There are some players who just cannot seem to avoid the injury bug. For some it hits them once or twice and they miss a large chunk of time, but then return to form with no further problems. And some players just never seem to escape it, their entire career marred by frustrated fans, disappointing numbers, early retirements and the thoughts of what could have been. Former Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra certainly falls into that second category. But were the numbers he put up when he was healthy good enough for inclusion into Baseball's hall of fame, or will the injury bug prevent a stellar baseball player from entering? Let's take a look:
The case for Nomar:
If I told you I have a player who was a six time all-star, the rookie of the year, won two batting titles, the comeback player of the year award, a silver slugger award, was top ten in MVP voting five times and had a lifetime batting average of .313, you would probably think I was talking about a hall of famer. Mr. Garciaparra certainly accomplished a lot during his 14 year career. He won back to back batting titles in 1999 and 2000, hitting .357 and a blistering .372, respectively. In addition to those he also led the league in hits and triples in 1997, and doubles in 2002.
Nomar's career numbers as compared to other shortstops are very good.
.521 slg% -1st among shortstops who had at least 5000 plate appearances.
.882 OPS - 1st among shortstops who had at least 5000 plate appearances.
.313 batting average - 4th among shortstops who had at least 5000 plate appearances.
.361 OBP - 13th among shortstops who had at least 5000 plate appearances.
229 home runs - 7th.
936 RBI's - 14th.
The fantastic baseball statistics website www.baseball-reference.com has an analysis tool called the Hall of fame monitor, and the Hall of Fame Standard. These are analyses that, through statistical analysis, provide a player with a numeric value that can be directly compared to what an "average" hall of famer would receive. (Further explanation about this can be found here: (http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/leader_glossary.shtml#hof_monitor) For the HOF monitor, an average hall of famer averages about a 100, and Nomar Garciaparra has a score of 112. This score is higher than that of Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Roy Campanella, Willie Stargell, Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson.
The case against Nomar:
Simply put, he did not play long enough and at a high enough level to put up the counting stats necessary to reach the hall of fame. For hitters who are contact hitters, 3000 hits is considered guranteed enshrinement into the Hall of Fame (even that is being tested as Craig Biggio did not get in last year despite having over 3k hits). For a power hitter 500 home runs is considered the automatic enshrinement number. For a short stop less is expected in the power department, and while Nomar's 229 home runs is great among shortstops, his main skillset was getting hits. His 1747 career hits just is not enough to merit Hall of Fame consideration. (To put this into perspective, Bert Campaneris, Tony Fernandez, Edgar Renteria, Dave Concepcion and Alan Trammell all have over 500 MORE hits than Nomar). Nomar would have needed at least 2500 hits to get a really strong look, and the injury bug really hurt him in this category.
It is worth pointing out that while Nomar scores really high among shortstops in categories like slugging%, OPS and batting average, he gets a big bump because his career ended before he really went through a depreciation period. Garciaparra was forced to retire at age 35 from injuries, so his slugging percentage and batting average did not have the typical decrease that happens with hitters as they reach their late 30's and into their 40's.
Garciaparra has a career WAR (wins above replacement) of 44.2, which only ranks 249th among position players, and is not even in the top 20 for shortstops. The average hall of fame shortstop has a WAR of 66.2, and Nomar is nowhere close to that number. (Again, Jim Fregosi and Bert Campaneris, neither hall of famers, have higher WAR numbers than Nomar).
Nomar had a great career, and had he been able to stay healthy and play full seasons during his early 30's he may have been able to reach 2500 hits and/or 300 home runs, numbers that would have given him a fantastic chance at the Hall of Fame. While his Batting average and slugging numbers may have decreased with age, a .2890 batting average with around 300 home runs and around 2500 hits would have made him a Hall of Famer. As it stands, the injury bug bit him hard enough to derail what I think would have been a Hall of Fame career. Nomar will still get votes, but ultimately I believe he will fall short of hall of fame consideration, and rightfully so.