If You Vote for Omar Vizquel, You Have to Vote for Jamie Moyer

If Omar Vizquel is a Hall of Famer, then so is Jamie Moyer. (via Bryan Horowitz)

So you want to elect Omar Vizquel to the Hall of Fame.

You’re in good company. Vizquel looks to be one of the most formidable newcomers on this year’s ballot. Roughly half of Hall of Fame voters who have thus far released their ballots checked the box next to his name.

Vizquel’s case starts with his defense. All five 12-time Gold Glove winners are Hall of Famers; Vizquel took home the hardware 11 times. His career .985 fielding percentage (if you prefer old metrics) and 128 Baseball Reference Runs from Fielding (if you prefer new) put him on the short list of shortstop glove maestros.

With the bat, Vizquel held his own. He was a career .272/.336/.352 hitter (better than Ozzie Smith, his fans will tell you), and his 2,877 career hits rank sixth all-time among shortstops behind three Hall of Famers, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodríguez. His 1,445 runs rank ninth at the position. Impressively (especially in the modern game), he also walked (1,028) nearly as many times as he struck out (1,087).

Vizquel’s rep as a defensive wizard with proficient bat control is a plausible argument for putting him in the Hall of Fame. But it also comes with an intellectual obligation. By voting for Vizquel, you are implicitly setting a personal standard for Hall of Fame voting that isn’t easily escaped. To be consistent, a vote for one player compels you to at least consider the other candidates on the ballot who are on his same tier. This year, that means that, if you’re going to reserve one of the 10 spots on your ballot for Vizquel, you ought to set aside another for his pitching equivalent: Jamie Moyer.

Even Vizquel’s most ardent supporters will concede that the Venezuelan shortstop’s Hall of Fame case relies on his longevity. Starting in 1989 and ending in 2012, Vizquel’s career spanned parts of four decades in the majors—that’s impressive! But Moyer was even more long-lasting, pitching parts of 25 seasons (a quarter century!) between 1986 and 2012. (Moyer missed the 1992 and 2011 seasons.) People often refer derisively to Hall of Fame candidates like Vizquel and Moyer as “compilers,” but in this era of intense roster competition and injury epidemics, it takes skill to stick around the majors for that long.

Thanks to his long career, Vizquel’s hit total almost crested the plateau of 3,000, seen as a nearly automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame. Similarly, Moyer stuck around long enough to win 269 games—just shy of the magical 300 benchmark. Put another way, Vizquel got 96 percent of the way to his milestone, and Moyer got 90 percent of the way—not too different. If you’re willing to round up for Vizquel, be a pal and do the same for Moyer.

You might view Moyer’s 4.25 ERA as a dealbreaker; it would be the worst in Cooperstown by an Upstate New York mile. (Currently, Red Ruffing possesses the highest ERA of any Hall of Famer at 3.80, although Jack Morris’s 3.90 could steal the crown if the Modern Baseball Era Committee elects him this Sunday.) But Vizquel’s critics point to his low .688 career OPS in exactly the same way, so you shouldn’t see this as an insurmountable obstacle for Moyer.

In fact, this objection to Vizquel holds up better than the knock against Moyer. Moyer’s high ERA is largely a product of the high-offense era he pitched in. Moyer’s ERA- is 97, indicating that he was three percentage points better than the average pitcher of his generation. On the other hand, adjusted for era, Vizquel’s offense was actually 18 points worse than average (an 82 OPS+). That would be tied for the worst such mark in the Hall of Fame—just like Moyer’s unadjusted ERA. Oh well—no candidate is perfect, right?

You may choose to forgive the fact that Vizquel didn’t hit for much power (a career .080 ISO) by focusing on his expertise at avoiding strikeouts (a career 9.0 percent K-rate). But if you’re prepared to honor excellence at specific approaches to hitting or pitching (as opposed to their outcomes), spare a vote for Moyer’s excellent control. Moyer walked just 6.7 percent of the batters he faced in his career—better than Hall of Famers like Pedro Martínez and Warren Spahn. True, he struck out just 14.1 percent of batters, but strikeouts are to pitchers what home runs are to batters, and Vizquel didn’t need home runs to get where he is today.

Admittedly, it does hurt Moyer’s case that he was named to only one all-star team and received Cy Young votes only three times. But if you’re an Omar Vizquel voter, then a player’s lack of recognition by his contemporaries doesn’t bother you too much. For all his accomplishments, Vizquel attended only three All-Star Games during his 24-year career. His only appearance on an MVP ballot came in 1999, when he finished 16th.

Of course, Vizquel does have all those Gold Gloves. If your support for Vizquel rests primarily on his defense, then you must be comfortable with enshrining not only all-around good players, but also those who are elite at one specific element of the game. Moyer checks this box too. He deserves recognition for fashioning one of the best change-up-driven careers ever. Moyer’s 89.8 change-up runs above average (wCH) rank fourth in baseball since we started tracking pitch values in 2002.

In the end, the best metric we have to comprehensively measure player value, on both sides of the ball, is Wins Above Replacement. Although both players don’t quite measure up to their positions’ standards in the Hall of Fame (as defined by Jay Jaffe’s JAWS metric), they lag them by similar margins. In the eyes of both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, Moyer (48.2 fWAR) contributed more to his teams than Vizquel (42.6) did. In the seven best seasons of his career, Moyer amassed 26.8 fWAR; Vizquel posted 25.8, meaning Moyer had a slightly better peak as well. According to the advanced stats, Moyer and Vizquel are as evenly matched as they are in traditional ones.

For me, both Vizquel and Moyer fall short of Hall of Fame status. But both were brilliant, enduring threads in the fabric of the history of baseball, and both deserve a fond valediction. Whether that entails a vote for the Hall of Fame is up to you, dear voter, but please consider them equally when you cast your ballot.

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Nathaniel Rakich writes about politics and baseball at Baseballot. He has also written for The New Yorker, Grantland, The New Republic, and Let's Go Travel Guides. Follow him on Twitter @baseballot.
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Twitchy
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Twitchy
I said this in another article. Neither deserves to get in, but Moyer actually has a much better case than even you’re giving him credit for. In fact, if you go by RA/9 WAR, Moyer looks even better. He has 57.6 RA/9 WAR for his career, and his 7 year peak is at 32.5 RA/9 WAR. There’s no justification for voting in Vizquel beyond “I liked watching him play”, and you’re right, if you vote for Vizquel you’re saying Moyer deserves to get in as well. I’d much rather see a player with less longevity and a higher peak get… Read more »
3cardmonty
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3cardmonty

Yup, Moyer’s RA9-WAR actually puts him right on the HOF borderline. I probably wouldn’t vote for him but would not mind at all if he got in. Vizquel’s case is much weaker IMO and I’m frankly at a loss as to why his candidacy has any momentum when these same voters routinely overlook far superior players.

Jetsy Extrano
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Jetsy Extrano

And that’s not a fluke for Moyer — he’s the archetypal “crafty lefty” who got weak contact and ran a low BABIP for his career. Additionally, as a flyball pitcher, he suppressed errors, though I think that adds up to less.

DennisBoznango
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DennisBoznango

In the five years (from 25-29) which should encompass a players peak, Moyer won a total of 15 games (9-4-2-0-0) while losing 35. Had he won ‘just’ 46 games over that stretch, only 9 per year, that would have put him over 300. His must be one of baseballs most unique career paths.

Clem
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Clem
This comparison doesn’t make sense. People who vote for Omar vote for him because they consider him the absolute best with the glove of his era and the 2nd best defensive SS ever (whether they are right or wrong there is another thing) The longevity and compilled numbers are just an afterthought. Moyer was never the best at anything. I do not agree with Omar going to the Hall but I don’t see how his name relates to Moyer at all. The most offensive thing about Omar getting votes is Rolen or Andruw not getting as many votes when they… Read more »
Dominikk85
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Dominikk85
this. the hit and run total compilation is nice but the guys who vote for him do it because they see him as the second best ever with the glove (which is debatable). Voters do love outstanding Tools over Overall value. A good example is Bobby abreu vs Ichiro. of course Ichiro was a much better fielder and also better runner, but the voters couldn’t care less about that. Ichiro would get the same number of votes if he was an average Defender, the reason he is getting 95+% of the votes is the hit records and batting average. just… Read more »
Paul G.
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Member
Paul G.
Comparing anyone to Ichiro is a perilous decision. There are major intangibles involved here. Abreu does not have an MVP award (nor did he ever finish in the top 10), Abreu does not hold an “unbreakable” record, Abreu was not one of the best players on one of the greatest teams of all time, and Abreu was not a pioneer like Ichiro who proved that Japanese position players could be stars in the MLB. In addition, Ichiro also did not arrive in the States until age 27 and most likely left 3-5 all-star caliber seasons in Japan. This is roughly… Read more »
James
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Member
James

Easy solution: vote for neither.

ThomServo
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ThomServo
For all the moaning about a crowded ballot- besides Bonds and Clements, the only HOF candidate who has a JAWS even 3.0 points above the average for his position is Chipper Jones- a 1st time candidate who is almost sure to get in, whether or not he gets in 1st ballot. https://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/hof_2018.shtml There are only 12 returning candidates with 50 WAR. Four of them have been caught with PEDs, so regardless what people think, we know why there is controversy: Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Ramirez. Two of them, Kent and McGriff, have career WAR totals (and JAWS) less than the average… Read more »
Buzzed27
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Member
Buzzed27
Using mean JAWS is in error imo, there are too many outliers in players like Ruth, Aaron, and Musial who just destroys RF mean JAWS. For basically every position being above the mean JAWS for the position doesn’t mean you have an argument for being in the HOF, it means you’re a LOCK. Of the 31 pitchers with a higher than Mean JAWS score 30 are in or currently on the ballot. 9 of 9 catchers in the HOF or active. 12 of 13 1b (Palameiro being the 1). 9 of 10 2B (Bobby Grich is an all time snub… Read more »
tramps like us
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tramps like us

Rather than bringing Moyer into it, we should be debating Mussina and (especially!) Schilling’s qualifications. I’m tired of the whole “if Player A, then Player B” argument. One mistake doesn’t qualify equal mistakes. Just because Frankie Frisch and his merry band of lackeys were able to hijack the veterans committee in the 1960’s and elect a bunch of his mediocre cronies from his era doesn’t mean everyone of equal mediocrity should be elected, too. There is only one reason for not inducting Schilling; he’s a jackass. Not good enough.

njguy73
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njguy73

Yes. As Chris Jaffe pointed out on this site back in 2008, if players could only be voted in by the BBWAA, the Hall would be almost exactly the right ones. Other than voting in Bill Terry instead of Johnny Mize and Rabbit Maranville instead of Arky Vaughan, the BBWAA has voted in pretty much only the truly deserving ones.

https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/rating-the-bbwaa-part-1/

https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/rating-the-bbwaa-part-2/

ashlandateam
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ashlandateam
As a big hall guy who’s comfortable with roughly 18 dudes from this ballot in the Hall, I’m totally good with this. If these guys played for 25 and 23 years, then if you’re telling the story of baseball history (which the Hall does, I think), then they’re worthy additions. I’d put them well below a ton of other guys (certainly more than 10, which is, in my mind, the worst part about the voting right now), but if they go in, great. There should be a place for guys who stick around and compile for a quarter century in… Read more »
Dominikk85
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Dominikk85
Well I don’t think either deserves it but the Hardware does make a huge difference. run value is not everything and having the Gold gloves (as well as 2800 hits and 1400 runs) is making a difference. I don’t know whether it should but even in modern times it does make a difference. I mean just like 2 years ago edmonds was one and done and he is a much better candidate than Vlad or even Mo but those two will easily make it on first Ballot. sabermetrics are slowly getting traction but edmonds Shows that we aren’t there yet.… Read more »
OddBall Herrera
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OddBall Herrera
There was no single aspect of Moyer’s game that was elite or anything close to it. Moyer’s case tests primarily on his longevity, Vizquel’s is simply helped by his longevity. To put it another way, Vizquel went through a very long period where he was arguably The Best defensive shortstop (a premium defensive position) in baseball. There is no corresponding area in which Moyer similarly excelled. I think the distinction between compilers should be one of ‘merely’ compilers vs. guys who had longevity and were generational talents in some aspects but not enough to be ‘inner circle’. On a personal… Read more »
Las Vegas Wildcards
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Las Vegas Wildcards

Agreed, and Vizquel will be helped by the fact virtually everyone saw him play. Playing a long time is the only thing Vizquel has in common with Moyer. And HOF voters know you cannot compare pitching every fourth or fifth day, with an everyday player. Moyer had a nice career, but Vizquel is an HOF talent.