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Nomar Through 2003

Posted by Neil Paine on March 10, 2010

Nomar Garciaparra retired today, marking the end of a once-promising career derailed by injuries by age 30. Because of his drop-off over the second half of his career, Garciaparra will never be a member of the Hall of Fame, but there was a time in the not-so-distant past when it looked like Nomar was definitely tracking for Cooperstown. Through 2003, his age-29 season and his 8th in the majors, Garciaparra had these numbers:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1996-2003 BOS 928 4176 3812 685 1231 272 47 173 669 82 28 271 390 0.323 0.370 0.555 0.925 134

Using the Play Index's Batting Season Finder, here are the players who met or exceeded Garciaparra's output (.323 AVG, 1231 H, 173 HR, 669 RBI) through age 29:

Rk BA H HR RBI From To Age G PA AB R 2B 3B BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Joe DiMaggio .339 1349 219 930 1936 1942 21-27 979 4417 3978 858 243 82 404 196 25 7 .403 .607 1.010 *8/79
2 Jimmie Foxx .334 1852 379 1345 1925 1937 17-29 1561 6605 5551 1216 313 93 985 859 71 54 .435 .628 1.063 *35/2796
3 Nomar Garciaparra .323 1231 173 669 1996 2003 22-29 928 4176 3812 685 272 47 271 390 82 28 .370 .555 .925 *6/4D
4 Lou Gehrig .343 1558 267 1146 1923 1932 20-29 1232 5470 4542 1075 321 113 806 508 63 67 .444 .640 1.084 *3/97
5 Hank Greenberg .326 1281 247 1003 1930 1940 19-29 1030 4587 3931 830 312 61 610 631 49 24 .418 .625 1.043 *37
6 Vladimir Guerrero .325 1421 273 828 1996 2004 21-29 1160 4900 4375 765 265 36 433 558 138 74 .390 .589 .979 *9/D8
7 Rogers Hornsby .363 1916 180 958 1915 1925 19-29 1400 6013 5271 984 327 138 587 435 114 64 .431 .580 1.011 *465/3798
8 Chuck Klein .352 1340 211 807 1928 1934 23-29 938 4192 3802 777 273 52 344 305 54 0 .408 .618 1.026 *97/8
9 Joe Medwick .332 1838 180 1047 1932 1941 20-29 1360 5901 5539 954 416 103 311 447 32 0 .370 .542 .911 *7/89
10 Stan Musial .346 1624 174 815 1941 1950 20-29 1218 5392 4688 920 343 115 652 235 49 0 .429 .580 1.009 9378
11 Albert Pujols .334 1717 366 1112 2001 2009 21-29 1399 6082 5146 1071 387 14 811 570 61 30 .427 .628 1.055 *37/59D64
12 Babe Ruth .351 1251 284 889 1914 1924 19-29 1100 4511 3565 925 270 83 881 599 72 66 .482 .712 1.195 791/83
13 Al Simmons .363 1580 173 1005 1924 1931 22-29 1086 4752 4349 816 315 89 292 327 61 46 .405 .596 1.001 *78/9
14 Frank Thomas .330 1261 257 854 1990 1997 22-29 1076 4789 3821 785 246 8 879 582 18 15 .452 .600 1.053 *3D
15 Ted Williams .354 1294 222 879 1939 1948 20-29 1029 4618 3655 932 275 53 939 328 15 12 .488 .640 1.129 *79/1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/10/2010.

Here are the players meeting those same criteria, but through their first 8 MLB seasons:

Rk BA H HR RBI From To Age G PA AB R 2B 3B BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Earl Averill .325 1547 190 892 1929 1936 27-34 1195 5378 4763 924 309 95 550 345 56 49 .398 .549 .947 *8/9
2 Joe DiMaggio .334 1495 244 1025 1936 1946 21-31 1111 4984 4481 939 263 90 463 220 26 7 .399 .596 .995 *8/79
3 Nomar Garciaparra .323 1231 173 669 1996 2003 22-29 928 4176 3812 685 272 47 271 390 82 28 .370 .555 .925 *6/4D
4 Todd Helton .339 1372 251 836 1997 2004 23-30 1135 4798 4051 832 328 22 667 542 30 23 .432 .616 1.048 *3/79
5 Chuck Klein .346 1467 232 880 1928 1935 23-30 1057 4677 4236 848 287 56 385 347 58 0 .402 .605 1.007 *97/8
6 Johnny Mize .332 1340 206 833 1936 1946 23-33 1097 4634 4039 713 261 76 546 344 20 0 .415 .587 1.002 *3/9
7 Albert Pujols .334 1531 319 977 2001 2008 21-28 1239 5382 4578 947 342 13 696 506 45 26 .425 .624 1.049 *37/59D64
8 Al Simmons .363 1580 173 1005 1924 1931 22-29 1086 4752 4349 816 315 89 292 327 61 46 .405 .596 1.001 *78/9
9 Frank Thomas .330 1261 257 854 1990 1997 22-29 1076 4789 3821 785 246 8 879 582 18 15 .452 .600 1.053 *3D
10 Ted Williams .353 1488 265 1038 1939 1949 20-30 1184 5348 4221 1082 314 56 1101 376 16 13 .488 .642 1.130 *79/1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/10/2010.

Through age 29, here were his most similar players:

 Sim  Player              From  To Yrs   G    AB    R    H   2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   SB   CS OPS+
+---++-------------------+---------+--+----+-----+----+----+---+---+---+----+----+----+-----+-----+-----+----+---+----+
      Nomar Garciaparra   1996-2003  8  928  3812  685 1231 272  47 173  669  271  390  .323  .370  .555   82  28  134
 862* Ernie Banks         1953-1960  8 1078  4159  676 1213 188  55 269  778  398  502  .292  .354  .557   36  37  140
 829  Joe Torre           1960-1970 11 1357  4926  631 1464 210  36 181  753  470  694  .297  .362  .465   12  23  130
 826* Yogi Berra          1946-1954  9 1053  3964  646 1175 177  37 181  790  332  179  .296  .354  .497   16  18  130
 824  Miguel Tejada       1997-2003  7  936  3584  574  968 191  11 156  604  287  542  .270  .331  .460   49  20  106
 823* Travis Jackson      1922-1933 12 1265  4587  643 1367 237  66 103  695  328  374  .298  .346  .446   67  13  106
 820  Derek Jeter         1995-2003  9 1212  4870  926 1546 239  41 127  615  513  873  .317  .389  .462  178  48  121
 811* Chick Hafey         1924-1932  9  895  3206  576 1050 261  49 129  654  253  323  .328  .381  .560   60   7  138
 811* Tony Lazzeri        1926-1933  8 1130  4196  683 1274 235  94 114  825  528  541  .304  .383  .486  110  67  129
 810  Chipper Jones       1993-2001  8 1094  4041  773 1240 237  23 227  737  652  609  .307  .400  .545  106  36  141
 810* Charlie Gehringer   1924-1932  9  985  3846  739 1209 237  94  63  548  383  182  .314  .380  .474  110  63  118
+---++-------------------+---------+--+----+-----+----+----+---+---+---+----+----+----+-----+-----+-----+----+---+----+

(I think we can assume that Jeter and Jones will also be enshrined in the HoF someday, which means 8 of Nomar's 10 most similar comps through age 29 were eventual Hall of Famers.)

Sometimes it can be hard to remember an athlete's glory days when they're still playing as a broken-down shell of what they used to be. In fact, some kids may not even be old enough to remember Garciaparra as anything but the oft-injured Cub, Dodger, and Athletic he was late in his career. But today, we should recognize that at one point less than a decade ago, Nomar Garciaparra seemed like a pretty good bet to make the Hall of Fame.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 11:03 am and is filed under History, Season Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

14 Responses to “Nomar Through 2003”

  1. Awesome way to look at it! My first thought when I heard he's officially retiring was that the fact he's retiring as a broken down would've-been with a career 124 OPS+ and a .313/.361/.521 batting line, says a lot about how good Nomar was before the injuries took their toll.

  2. splint.chesthair Says:

    I can't believe it's already been 14 years. Seems like just yesterday I was having the greater shortstop argument between A-rod, Jeter, and Nomar. Now A-rod's a 3rd basemen, and Nomar's retired so I guess Jeter won.

  3. Agreed...those were incredible numbers with the Red Sox. It should be noted, too, that the injuries didn't just start after the 2003 season. They were always an issue. Not only did he miss nearly all of 2001, but he also missed the equivalent of another half-season (80 games) during his six 'full' seasons. I always questioned his off-season regimen...not the effort, just the content. He always looked like a gym rat, but the connective tissues never seemed to keep pace with the muscle development. That's symptomatic of the use of supplements (mostly legal...probably protein) that focus too much on muscle mass, while leaving tendons, ligaments, and cartilage vulnerable. They also have dehydrating effects, leaving the muscles inelastic and susceptible to strains and tears. Sometimes athletes are more concerned with what they look like with their shirt off than with what they can do with their uniform on.

  4. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    "Garciaparra will never be a member of the Hall of Fame" - yes, but he did look like a very strong potential candidate after the 2003 (age-29) season. I got to thinking, even though he's got NO shot at the HOF, he's got as good (or better) a case as some of the least-deserving HOF-ers. So, picking one at random: Freddy Lindstrom.

    If you know the name at all, it's as one of the "friends-of-Frankie-Frisch", a team-mate of Frisch's on the 20s Giants, a 3rd baseman (later an OFer) with a fairly short career, and regarded as one of the weaker HOFers ever. Their career stats are amazingly similar in some ways, and they do have VERY similar career lengths.

    GAMES: Nomar 1434, Freddie 1431 (amonst the lowest totals ever for a non-pitcher HOFer)
    PLATE APPEARANCES: Nomar 6116; Freddie 6104
    AT BATS: Nomar 5586; Freddie 5611

    ...so the Games/AB's are EXTREMELY close, allowing easy comparison:
    RUNS: Nomar +32
    RBI: Nomar +157 (both played in mostly high-scoring environments)
    HITS: even!!!
    DOUBLES: Nomar +69
    STOLEN BASES: Nomar +11
    BB's: Nomar +69// career: Nomar 403, Freddie 334 - neither one of them liked to take a walk...
    SLASH STATS:
    Nomar: .313/.361/.521
    Freddie: .311/.351/.449

    I haven't yet mentioned the single biggest difference, Home Runs, where Nomar has got it all over Freddie, 229/103. This accounts for the much higher SLG%, as well as Nomar's better Adjusted OPS, 124/109

    I have to conclude that not only was Nomar better, but he was QUITE A BIT better, because in careers of almost the exact same length, Nomar got on base better,had A LOT more power, and played the more valuable position (SS and some 1B/3B, as opposed to Linstrom's 3B and quite a bit of OF). This makes Lindstrom look like an even WEAKER HOFer than I realised, since he isn't even as good as Nomar, and no one thinks Nomar has any chance at the HOF.

  5. Certainly, Nomar looked like a lock for the HoF in 2003. But the "club" arguments somewhat overstate the case. Why does someone have to hit for a higher average and get more hits and more home runs and more RBI to qualify? A player's offensive contribution can be boiled down to two numbers; PA and OPS+. Whether he achieves that OPS+ through home runs or singles or walks is irrelevant. So let's ask for players who, through age 29, had 4176 PA or more, and an OPS+ of 134 or better. Well, if I read it right, there have been 72 such players since 1901. That still puts Nomar in very good company, but I thinks it pegs his accomplishment a little more accurately. Players who beat Nomar on both stats include Juan Gonzalez, Jack Clark, Rocky Colavito, Boog Powell, and...wait for it...Alvin Davis. What Nomar mostly has going for him is the paucity of middle infielders among the 72.

    Regarding the "most similar players" list, with only one player scoring over 830, those players aren't all that similar. The list shows Nomar was unusual; it's not clear that it shows he was good. (I'm not denying Nomar was good - he was superb - just saying I'm not convinced the MSP list is valuable evidence.)

  6. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Live ball era righties with back-to-back batting titles.
    1. Rogers Hornsby
    2. Bill Madlock
    3. Tommy Davis
    4. Al Simmons
    5. Joe Dimaggio
    6. Nomar Garciaparra

    Pretty decent company. Only the "Mad Dog" Madock is not in the Hall.
    Another interesting note; during one 65 year stretch, '38-'03, 24 Red Sox won batting titles. 36%

  7. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Gerry, I'll partially agree with you. Yes, ultimately it really only matters how many runs a player creates, and not whether he does it through HR or singles or stealing every base. But you can't just boil that number down to OPS+. OPS+ is a good raw stat to give you a general idea about a player's performance, but if you're analyzing borderline cases (which are the only interesting arguments, I suppose), you need more precision than it provides.

    I'd also argue that the shape of the player's career is important. I'd rather elect a player with four 150 OPS+ seasons and six 80 OPS+ seasons than a guy who managed from 100 to 120 for ten years, even if their career PA and OPS+ are similar.

    I also suspect that anyone who manages to appear so "unusual" per Sim Scores must be a very good player. Bad players are a dime a dozen. Not that I'd ever vote for the HOF based on sim scores.

    Nomar seems similar to Vern Stephens, who I'm glad to see does sneak onto his most comparable list.

  8. Johnny Twisto, I think you and I agree on far more things than we disagree on, but I'm feeling particularly belligerent just now, so let me challenge you (in the friendliest possible way): where would you find the precision needed to distinguish between Nomar and (say) Alvin Davis through age 29, on offense? And to what conclusion would that precision lead you? Bonus points if you can do this without bringing defense into the discussion.

    And why the preference for the 4 x 150 + 6 x 80 over the 10 x 110? I'm not sure where I come down on that one, so I'd like to see your reasons.

  9. [...] Baseball-Reference blog tracked Nomar’s early potential, pointing out that through his age 29 year, the shortstop was among the best of all time. I am [...]

  10. @8

    All the advanced metrics I can find actually like Alvin Davis's bat better than Nomar's bat through age 29. Nomar didn't walk much, so advanced metrics generally don't give him a boost.

    The case against OPS+ is that an odd mixture of very simple and very complex. It includes park and era adjustments, so its not exactly "back of the envelope". As long as you are doing all of that, you might as well include SB's and GIDP's and a more validated balance between OBP and SLG.

    That said, I really like OPS+ for these types of bulletin board discussions.

  11. @8 again

    "4 x 150 + 6 x 80 over the 10 x 110"

    That's the classic Drysdale vs Pappas or Carlton vs Sutton debate. Bill James wrote about that quite a bit in his Hall of Fame book. I think the conclusion was that careers with sharper peaks led to more pennants for the teams they played for. That book is almost 20 years old now, though.

  12. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Gerry, I'd use a runs created formula (I'm partial to BaseRuns these days), which as DavidRF said will more appropriately weight all the various elements. Tally up the runs created and compare the outs made. As for what my conclusion would be on Davis vs. Garciaparra, I'm not sure as I haven't actually run the numbers.

    I prefer the big seasons because when I ask "How good was this player," his career totals don't interest me that much. I want to know how good he was at his best. Average performance doesn't mean anything to me when considering someone for the HOF. If I was systematic about it, I'd probably add up all a player's seasons above average, and ignore any seasons of average performance or below. So if I was using OPS+, the first player gets a total of 200 (4 seasons x (150-100)), and the second player has a total of something like 100 (10 seasons x (110-100)). The first player was great for a brief time. The second player was decent, maybe a few pretty good seasons. I'd rather vote for the first one. If Harold Baines had kept plugging along to 3000 hits, he still wouldn't get my vote.

  13. Johnny Twisto Says:

    FWIW, I compared Garciaparra's and Davis's best offensive seasons, in which they had 155 and 156 OPS+, respectively.

    I calculate Garciaparra creating 117 park-adjusted runs and making 343 outs, or 9.21 runs per 27 outs in a league that scored 5.30 runs per game, or 74% more than average.

    I have Davis with 104 runs and making 362 outs, or 7.76 RC/27, 81% more than the league average of 4.29.

    So this shows Davis with a little more edge than OPS+ did. This includes base stealing but not other baserunning, and Davis was very slow. A five-run advantage for Garciaparra on the basepaths could even them back up again.

  14. Thanks, JT. Thanks, DavidRF.