Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Nomar Garciaparra and the "Could Have Been" Career

Nomar Garciaparra, the Red Sox Hero that got me into baseball. As a kid looking up to Nomar was easy. He competed opposite of Yankees Legend Derek Jeter in an amazing Shortstop rivalry that drew many fans to the game. With a unique skillset of power, contact and speed, Nomar was a genuine Star Player. However Nomar's career was not as great as it could have been. Due to several lower leg injuries Nomar's career was cut short. His best years obviously came with the Red Sox, but he had some shine when he played with the Dodgers and Athletics (Not so much the Cubs). But how great could Nomar's career have been? In my biased opinion the best Red Sox player of all time. In my non-biased opinion, easily top five. I'll show his projected yearly stats, as well as his career stats. I of course used Jeter's career length to compare to Nomar's.
Debuting in 1996, Nomar only played a subpar 24 games. But in 1997 he burst onto the scene to win Rookie of the Year by leading in hits, triples and at bats, while only playing in 153 games. This is the only season I did not adjust to 162 games. When 1998 rolled around Nomar was ready to go for the MVP. In 143 games, Nomar was able to get 195 hits, 37 doubles, 8 triples, 35 home runs and 122 RBI. Now if we project the 162 he would have won MVP.
  1. Nomar 143   .323/111/195/37/8/35/122/12/.362
  2. Nomar 162   .323/126/221/42/9/40/138/15/.362
That's an MVP shortstop if I've ever seen one.
1999 was the first of back to back batting titles. While his home runs decreased, his doubles increased as did his batting average, hits and on base percentage. But once again, he fell short of the MVP title due to his game total. He played a Red Sox career low 135 games, not counting injury seasons. His projected 162 was above impressive.
  1. Nomar 135   .357/103/190/42/4/27/104/14/.418
  2. Nomar 162   .357/126/232/51/5/33/127/17/.418
Even if you don't project the 162, his season was still wicked impressive for that few of games.
The second year of his back to back batting titles saw another decrease in home runs, but another increase in almost every other category. He played in 140 games that season, five more than the previous season, but again put up unreal numbers.
  1. Nomar 140   .372/104/197/51/3/21/96/5/.434
  2. Nomar 162   .372/128/242/63/5/26/118/10/.434
While .372 and 63 doubles is well above average, it still isn't the best in Red Sox history. Ted Williams will always hold the batting average crown. While Earl Webb hit 67 double in his lightning in a bottle season, which is the most by any player.
2001 was a lost season for Nomar as he dealt with an Achilles injury. But he was back with a vengeance in 2002. Playing in 156 games, he didn't quite have that MVP batting average or on base percentage, but he made up for it with bringing the power back. Leading the league in doubles with 56, he also had three more home runs that he did in 2000. Projected 162 isn't as significant as previous years, but it still make a difference.
  1. Nomar 156   .310/101/197/56/5/24/120/5/.352
  2. Nomar 162   .310/109/213/60/5/26/129/7/.352
Another year, another 200 hits and 60 doubles. His ability to hit off the Green Monster is second only to Wade Boggs. His doubles ability overall is second only to Tris Speaker. That's as a Red Sock of course.
In his final full season with the Red Sox, Nomar dipped a bit but played 156 games for the second year in a row. Both his batting average and doubles went down, but his home runs, triples and stolen bases went back up.
  1. Nomar 156   .301/120/198/37/13/28/105/19/.345
  2. Nomar 162   .301/125/206/39/14/30/110/21/.345
Once again hitting over 200 hits and reaching 30 home runs again, shows how Nomar could have been a multi-time MVP. Looking at his career 162 average is something special.
  1. Nomar 162 Career   .305/123/221/50/8/31/120/15/.376
Now of course he probably would have dipped slightly with the age factor, that's not a guarantee. Derek Jeter's age 38 season saw him lead in at bats and hits.
Now let's see what Nomar's career would have looked like if he had played as long as Jeter, while compared to Jeter.
  1. Jeter Career      .310/1923/3465/544/66/260/1311/358/.377
  2. Nomar Career  .305/1840/3308/748/122/460/1800/230/.376
Jeter obviously has more stolen bases and runs scored, due to where he batting in the line-up. Nomar however beats in extra bases and the RBIs. Again mainly due to where he batting the line up. It was a close race for hits, but Jeter was better in the contact department, which also led to more stolen bases.
So with all these projections, they are just that, projections. Nomar never became the legend he could have been, but for me as a fan and as my hero, he didn't need to.

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