Hall Watch 2004- The Shortstops-Nomar Garciaparra

Monday, December 27 2004 @ 09:11 AM EST

Contributed by: Mike Green

Nomar Garciaparra was one of the “Holy Trinity” of shortstops of the late 90s, with Jeter and A-Rod. All were considered at the time to be likely Hall of Famers. Unfortunately for Nomar, the early part of this decade has not been kind to his chances, and 2004 continued the trend. He hit well enough for a 30 year old Hall of Fame candidate shortstop, .308/.365/.477, but he was traded by the Red Sox to the Cubs in a 4 team trade at the deadline. It will undoubtedly will be remembered that the Sox went on to their first Series win in over 80 years after the trade.

Nomar was drafted by Boston with the 12th pick of the first round of the 1994 draft. He played a month of high A ball in 1994, followed by a year of double A in 1995. He was a solid hitter, but with little power. In 1996, he developed power at triple A Pawtucket- slamming 16 homers in 172 at-bats while hitting .343, and had an impressive cup of coffee at the end of the year in Boston. He emerged in 1997 as the Rookie of the Year, followed it up by a fine year in 1998 and was absolutely great in 1999-2000. Unfortunately for him, his greatness was masked to some degree by the amazing performance of Pedro Martinez, who pitched better than any pitcher ever has during those same years for that same ballclub. It will be remembered that Pedro left Boston after their World Series triumph in 2004. Nomar’s offensive performance from 2001-2004 has been very good, but at nowhere near the level of his 1999-2000 peak.

Nomar’s defence had always been considered solid, but not outstanding, and his statistics reflected this. But, the Red Sox gave his defence as a reason for the trade in 2004, and his zone rating did in fact plummet into the hazardous zone in 2004. As he turned 31 in July, this was not entirely a shock, although the fall was so precipitous that one guesses that a recovery is possible.. Nomar has been a fine post-season performer, posting a cool .323/.391/.625 line in 5 series.

So, without further ado, here’s a chart of comparables:

Player         G     AB     H    HR     W     BA    OBP   SLUG   OPS+
Nomar 1029 4133 1330 182 295 .322 .370 .549 133
Banks 1216 4670 1355 298 452 .290 .353 .552 138
Stephens 1412 5481 1588 224 598 .290 .360 .474 124
Cronin 1363 5108 1539 80 653 .301 .383 .453 114
Vaughan 1539 5763 1846 86 829 .329 .410 .460 138

The interesting comparison is Banks. Banks to this stage in his career was slightly better than Garciaparra, and more importantly had played signficantly more games. Banks had very modest value in his 30s as an average first baseman. But, Ernie Banks had garnered more fame than Garciaparra in his 20s by virtue of the back-to-back MVP awards, although his team had much less success than Nomar's.

If Garciaparra can put in 3 more good seasons as a shortstop, and then finish his career in his late 30s at some other position, one would think that he would be Hall-worthy, and likely to be admitted. If he does not, my guess is that he will likely not be admitted, with the record of his teams, the decline in his defence, and the shortness of his career being key factors.

My own view is that he was a great, great player, and that he should be admitted unless his career is very short. Joe Cronin, Vern Stephens and Alan Trammell were all significantly lesser hitters than Nomar and about even with the glove, but I think they all should be in. Cronin is the only one of the three who is, so far.

For today's Green projection method, we hope for a sweet New Year with a mocha sauce. Melt 2 pieces of semi-sweet chocolate, add a teaspoon of ground coffee, inhale and pronounce:

Nomar's final statistics: 1800 games, 270 homers, .305/.360/.515.

You may now pour the mocha sauce over vanilla ice cream.

Next up: Derek Jeter.