Top 100 Indians: #29 Omar Vizquel

Omar Vziquel - USA TODAY Sports

Next on our Top 100 countdown is the best defensive shortstop in franchise history.

Omar Enrique (Gonzalez) Vizquel (Little O)

Shortstop, 1994-2004

Height: 5'9" Weight: 180 lbs

Throws: Right Bats: Both

How Acquired: Trade, December 20, 1993: Traded by the Seattle Mariners for Felix Fermin, Reggie Jefferson and cash

Left Via: Free Agency, October 29, 2004

Omar Vizquel was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and like many Venezuelan youngsters, grew up on the local sandlots playing baseball. Vizquel was born a generation after Chico Carrasquel, the first Venezuelan All-Star, Luis Aparicio, the first (and so far only) Venezuelan in the Hall of Fame. He grew up idolizing Dave Concepcion, who was big part of the Big Red Machine teams in the 1970s. All three (Carrasquel, Aparicio, and Concepcion) were shortstops, and Vizquel would follow in their footsteps.

Vizquel signed with the Seattle Mariners in 1984 amid a huge wave of Venezuelan talent just coming into the majors. There wasn't yet a Venezuelan Summer League, so Vizquel was brought to the US as a 17-year-old who didn't speak any English. His first professional experience was in Butte, Montana (Pioneer League), and the following year he moved up to Bellingham (Northwest League). Both were short-season leagues, and although Vizquel wasn't exactly an offensive machine, his glove was impressive, and he moved through the system fairly quickly. By 1988 (Age 21) he had reached AAA, and on April 3, 1989, he made his major-league debut as Seattle's starting shortstop.

The Mariners had been awful through most of the 1980s, but towards the end of the decade began to start to accumulate quite a bit of young talent. Ken Griffey, Jr made his debut on the same day as Vizquel, and Edgar Martinez was getting his first real playing time in the majors. Vizquel didn't hit a lick in his early years with the Mariners, but his defense was so good that he stayed in the lineup. In 1992 Vizquel had a breakout offensive season, hitting .294/.340/.352 (95 OPS+) but the following year he slipped back into his usual 60 OPS+ range. So even though Vizquel was considered one of the best defensive shortstops in the AL (he won his first Gold Glove in 1993), it seemed that his future was limited to that of a glove-only shortstop. The Mariners had drafted Alex Rodriguez in 1993, and with him as the future at short, they trade Vizquel to the Cleveland Indians in December of 1993 for Felix Fermin (who would be a stopgap until Rodriguez arrived) and Reggie Jefferson, who was a promising young first baseman.

Felix Fermin had been the Indians' everyday shortstop since 1989, but he had tailed off defensively, so the Indians were looking for an upgrade there. Vizquel, who was several years young and a much better defender than Fermin, fit the bill perfectly. I don't think the Indians expected Vizquel to give them much on offense, but with the players already in place (Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, and prospects Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez), they could live with a glove-only shortstop.

Vizquel made his Indians debut on April 4, 1994, the first game played at Jacobs Field. Coincidentally, the Indians faced off against the Seattle Mariners, Omar's old team. With the Indians trailing 3-2 in the 10th, Vizquel drove home the tying run with a groundout, and the Indians would later win the game with a Wayne Kirby walkoff single in the 11th. Vizquel would again struggle at the plate that season, but he continue to amaze in the field, and that kept him in the lineup.

But Vizquel became a better hitter as his career went on. In 1996 he hit .297/.362/.417 (98 OPS+), becoming a legitimate threat in a lineup already full of them. Through the rest of his tenure with the Indians Vizquel generally posted OPS-pluses in the 80-90 range, which is more than enough for a shortstop, let alone a shortstop with his defensive ability. In Game 4 of the 1997 ALDS he drove home the winning run, forcing a Game 5:


But again, it was his defense that made Vizquel such a valuable player. In the sixth inning of the 1997 World Series, Vizquel saved at least one run and probably by making this play to rob Charles Johnson:


Vizquel's defensive prowess started with his hands. Both of them. He rarely dropped a ball that he got his glove on, and for that matter, his bare hand. Vizquel would make more bare-handed plays than anyone else in the big leagues, whether it be on chopper up the middle or a fly ball into shallow center. Vizquel did not have spectacular range, but he made up for it with his hands and an extremely accurate arm. He was a wizard at starting and turning double plays. He would go back on fly balls as anyone I've ever seen, even at times catching a fly ball with his back to home plate on purpose, which became a sort of trademark play for him.


Vizquel was the last of the 90s-era stars to leave, playing with the Indians through 2004. He was 37 by now, and Jhonny Peralta, who was a 15 years younger, was being groomed to take over at shortstop. But Vizquel's career wasn't over by a long shot. He signed a four-year contract with the San Francisco Giants, and until the last year of that deal (2007) was still decent in both phases of the game. After 2007, he served as a utility infielder with Texas (2009), the Chicago White Sox (2010-2011) and finally Toronto (2012). By that time Vizquel had broken several records for longevity as a shortstop and as a position player. He passed his fellow countryman Luis Aparicio for games played as a shortstop (2008) and all-time hits (2009) by a Venezuelan. He retired with the third-most hits all-time as a shortstop (trailing Derek Jeter and Honus Wagner). In 2012 he became the oldest player to play shortstop (age 45). He finally called it a career at the end of the 2012 season, playing his last game on October 3.

Indians Career Stats

Year Age Tm G PA 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Awards
1994 27 CLE 69 322 10 1 1 13 4 23 23 .273 .325 .325 .650 71 GG
1995 28 CLE 136 622 28 0 6 29 11 59 59 .266 .333 .351 .684 78 GG
1996 29 CLE 151 623 36 1 9 35 9 56 42 .297 .362 .417 .779 98 GG
1997 30 CLE 153 642 23 6 5 43 12 57 58 .280 .347 .368 .715 85 GG
1998 31 CLE 151 660 30 6 2 37 12 62 64 .288 .358 .372 .730 89 AS,GG
1999 32 CLE 144 664 36 4 5 42 9 65 50 .333 .397 .436 .833 111 AS,MVP-16,GG
2000 33 CLE 156 717 27 3 7 22 10 87 72 .287 .377 .375 .753 92 GG
2001 34 CLE 155 693 26 8 2 13 9 61 72 .255 .323 .334 .657 75 GG
2002 35 CLE 151 663 31 5 14 18 10 56 64 .275 .341 .418 .759 104 AS
2003 36 CLE 64 285 13 2 2 8 3 29 20 .244 .321 .336 .657 78
2004 37 CLE 148 651 28 3 7 19 6 57 62 .291 .353 .388 .741 99
CLE (11 yrs) 1478 6542 288 39 60 279 95 612 586 .283 .352 .379 .731 90
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/14/2013.

Selected Awards/Leaders

  • AL All-Star: 1998, 1999, 2002
  • AL MVP: 16th, 1999
  • AL Gold Glove: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001
  • AL WAR Position Players: 8th, 1999-6.0
  • AL dWAR: 8th, 1999-2.0
  • AL Average: 6th, 1999-.333
  • AL Plate Appearances: 10th, 2000-613
  • AL Hits: 8th, 1999-191
  • AL 3B: 7th, 2001-8; 10th, 1997-6; 10th, 1998-6
  • AL Stolen Bases: 2nd, 1999-42; 5th, 1996-35; 5th, 1997-43; 8th, 1998-37; 10th, 1995-29
  • AL Singles: 3rd, 1999-146; 5th, 2000-139; 7th, 2004-127; 7th, 1997-124; 8th, 1998-128
  • AL Sacrifice Hits: 1st, 1997-16; 1st, 1999-17; 1st, 2004-20; 2nd, 2001-15; 3rd, 1994-11; 5th, 1995-10; 5th, 1998-12; 7th, 1996-12
  • AL Sacrifice Flies: 4th, 2002-10; 5th, 1995-10; 8th, 1996-9
  • AL Caught Stealing: 5th, 2000-10; 6th, 2002-10; 6th, 1998-12; 7th, 1995-11; 7th, 1997-12; 10th, 1996-9
  • AL SB %: 8th, 1999-82.35
  • AL WPA: 8th, 1999-3.8
  • AL Assists: 4th, 1997-429; 5th, 2002-431
  • AL Errors: 5th, 1996-20
  • AL Putouts as SS: 1st, 1998-173; 2nd, 1997-245;4th, 1995-210; 4th, 2001-219; 4th, 2002-239
  • AL Assists as SS: 4th, 1995-405; 4th, 1997-429; 4th, 1998-442; 4th, 2001-414; 4th, 2002-431
  • AL Errors as SS: 5th, 1996-20
  • AL Double Plays Turned as SS: 3rd, 1997-98; 4th, 1998-94; 4th, 2002-98; 5th, 2001-88
  • AL Fielding Percentage as SS: 1st, 1998-.993; 1st, 2000-.995; 1st, 2001-.989; 2nd, 1997-.985; 2nd, 2002-.990; 3rd, 1995-.986; 3rd, 2004-.982
  • AL Range Factor/Game as SS: 4th, 1998-4.74; 5th, 1997-4.43

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 15th WAR Position Players (30.1)
  • t-19th oWAR (26.9)
  • 6th dWAR (11.3)
  • 10th Games Played (1478)
  • 5th At Bats (5708)
  • 6th Plate Appearances (6542)
  • 6th Runs Scored (906)
  • 7th Hits (1616)
  • 10th Total Bases (2162)
  • 8th Doubles (288)
  • t-30th Triples (39)
  • 16th Runs Batted In (584)
  • 10th Bases On Balls (612)
  • 17th Strikeouts (586)
  • 2nd Stolen Bases (279)
  • 5th Singles (1229)
  • 13th Runs Created (811)
  • 18th Extra Base Hits (387)
  • t-37th Hit By Pitch (28)
  • 11th Sacrifice Hits (132)
  • 1st Sacrifice Flies (62)
  • 10th Double Plays Grounded Into (109)
  • 3rd Caught Stealing (95)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • t-27th dWAR (2.0, 1999)
  • t-40th dWAR (1.7, 1998)
  • t-41st At Bats (613, 2000)
  • 43rd At Bats (611, 2001)
  • 12th Plate Appearances (717, 2000)
  • t-41st Plate Appearances (693, 2001)
  • t-28th Runs Scored (112, 1999)
  • t-38th Hits (191, 1999)
  • 13th Stolen Bases (43, 1997)
  • 14th Stolen Bases (42, 1999)
  • t-24th Stolen Bases (37, 1998)
  • t-33rd Stolen Bases (35, 1996)
  • 20th Singles (146, 1999)
  • t-38th Singles (139, 2000)
  • t-10th Sacrifice Flies (10, 1995, 2002)
  • t-17th Sacrifice Flies (9, 1996)
  • t-37th Win Probability Added (3.8, 1999)

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