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What's the Deal with Omar?

January 23, 2018

Last week, we looked at how Hall of Fame candidates Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen compared to other players at their positions in terms of Bill James’ Win Shares system. Today, we are going to look at how fellow first-time Hall of Fame candidate Omar Vizquel stacks up against other shortstops.

The following table ranks the shortstops with the most all-time career Win Shares.

Career Win Shares Leaders, Primary SS
Rank Player Win Shares
1 Honus Wagner* 655
2 Alex Rodriguez 492
3 Cal Ripken* 427
4 Robin Yount* 423
5 Derek Jeter 412
6 George Davis* 398
7 Bill Dahlen 394
8 Luke Appling* 378
9 Arky Vaughan* 356
10 Barry Larkin* 347
11 Bobby Wallace* 345
12 Joe Cronin* 333
13 Ozzie Smith* 325
14 Alan Trammell* 318
15 Pee Wee Reese* 314
16 Jimmy Rollins 304
17 Rabbit Maranville* 302
18 Luis Aparicio* 293
19 Miguel Tejada 287
20 Omar Vizquel 282
T-21 Julio Franco 280
T-21 Bert Campaneris 280
T-21 Tony Fernandez 280
T-24 Joe Sewell* 277
T-24 Lou Boudreau* 277
*Hall of Famer


In terms of overall Win Shares, Vizquel ranks 20th among shortstops. The players around him are Miguel Tejada, Julio Franco, Bert Campaneris, and Tony Fernandez. Some nearby Hall of Famers are Joe Sewell and Lou Boudreau, and he’s not too far behind Luis Aparicio, another enshrined player.

Bill Dahlen, who is the only eligible player in the top 19 to not be in the Hall of Fame, is an interesting case. He is seventh on the list of most Win Shares by shortstops. He was named by the Society for American Baseball Research as the Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legend for 2012 and was included on the Veterans Committee ballot in 2013, but fell two votes short of election.

As an 11-time Gold Glove Award recipient, Vizquel is known for his outstanding defense. Let’s see how his glove stacks up against other defensive shortstops by examining how he ranks in Fielding Win Shares.

Career Fielding Win Shares Leaders, Primary SS
Rank Player Fielding Win Shares
1 Ozzie Smith* 139.8
2 Bill Dahlen 129.0
T-3 Rabbit Maranville* 123.2
T-3 Omar Vizquel 123.2
5 Luis Aparicio* 122.8
T-6 Honus Wagner* 116.9
T-6 Dave Concepcion 116.9
8 Cal Ripken* 115.2
9 Tommy Corcoran 114.6
10 Joe Tinker* 112.2
*Hall of Famer


Omar is tied for third in all-time Fielding Win Shares for shortstops with Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville. Rabbit does, however, have 20 more overall Win Shares than Vizquel. Other than Omar, three of the top ten defensive shortstops are not in the Hall of the Fame—Dahlen (again!), and Dave Concepcion and Tommy Corcoran who finished with 269 and 214 total career Win Shares, respectively.

In the Wall Street Journal, Jared Diamond discusses Omar along with other Hall of Fame candidates. We provided some of the same research as in this Stat of the Week. Just a point of clarification, the article quotes me as saying that the data suggests that no more than 15 or 20% of a player's total worth derives from defense. However, what I meant was that defense as a whole, compared with hitting AND pitching is worth 15 to 20% as part of the game overall. Defense, as part of an individual position player's value, would be higher than 15-20% on average because he doesn't pitch. For a shortstop or a catcher, a player's value as a defender could be as high as 40% of his total worth.

About Win Shares: Developed by Bill James to assess a player's value to his team, one Win Share is set equal to one-third of a win. If you add up all the wins a team has, the team Win Share total is exactly three times that number. A player's hitting, fielding, and pitching performance are each taken as a separate component of Win Shares, the sum of which is his overall Win Shares total.


COMMENTS (12 Comments, most recent shown first)

Brock Hanke
I take it back. The first baseman in 1924, when Rabbit Maranville played second to make room for Glenn Wright, was Charlie Grimm. If anything, that improves the defense over Gus Suhr. The manager of that team was Bill McKechnie. Should have guessed that.
4:36 AM Jan 28th
Brock Hanke
I thought I'd take a look at the ten players listed as having the highest Defensive Win Shares and compute how many DWS they had per 1000 Innings Played. Since the list does not seem to restrict itself to defensive innings at shortstop, I used the total defensive innings for the player. This hurts Honus Wagner and Cal Ripken quite a bit, because they played substantial time at other positions, and helps Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio, who never played anywhere other than short, although it doesn't help them much, since none of these guys played much of anywhere other than short, except for Honus and Cal. Joe Tinker is helped substantially by having by far the shortest career of the ten, so fewer innings played in the decline phase. Anyway, here's that list:

1. Joe Tinker 7.15
2. Ozzie Smith 6.41
3. Bill Dahlen 6.04
4. Tommy Corcoran 5.92
5. Dave Concepcion 5.78
6. Luis Aparicio 5.48
7. Rabbit Maranville 5.27
8. Omar Vizquel 5.02
9. Honus Wagner 4.81
10. Cal Ripken 4.43

Omar Vizquel does not do very well. He has the worst ranking of anyone except the two guys who played substantial amounts at other positions. He has the same number of DWS as Rabbit Maranville, but spent 1157 more innings compiling them, plus Maranville played a season or so at second base, even though he was at his prime, because the Pirates came up with Glenn Wright. Wright had as strong an arm as Rabbit, but it was a bit wild, and Rabbit was quicker on the double play. That was a hell of a defensive infield for a year or two there. Gus Suhr at first, Rabbit, Pie Traynor at third, and Wright.

1:14 AM Jan 28th
Vizquel was a very, very good fielder. But to argue that he was the best fielding SS of all time is, frankly, a stretch.

He was first in games played at the position.
11th in putouts (Maranvlle was first; Aparicio 6th; Smith 8th)
3rd in assists (Aparicio, Smith)
DP 1st
RF/9 72nd Belanger & Smith were both more than 1/2 play per 9 innings ahead of him...and Bill Almon is the career leader.
Total Zone Runs 5th behind Smith, Belanger, Ripken, and Aparicio

It's notable that Belanger ranks second (1 behind Ozzie) in TZR despite playing many fewer innings than any of the other people (7000 fewer innings than Vizquel, over 100 more TZR).

Among "modern" SS, I'd say that Smith, Aparicio, and Belanger were demonstrably better fielders than Vizquel. Vizquel was, however, a better hitter than Belanger. But Smith and Aparicio were also (much) better hitters.

11:04 PM Jan 26th
Hmm, it does say something about your bat (and not in a positive way) when Rabbit Maranville, surely the non-pitcher HOFer with the worst offensive numbers, apparently has 20 more offensive win-shares than you.
3:56 PM Jan 25th
In this frame of context Win Shares does not represent a clear picture of anything. Omar played on teams with other "living" HOF'ers as they were at the time. He wouldn't possibly be in the same category as the great power hitters he shared the line up with. In Chipper Jone's best season he didn't even have as many hits as Omar did in his best season however. Not that I think Omar is a HOFer because he was a great hitter but rather that he is the greatest defensive shortstop who ever lived. The reason I bring up the Chipper Jones comparison is because his counting stats don't even measure up to traditional HOF criteria and Omar's actually BLOW him away in this train of thought.
8:48 AM Jan 25th
I must admit I am a bit astounded anyone would consider Omar Vizquel a HOFer. While the WS show one story it does not consider the fact he played just under 3000 games, over 1000 more than most of the comparables. Similiarly he shows up reasonably strong in WAR (42ish if I recall) on a WAA basis he is around 5 which in my mind summarizes my view of his career. He was an average player with fantastic defensive skils and a significantly below average bat for an extremely long time.

While I agree that longevity in itself is a sign of quality, Omar in my mind is not how I view a HOF candidate. I also thought of a few of the original questionnaire Bill created years ago.

Was he ever considered the best player in baseball? Clearly not.

Was he ever considered the best at his position? Perhaps once or twice in his career but only three AS games is a clear indicator.
Was he considered the best player on his team? Dont believe so.
If he was the best player on the team is his team likely to win a pennant? Clearly not.

With respect to original questions probably didn't get them all right but I think I captured the spirit.
7:51 AM Jan 25th
.....for which reason I'd say lists like the ones here only give half of the story.

What would fill it out:
Lists according to 'per 1000 innings' or some such.

The lists here are about total value.
From these posts, it's clear that at least some of us are also thinking in terms of "how good."
11:15 AM Jan 24th
I grew up watching Mark Belanger, and he is clearly one of the best fielding SS ever. However, he also lost innings in the field over time to being a weak hitter so that he was always pinch hit for, and some years just struggled at the plate so much he lost more time. Belanger only had 15209 inning at SS, Vizquel had 22960, Ozzie 21785, Dahlen 18668 at SS (and 21370 overall.) I didn't check everyone, but I think that is the issue with Win Shares in this case, he couldn't contribute in the field as much as others because he wasn't out there.
10:49 AM Jan 24th
Does any Win Shares formulation use PBP info??
I didn't think so.
9:56 AM Jan 24th
I’m guessing that THIS fielding win shares is a more apples-to-apples comparison, with no PBP fielding metrics involved.
8:02 AM Jan 24th
Me too. I'd have expected Belanger to be in the top two for fielding Win Shares. However, Win Shares is basically a counting stat, and Belanger didn't get a much playing time as a lot of other great shortstops. Accoring to, he is 20th in Fielding Win Shares, and 15th in Fielding Win Shares Abover Replacement, which is still surprisingly low. It looks like all of the other advances metrics out there like Belanger more than Win Shares does.
7:41 AM Jan 24th
I'm surprised not to see Mark Belanger on the win shares list.
10:52 PM Jan 23rd
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