Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has announced that the Giants and Omar Vizquel are close to signing a 1 year $5.5M dollar deal. Under the rumored new deal, Omar would earn about $1.5M more from his 2007 salary after posting the worst OPS in the National League in ’07 (when sorting by 450 plate appearances, Omar and Marcus Giles are tied for the worst OPS in the NL, both with .621). To get an idea of how bad the 41-year-old Vizquel was at the plate last year, here is a small list of players who hit better than him.
- Juan Pierre (the black hole of offense himself)
- Pedro Feliz and Ray Durham (ouch, even Ray’s worst season in his pro career was better than Omar’s season, not by much but still…)
- David Eckstein (scrap, grit, heart, etc.)
- Stephen Drew (had a terrible season .238/.313/.370, but was still better offensively than Omar, should rebound in ’08 some and has the advantage of not being 40+)
- Craig Biggio (future HOF, is going to retire)
The list isn’t pretty and my picks aren’t in any special order but it goes to show, Omar stunk at the dish this year. If you’re into more of the new-fangled stats, Omar’s EqA of .221 was about 40 points below league average.
Let’s compare Omar’s ’07 stats to his career numbers to try and find out what went wrong
YEAR BB% K% OPS ISO BABIP GB/FB LD% 2007 7.9% 9.4% .621 .070 .265 1.03 18.3% - 9.0% 10.0% .697 .083 .298 1.09 21.6%
Surprisingly, his underlying performance is close with what he’s done in previous years. He struck out about the same and walked a little less. His power, which has always been minuscule dropped a little. His line drive percentage dropped by 3% and his BABIP was down 23 points from his career. His GB/FB ratio is still right around 1.0. The drop in power and his BABIP make me think that Omar’s bat has slowed down. A player like Omar, who has never been a strong hitter, is really going to start to look ugly if he loses even more of his hitting skill. It’s not surprising that a 40 year old baseball player would see some slip in his hitting skills.
If you look at Omar’s batted ball chart from First Inning, you can see that he’s hitting a lot of balls into the air. Most of them going to CF but he’s also hitting a lot of balls on the ground.
I would hazard a guess that the reason that his average is so high on flyballs is that defenders are playing him really shallow because of his lack of power and he’s occasionally poking them over their heads, especially in center field. What’s really hurting Omar is when he hits the ball on the ground. He hit 21.9% of his batted balls to the right side of the infield, on these balls he’s only hitting .200. He’s also hitting 19.2% of his batted balls on the ground to the left side of the infield, on these batted balls he’s hitting a little better at .261, probably because the throw is longer from the left side of the diamond to first base and he can use his speed a little better. For his age Omar still runs pretty well, not great but well.
Looking at how well Omar faired against the different types of pitchers (power vs finesse) might be able to clue us in on his hitting problems. I’m using Baseball Reference’s definitions of power and finesse pitchers, qualified as:
Power pitchers strike out or walk more than 28% of batters faced, Finesse pitchers strike out or walks less than 24% of batters faced. Stats are based on the three years before and after (when available), and the season for when the split is computed. A split in 1994 would consider years 1991-1997.
In 2007 versus power pitchers, Omar hit (.221/.273/.275) in 165 PA’s. Against Finesse pitchers, he hit (.291/.360/.381) in 257 PA’s. Omar just didn’t have the same luck against the hard-throwers as he did against the soft-tossers. This information supports the argument for his decline in hitting ability. Simply put, it’s easier to hit an 85mph fastball than it is a 95mph fastball. In his career Omar has hit both power pitchers and finesse pitchers about the same, so his 2007 is out of whack for what he’s done historically. In his 2 previous years with the Giants, he hit (.302/.366/.356) in ’06 and (.292/.349/.350) in ’05 against power pitchers. Omar has been playing with a certain fountain of youth essence for his whole career, but at age 40 it looks like his hitting ability has slipped. He’s human after all.
Defensively, Omar is still an elite defender by most metrics. The 2007 fielding bible rates him as the 3rd best short stop in the game with a score of +20 only behind Troy Tulowitzki (+35) and John McDonald (+26). If the fielding bible isn’t your thing, he rated as the best shortstop in the NL by The Hardball Times’ revised zone rating and was 10th in OOZ, or outs made outside of a defenders zone. Omar’s OOZ score makes me think that while he doesn’t have the same range of his earlier days, his positioning and ability to field the ball are still fantastic. He wont’ be a liability with the glove.
A couple of months ago I wrote about the impending shortstop issue that the Giants would have to deal with. My conclusion was lukewarm and filled to the brim with “meh”, there wasn’t going to be anything on the free agent market (unless you’ve got some weird infatuation with David Eckstein, and if so, eww) and the Giants in-house options were a bare cupboard, cobwebs and all. Barring any trades (I feel like this is the slogan of the ’07/’08 offseason) there just wasn’t any real options that the Giants could take outside of Omar. He’s reliable, old, and declining with the bat but he can still play great defense. With Brian Sabean’s new motto firmly ingrained into all of our brains (Speed and Defense, Speed and Defense, if you say it three times fast while looking into a mirror Johnnie LeMaster will appear) Omar Vizquel seemed like a certainty.
I’m not crazy about the $1.5M raise for a player who was the worst hitter in the National League last year but on the bright side Sabes didn’t ink Vizquel for more than 1-year. Vizquel will most likely continue to not hit the ball and play good to amazing defense on occasion for the ’08 Giants. There’s a chance that he could bounce back some (maybe add 20 points back to his BABIP) but to expect a 41 year old man to slam the brakes on the aging process is a bit much to ask, even if it is the youthful Vizquel.
Omar Vizquel’s soon-to-be-finalized contract with the Giants will be worth $5.5 million and include a vesting option for 2009.
The option, which becomes guaranteed if he plays in 140 games, is worth $5.2 million. The 40-year-old Vizquel will be getting a raise from the $4 million he made last season even though he was as bad of a hitter as there was in the NL. When the Giants say they don’t have the money to pursue Alex Rodriguez, it’s because of decisions like this.
A vesting option for $5.2M? Very funny Brian, now let’s see the real contract… Vizquel has remained healthy for his career and can almost certainly play 140 games next year.
Seriously, what are you doing? I didn’t mind the deal when it was based on 1-year but a potential 2-years for Vizquel seems like a poor choice. Old habits are hard to break.