Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra
Nomar Garciaparra is notably the only shortstop on this list. While historically it had been a light-hitting position that emphasized defense, Garciaparra was at the forefront of a shortstop revolution. Forming a “holy trinity” alongside Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, Nomar was part of a new wave that proved shortstops could produce big offensive numbers that were rarely seen from that position.
Garciaparra was the Rookie of the Year in 1997 when he hit .306 with an .875 OPS, 30 home runs, 98 RBI and 22 steals. He led the league with a career-high 209 hits and 11 triples. He was already among the best hitters in the league as a rookie, making the All-Star team, earning a Silver Slugger and finishing eighth on the MVP ballot.
The following season, Garciaparra hit .323 while setting career-highs with 35 home runs and 122 RBI to finish second in the MVP race.
Nomar won consecutive batting titles, hitting .357 in 1999 and .372 the following year. It’s been eighty years since a qualified major league player has hit at least .400 in a season. During that 2000 season, Red Sox fans believed that if anyone was going to do it again, it would be Nomar.
Only six qualified hitters have produced a higher batting average than Garciaparra’s .372 in a season since Ted Williams topped .400 in 1941. One of those hitters was Teddy Ballgame himself in 1958. Tony Gwynn came the closest by hitting .394 but played in only 110 games during the strike-shortened 1994 season. All six are in the Hall of Fame.
Nomar won’t get into Cooperstown but at his peak, he was in that elite class.