Nomar Garciaparra returned to the Red Sox today as he signed a 1-day minor league contract to retire with the team that he starred with years ago. “From the first day I had the thrill of putting on a Red Sox uniform and playing in front of all the great fans at Fenway Park, I have felt at home in Boston,” Garciaparra said. “While I had the privilege of playing with other legendary teams, I always saw myself retiring in a Red Sox uniform.”
How great could he have been if his body didn’t betray him?
From 1997 when he won the Rookie of the Year award (.306-30-98-122-22) through 2000, Nomar was one of the best hitters in all of baseball.
He was second in hits (791).
He was 3rd in average (.337).
He was 3rd in doubles (174).
He was 6th in extra base hits (313).
He was 15h in OPS (.963).
During those four years an average Nomar season produced a batting line of .337-28-105-110-13. That was an “average” Nomar season. To put that effort in perspective, Albert Pujols has NEVER had even one season that he met all of those numbers.
Moreover, Nomar’s numbers as a shortstop, even with all the injuries that ruined his career, still place him amongst the best that have ever played the game at that position.
2nd in OPS (.914)
3rd in SLG (.546)
5th in batting average (.320)
8th in home runs (190)
But because of the injuries that ravaged his body, the triumvirate of Nomar, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez didn’t play out the way everyone had hoped. Nomar was beat down with injuries, A-Roid moved to third, and Jeter just kept on keeping on for the Yankees. Still, Nomar’s career numbers stack up very well against the other two. Don’t believe me? Check this out.
Nomar: .313/.361/.521 for an .882 OPS
Jeter: .317/.406/.465 for an .847 OPS
A-Rod: .305/.390/.576 with a .965 OPS
OK, it’s not really fair to compare the trio since they all bring different talents to the dish, but clearly Nomar was the equal of Jeter at the plate despite what you hear from people (A-Rod is in a league of his own).
I’ve heard the lame ‘but Jeter has all the championships” to “prove” why he is better than Nomar, but as I wrote on the Baseball Guys’ Twitter Page today – “It’s not tennis. One player can’t win a championship.” The next line of thought in this vein is that Jeter is sooooo “clutch.” Well anecdotally he might be, and I have to admit that he does always seem to come through late in the year, but the data says that Nomar was every bit the hitter that Jeter was when the pressure was at it’s most intense. Here are the numbers for each player with RISP for their entire careers.
The numbers certainly don’t tell the whole story, but they clearly show that Nomar was money when the pressure was on.
How good could Garciaparra been if he had stayed healthy? Nomar won the Rookie of the Year award in 1997 and made six All-Star appearances in his career. He also owns one of only two seasons in baseball history, the other belongs to A-Rod, in which a shortstop hit .300 with 30 homers, 95 RBI, 120 runs and 20 steals. Nomar also owns the third highest single season batting average for a shortstop (.372) since 1900 (Luke Appling hit .388 in 1936 while Arky Vaughan hit .385 in 1935). That’s a pretty impressive set of numbers for a guy who’s prime was far too short.
If he had stayed healthy there is no doubt whatsoever that Nomar would have made the Hall of Fame. However, it simply wasn’t meant to be so he will have to live with the fact that, like Sandy Koufax, his career could have been oh so much more if huis body hadn’t betrayed him.
Note: You can read more about Nomar at Sox Tea Party.
By Ray Flowers