).
Among shortstops, he ranks tied for 33rd in fWAR and 20th in rWAR. To name a few ahead of him, Miguel Tejada and Jimmy Rollins best him in rWAR, while guys like Jose Reyes and Bert Campaneris best him in fWAR.
That alone should be a disqualification, especially since the closest one of those four to Vizquel––despite already edging him in WAR––is Campaneris, who still played 640 fewer games.
Moreover, Vizquel averaged 2.3 rWAR per season from 1989 to 1998, then averaged 1.3 rWAR per season from 2000 to 2012. Sandwiched in there is a 6.0 rWAR season in 1999, which is one of only two seasons he was above a 100 wRC+.
You can’t take his six-win season out of the picture, but it does inflate his numbers and, based on his career as a whole, proved to be a major fluke.
He was a gifted infielder, ranking ninth in defensive WAR all-time––only Mark Belanger has more dWAR and isn’t in the Hall of Fame. However, Vizquel was mercifully below average offensively for all but two of his 24 seasons.
Among the 359 hitters in league history to compile at least 7,500 plate appearances, Vizquel ranks tied for 267th in batting average (.272), tied for 282nd in on-base percentage (.336), tied for 339th in slugging percentage (.352), and tied for 346th in wRC+ (83).
On top of that, he’s 102nd in doubles, tied for 142nd in triples, and 283rd in home runs despite being 21st in plate appearances.
Playing for 24 seasons in MLB is an accomplishment in and of itself. Vizquel played more games than all but 12 MLB players all-time. However, playing the game for a long time doesn’t make you a Hall of Fame talent.
In Vizquel’s case, yes, he was a very good defensive shortstop. He’s one of the best defensive players in league history in terms of dWAR. That doesn’t change the fact that his WAR and offensive numbers are nothing more than an accumulation of time spent at the big league level.
Vizquel had more seasons producing negative rWAR (four) than he did above four (two). He had more seasons with fewer than 1.0 rWAR (nine) than he did 2.9 or better (seven). Playing for a long time doesn’t make you a Hall of Famer; Vizquel is living proof of that.
People often compare him and Ozzie Smith when talking about defensive-minded shortstops that made the Hall of Fame. The flaw in that logic is Smith had 31.3 more rWAR than Vizquel in 425 fewer games––plus had 10 seasons of five or more rWAR.
Not to mention Smith is the all-time leader in dWAR and was a better hitter––relative to the era––than Vizquel.
There’s no case to be made for Omar Vizquel outside of stats that came from high volume. He played nearly 3,000 games, so of course, his numbers look solid at face value.
Again, that doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer. Create a Hall of Accumulators and Vizquel is a first-ballot inductee.