Three Inexcusable Omissions

Flick, Garciaparra, and Terry fail to make Asher's Top 200 List

by Keith Glab,
September 16, 2009

When Asher and I went over our Top 200 Lists this summer, we were actually quite surprised at the similarities between them, given our different valuation of players and the different methodology of our lists.  Still, there are indeed differences, and what better way to break the ice in discussing them than to examine the highest three players I have ranked that do not appear on Asher's list at all?  In order, they are Elmer Flick, whom I have ranked as the 111th-best player of all-time, Nomar Garciaparra (#129), and Bill Terry (#167).  Asher can apparently name 200 superior players to this trio, but I just don't see it.
2009 Player Rankings
Asher's List
Keith's List
Composite List

Elmer Flick | Nomar Garciaparra | Bill Terry

Nomar Garciaparra (#129)

During the 2006 unveiling, I compared Nomar Garciaparra to Ernie Banks.  The argument went that Nomar had already achieved as much between 1996 and 2004 as Ernie Banks had between 1953 and 1961.  In 1962, Banks transformed from a great-hitting shortstop into a mediocre first baseman, while in 2005, Nomar devolved from a superstar shortstop into an erratic utility player.    So whatever Garciaparra did for the remainder of his career would have to be at least as impressive as what Banks provided as a first baseman who struggled to reach base 30% of the time in a great hitter's environment.  This seemed particularly inevitable at the 2006 All-Star break, as Nomar was sitting pretty with a .358 batting average and 1.004 OPS in 268 at-bats as an everyday third-baseman, playing half of his games in the
pitcher-friendly locale of Dodger Stadium.

Since that time, Nomar has fallen even further than anyone could have predicted.  He ran away with the 2006 Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Award by hitting .229 with a .694 OPS in the second half and was an empty-average corner infielder the following season.  Garciaparra showed signs of resurgence in 2008 despite injuries that limited him to 55 games played, but has been beyond atrocious for the Oakland A's this season, exhibiting neither health nor effectiveness on either side of the ball.  Due to Nomar's precipitous decline, I bumped him down from a conservative #110 ranking seven spots below Banks in 2006 to #129 and 11 spots below Banks this season.  But the comparison between the two players remains legitimate, I believe.

Banks compiled 239 batting runs over his first nine seasons.  Garciaparra had 193 in his first nine seasons despite missing a lot of that time due to injury.  Since converting to a first baseman, Banks had two, or perhaps three seasons in which he wasn't hurting the Chicago Cubs by playing for them.  Garciaparra has only enjoyed one season of not hurting his ballcub since losing the title of starting shortstop, though that 2006 season alone was better than any of Banks' individual seasons as a first baseman, even with the putrid second half. 

So Banks does have a clear advantage as a hitter, although certainly not as large as Asher would have us believe.  But our analysis of the two players is far from complete.  Nomar has stolen 94 bases in 125 attempts in his career, which is good for about 12 stolen base runs.  Banks stole just 50 bases in 103 tries, costing the Cubbies about 12 stolen base runs.  The players have similarly poor double-play rates, with Banks' being slightly more detrimental because his career was longer.

A cursory glance at their defensive value shows Banks ahead of Nomar in the Gold Glove race one-to-nothing.  Living in Chicago for most of my life, I've never heard of Banks' defense referred to as anything better than solid, and I've always chalked that GG up to a default award doled out because of Banks' offensive contributions and the lack of a dominant-fielding shortstop in the NL at that time.  Meanwhile, Garciaparra spent most of his shortstop time during Omar Vizquel's streak of nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards.  Anecdotally, we know that Garciaparra's defense had gotten so bad in 2004 that jettisoning him in favor of Orlando Cabrera broke the Curse of the Bambino and brought Boston its first World Championship in nearly 90 years.

We do have some Fielding Bible data to further elucidate Nomar's defensive worth.  He did indeed cost his teams nine runs in 2004, but that came on the heels of saving the Red Sox 10 runs in 2003, ranking second among all big league shortstops.  In just 238 innings at shortstop last year, Nomar saved the Dodgers three runs (you were wondering why I called that a resurgent season, weren't you?).  We'll probably never know precisely how good he was defensively in his other prime years of 1997-2000 and 2002, but I would bet that those years were a lot closer to his 2003 performance than what he displayed in 2004.

For what it's worth, Banks has a fielding percentage well above the other shortstops of his era, while Garciaparra has one well below his contemporaries.  Meanwhile, Nomar is credited with 33.5 Fielding Runs Above Average while Banks chimes in at 2.3.  Using Zone Fielding Runs Above Average, we have Nomar at 43.5 and Banks again at 2.3.  I think it's safe to say that although Banks was more sure-handed, he did not have the kind of range, arm, and athleticism that Nomar possessed.

These two players - even more so than Robin Yount and Rod Carew - are difficult to rate with respect to other players because of the disparity between the first half of their career and the second.  They aren't all that difficult to rate with respect to each other, however.  Banks deserves to rank a little higher than Garciaparra does, pending the remainder of Garciaparra's seemingly-finished career.  Certainly, having one of these guys ranked at #92 and having the other not appear on the list at all is a serious error in judgment.

Elmer Flick | Nomar Garciaparra | Bill Terry

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at