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Tribe Notes

Commentary: Trust your eyes, Omar Vizquel belongs in the Hall of Fame

  • Baseball-White-Sox-Vizquel

    Former Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel talks to reporters in 2014.

    AP FILE

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Let’s start with this:

Mike Mussina was one of four players voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday. To be elected to the Hall of Fame, players must be named on 75 percent of the ballots.

In Mussina’s first year on the ballot he got 20 percent of the vote. His second year: 24 percent. Third year: 43 percent. Fourth year: 51 percent. Fifth year: 63 percent.

This year, his sixth on the ballot, Mussina was elected to the Hall by getting 76 percent of the votes.

Last year, Omar Vizquel, in his first year on the ballot, got 37 percent of the votes, 17 percent more than Mussina got in his first year. This year, Vizquel got 42 percent of the vote, 18 percent more than Mussina got in his second year.

So Vizquel is trending in the right direction, impressively so. Historically, players who receive 37 percent of the vote in their first year on the ballot frequently end up getting into the Hall.

In Vizquel’s case, there are opposing camps. One is the analytics camp, whose members believe, based on the defensive metrics, that Vizquel is not a Hall of Famer, nor even worthy of being in the discussion for the Hall of Fame.

The second camp is made up of those of us who believe that if the defensive metrics say Omar is not a Hall of Famer, then the defensive metrics are not just wrong, they are grossly wrong.

Sometimes in judgments such as these, you can go strictly by what the numbers you believe in tell you, and ignore your eyeballs. If so, when it comes to player evaluations such as these, why would you ever watch a game, if the numbers tell you all you need to know?

Or, when it comes to defensive metrics, you can believe your eyeballs.

Call me optics-friendly. Your eyeballs, I believe, account for factors that are not quantifiable. Thankfully. Because apparently the defensive metrics scoff at what, for the 24 years Vizquel played shortstop in the major leagues — think about THAT for a second — caused fans’ jaws to drop, eyes to bulge, throats to roar, and ovation-ers to stand.

I hesitate to push the issue with this argument, because the analytics zealots seem overly sensitive to criticisms of some of their numbers, as well as to arguments made by the other side. So let’s just say I would respectfully submit that reasonable minds can disagree, and leave it at that.

This year I shared the opinion that Vizquel belongs in the Hall of Fame with 181 other voters (out of 425). History tells us that even more will check the box next to Vizquel’s name next year. So this year’s balloting was a positive outcome for the greatest defensive shortstop in Indians history.

Putting aside the four players voted into the Hall this year, only four other players on the ballot got more votes than Vizquel. So next year’s voting should be very interesting.

Which brings me to this year’s vote. Here’s who I voted for:

MARIANO RIVERA — Duh! EVERYBODY voted for him. Literally. I’m not a big fan of the save stat, but I am a big fan of overwhelming dominance. Rivera’s career ERA+ is 205. That’s the best in history. The next closest pitcher is at 159.

ROY HALLADAY — The very definition of a No.1 starter. In his 10-year prime (2002-11) he won nearly 70 percent of his decisions (170-75), led his league in shutouts four times, innings pitched four times and led in complete games every year but three. There’s also those two Cy Young Awards and a no-hitter in the postseason.

EDGAR MARTINEZ — One of the greatest right-handed hitters ever. The fourth-highest career on-base percentage of any right-handed hitter in history (.418). Only three right-handed hitters in history had a higher single-season OBP than his .479 in 1995.

MIKE MUSSINA — His 82.9 career WAR ranks 23rd in history among all pitchers, 18th among right-handers.

CURT SCHILLING — One of the greatest postseason pitchers ever. In the last 32 years no pitcher in either league had more complete games than Schilling’s 15 for the Phillies in 1998.

VIZQUEL — He was the greatest shortstop of his era, played more games and had more hits than any shortstop in history. In his career he played 2,968 games, at a premier, physically demanding position. Only 11 players in history played more games than that, and all of them are in the Hall of Fame, except for Pete Rose and Barry Bonds (for obvious reasons).

Only 11 players in history have 2,800 career hits and 400 career stolen bases. Vizquel is one of them. Disregard those misleading defensive metrics. Vizquel was a spectacular defender.

We all saw that.

With our eyeballs.

Contact Jim Ingraham at (440) 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com. Follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.


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