Sports Q

Sports Q: Who is the best shortstop in Red Sox history?

"It’s Nomar."

Is Xander Bogaerts the best shortstop in Red Sox history? Adam Hunger/Getty Images

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Yankee-killer Xander Bogaerts is making a case to be the best shortstop in Red Sox history. Is it possible that he’s there already? – Tim P.

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Regular and long-suffering readers will expect me to say Nomar Garciaparra here.

It’s Nomar.

You know … Nomaahhhhh!

Don’t say I don’t play to the crowd around here.

That’s my subjective opinion, though it may turn to Bogaerts if he stays in a Red Sox uniform and keeps producing at a superstar rate into his 30s.

The objectivity of baseball-reference.com’s Stathead feature backs up the vote for Nomar.

Among Red Sox players who have played more than 50 percent of their games at shortstop, he provided the most wins above replacement at 41.3 from 1996-2004,  topping Johnny Pesky, who delivered 32.4 WAR from 1942-52 .

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John Valentin (32.2 WAR, 1992-2001), Freddy Parent (27.6 WAR, 1901-07), and Joe Cronin (27.3, 1935-45) are in the Nos. 3-5 spots in that order. Then there’s the 28-year-old Bogaerts, who has provided 26.8 WAR since coming up late in the 2013 season.

That list changes, however, if we adjust the percentage of games played at shortstop upward to 75 percent. That bumps Valentin and Pesky, both of whom played third base in the later years, from the list, with Bogaerts moving up to fourth.

(Worth noting: The best single season by a shortstop in Red Sox history, per bWAR, is Rico Petrocelli’s 1970 masterpiece, when he hit 40 homers and delivered a league-best 10 WAR. John Valentin’s 1995 season, when he had a .931 OPS, hit 27 homers and 47 doubles, walked 81 times, and stole 20 bases, was second at 8.3.)

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Bogaerts, who recently passed Nomar on the Red Sox’ games played list, has a real shot to be atop  this list in a couple of years. He’s 14.5 WAR behind Nomar now. He put up 6.3 WAR in the last full season, 2019. He’s provided 2.4 this year through 56 games entering Monday, meaning he’s on pace for roughly a 7 WAR season, which would be a career-best.

Bogaerts can opt out of his contract after the ’22 season, but if he sticks around beyond then – and Red Sox fans might pillage those fancy planned renovations around Fenway Park if he’s allowed to leave – he should pass Nomar sometime in the ’23 season.

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Because of the ugly ending, it’s sometimes overlooked how truly great Nomar was here from 1997-2003. In the four seasons from 1997-00 – before a wrist injury limited him to 21 games in ’01 – he slashed .337/.386/.577 with an average of 28 homers, 105 RBIs, 198 hits and 110 runs scored. In the two seasons after the wrist injury (2002-03), he went .305/.349/.526 with an uptick in power, averaging 29 homers, 47 doubles and 112 RBIs. He was a line-drive-crushing phenomenon, and his years here should be remembered with joy.

Bogaerts is a special player, too. Calling him the Patrice Bergeron of the Red Sox is fitting in so many ways. He’s lived up to his high billing as a prospect way back when, and he’s perhaps even exceeded it. He’s not the best shortstop in Red Sox history yet, but he’s in the process of building a heck of a future case.

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What does everyone else think? Who is the best shortstop in Red Sox history? I’ll hear you in the comments.

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