The reason I did this is partly to get a jolt out of Kevin, but partly because of a discussion he and I had about Omar’s chances to get in the Hall of Fame. Kevin said he’d be as upset as if Jack Morris would have gotten in, so I decided to check some stuff out, specifically to the superficially best comp to Omar — Ozzie Smith. Here are the pages in question: Omar Vizquel | Ozzie Smith.
Offense: They had a very close OPS+ — 87 for Ozzie and 82 for Omar. The raw numbers are better across the board for Omar — more power, better average, better discipline — but Omar is dinged for playing in a better offensive era and for a longer career. Not overly concerned about that. Let’s look at peak.
Omar’s best seasons were 1999, 2002, and any number of other candidates for #3. 1996 and 2004 are almost a dead heat, so we’ll include both. Ozzie’s best seasons were 1991, 1987, 1992, and 1985. Every conceivable stat (except OBP, which is close) favors Omar, but again, we have to adjust for the era. By oWAR and dWAR, which do adjust for era, Ozzie’s best season squeaks just ahead of Omar’s. (Fun fact — for whatever reason, Omar played a single game in the outfield in 1999.) On the whole, Ozzie looks better here too, because replacement level is higher for Omar’s era.
Yet you’d love to have the bat of either man at their peak at SS coupled with their gloves, and you’d tolerate it in other years. Not a bad deal.
However, there’s a factor we can’t overlook. Omar’s bat was worth 32.3 oWAR. Ozzie’s was worth 47.9 WAR. “Uh, what?” I hear you ask. “You just got through saying there’s not much that differentiates between them.” Yes, but oWAR takes something else into account: baserunning. Ozzie stole a lot more bases (580 to 404) in a shorter career, and with a better success rate to boot (81% for Ozzie — 71% for Omar). GDP is 207 for Omar, 167 for Ozzie — although if we give them the same career length, they come out almost exactly the same. The stolen bases give Ozzie the edge as well — as playing in a worse offensive era — and so I have to give the overall edge to Ozzie.
Defense: When I did my research, I expected from years of being an Indians fan that Omar would be really close to Ozzie. Ozzie Smith, solely by dWAR, is the greatest player of all time. Here, the reputation is justified. (The rest of the top 12 — two players tied for 8 and 10 — is a bunch of shortstops, two hybrids (Cal Ripken Jr. and Bobby Wallace, a nineteenth century guy), a third baseman (Brooks Robinson) and Pudge. Omar clocks in as tied for tenth with Bad Bill Dahlen. Again, clearly all time greats with the glove.
Except Ozzie is on another plane when it comes to defense. Part of the reason that Omar gets a dWAR as high as he does is because he was really good, but part is because Omar had a longer career. Okay, you say. Yet it’s how they acquired their numbers that’s really telling.
Omar was really, really good year in and year out. His best defensive year was 2.5 dWAR, with his worst (as a 43 year old!) as just under 0 dWAR. Not an extreme standard deviation. Then there’s Ozzie, who at his defensive peak played out of his fucking mind (pardon the language) and then fell off. On the single season records for dWAR, Ozzie ranks #5. Omar’s best year is tied for #343 (with one of Ozzie’s seasons, among others). Kevin will be very pleased to see #1 on the list.
If you’re a peak Hall guy, like Kevin, you’ll give a huge nod to Ozzie. I still give the nod to Ozzie, but it’s closer than I thought.
Hardware: Omar has 11 Gold Gloves, 3 All Star appearances, and 1 MVP appearance (16th in 1999 — although in reality he should have been closer to 7 or 8, given his total WAR; 1999 was an awesome year); no rings for Omar. Ozzie has 13 Gold Gloves, 15 All-Star appearances, #2 in Rookie of the Year voting, and 6 appearances in the MVP voting (including a peak of #2 in 1987), plus a ring in 1982. Edge to Ozzie.
All of this suggests that Omar would be a worthy representative in the Hall of Fame. Not 1st ballot material, but still worthy of the Hall in my estimation. However, Omar has a problem I’ve already alluded to many times: his era. In Ozzie’s era, I don’t think we have this discussion about Omar at all — he’s in for sure. The problem is super-human freaks like Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter, Nomah, and Alex Rodriguez, who were B+ gloves (except Jeter, who’s a D+) with A/A+ bats. Alan Trammell was an A bat (for the era) with a B- glove. Ozzie and Omar had A+ gloves (if you want to be picky I’ll downgrade Omar to an A) with D+/C- bats. The choice is pretty obvious.
I will admit, if Omar played in any other uniform for most of his career, I’d probably have a bigger problem with him as a Hall candidate, and he’s unquestionably borderline. It would not, however, be a traveshamockery if he got in.