Is Bogaerts the Next Nomar?

Red Sox fans are a spoiled bunch in 2016. Not only is their team in first place, but they get to watch one of the greatest starting pitchers of his generation (David Price) and one of the best closers ever (Craig Kimbrel), not to mention the greatest designated hitter and clutch hitter of all-time (David Ortiz). They’re also likely seeing the best second baseman their franchise has ever had (Dustin Pedroia), as well as someone with the potential to be the best shortstop in team history (Xander Bogaerts). It wasn’t too long ago, however, that Nomar Garciaparra was making his case as one of the best shortstops to ever wear a Sox jersey. Which begs the question: is Bogaerts the next Nomar?

Is Bogaerts the Next Nomar?

From 1996-2004, Boston was blessed with one of the most talented shortstops to ever play the game Is Bogaerts the Next Nomar?. A two-batting champion, Garciaparra also owned 30-homer power, 20-steal speed and Gold Glove-caliber defense to boot. Garciaparra could do it all, playing at a Hall of Fame level for nearly a decade before injuries derailed his career.

Now, 20 years after Garciaparra’s debut, the Red Sox have another shortstop with similar physical gifts. Bogaerts currently leads the American League in average at .351, is on pace to go 20-20 and has emerged as one of the better defensive shortstops in the game. He’s only 23, the same age Garciaparra was when he made his Major League debut two decades ago.

Is Bogaerts the next Nomar? It’s certainly possible. They’re alike in so many ways, starting with their elite contact skills. Both are exceptional at getting the bat on the ball and, when they do, hitting it hard. Garciaparra was the rare batting champion with power, topping 70 extra-base hits in both years he won the crown. If Bogaerts keeps his average up and continues his current 20-homer, 50-double pace, so will he.

They also have wheels to go with their impressive power. Garciaparra stole 22 bases in 1997, the same number that Bogaerts is on track to swipe this year. The speed that helped Garciaparra get doubles on wall-balls and triples into the gaps is also evident in Bogaerts, who had a better base running score than Mike Trout last year according to FanGraphs.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, they’re both great defenders, making them complete ballplayers. Garciaparra never won a Gold Glove, but he had great range and was widely regarded as a good defensive shortstop before injuring his Achilles. Bogaerts, most Red Sox observers agree, has dramatically improved his defense since arriving in the Major Leagues three years ago, to the point where he’s now a clear positive at the position.

Much of the attention focused on the Red Sox lately has been centered around Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game hit streak, which came to an end last Thursday. With his pursuit of history over (for now), it’s time to start paying attention to Bogaerts, who’s riding a 22-game hit streak of his own. The last Sox shortstop to have such a hitting streak? Nomar Garciaparra, who ran off a 30-gamer in 1997.

Is Bogaerts the next Nomar? Only time will tell.

Boggs Was One of Boston’s Best

More than two decades after playing his last game for the Boston Red Sox, Wade Boggs had his number retired at Fenway Park last night. The ceremony felt long overdue, as Boggs was one of Boston’s best hitters in franchise history.

Boggs Was One of Boston’s Best…

Fans and media tend to overrate hitters who drive runs while underrating those who score themBoggs Was One of Boston's Best. He was destined to be under-appreciated, then, for Boggs was one of Boston’s best table-setters, an on-base machine who often put himself in scoring position via doubles (he clubbed 578 for his career). Batting in front of prolific RBI men such as Jim Rice and Dwight Evans, Boggs averaged 100 runs scored per 162 games and twice led the majors.

Everyone knew Boggs was a tremendous hitter, but few understood his true worth as a ballplayer. His gaudy OBPs and plus defense at the hot corner (which wasn’t recognized until later, when he won back-to-back Gold Gloves in his late 30s) made him incredibly valuable. Baseball-Reference defines an MVP-caliber season as one where a player accrues at least eight wins above replacement, which Boggs did every year from 1985 to 1989, yet never finished higher than fourth in MVP voting. Moneyball was still two decades away, and nobody had WAR to tell them he was the American League’s top position player in 1986, 1987, and 1988.

That might not have been the case had he played elsewhere, however. He was helped immensely by Fenway Park, whose Green Monster allowed him to wait back on pitches until the last possible second, at which point he would flick his wrists and stroke another double or single off the wall in left. Nobody did this better than Boggs, who holds the highest Fenway average of all-time at .369. He was most proficient at this before the EMC Club–then called the 600 Club—was erected in 1989, altering the wind currents within the park and making it much less favorable for hitters. It’s no coincidence that Boggs never won another batting title after 1988.

…And Baseball’s Best

Age and the 600 Club caused Boggs to tail off a bit in the early ’90s, but his final year in Boston—1992—was the worst of his career. He slumped to .259/.353/.358 as the Sox sunk to last place. His contract was up and Lou Gorman, Boston’s general manager at the time, let the 34-year-old walk, even though he was just one year removed from a .332/.421/.460 campaign worth 6.4 bWAR.

That proved to be a terrible mistake, as Boggs found a second wind with Boston’s arch-rivals, the New York Yankees. Boggs batted .313/.396/.407 in his five years in pinstripes, making four All-Star teams and helping the Bombers to a championship in 1996—10 years after his previous World Series bid ended in agony. Following his New York stint he returned home to finish out his playing days in Tampa Bay, where he ended his career on a high note by batting .301 and notching his 3,000th hit on his 118th, and final, home run.

Boggs retired in 1999 as one of the five best third basemen in baseball history. His .328 lifetime average is the second-highest of anyone who debuted after World War II, while his .415 OBP ranks fifth among players who have debuted since 1945 and appeared in at least 2,000 games. He was an eight-time Silver Slugger winner, a five-time batting champion, and an All-Star every year from 1985 to 1996. His most impressive accomplishment, however, was batting .401 over a 162-game span from June 9th, 1985 to June 6th, 1986.

Boggs was one of Boston’s best hitters—perhaps second only to Ted Williams—and top third baseman. It’s a good thing he was finally recognized for it.