The Red Sox got the news yesterday they’d been trying to avoid for all of
March: Nomar Garciaparra is going to need surgery and will be out
for at least two months, and for as many as four.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this loss. For the most part,
teams and the media overstate the impact a single player has on a team’s
chances, which is the driving force behind a lot of bad analysis and
questionable free-agent signings. Even pretty good players don’t add more
than four to six wins in a season over a replacement-level player. Only a
handful are worth more than that in one season, and only the elite are
worth more every season.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Garciaparra falls into that category, a .330
EqA guy who plays an acceptable shortstop. He’s one of the half-dozen best
players in the game, worth between seven and nine wins in a typical season.
Losing him rips a hole in a Red Sox offense that isn’t loaded for bear even
with him.

Complicating matters is that the Sox don’t have quality options to take
Garciaparra’s place. Neither Lou Merloni nor Mike Lansing is
a major-league shortstop defensively. Lansing, of course, hasn’t hit since
1964 or so. Merloni’s Wilton projection in Baseball Prospectus 2001
has him at .284/.338/.409 for a .251 EqA. Those numbers:

  1. Would move Dan Duquette past Tom Green in the "Luckiest Man
    Alive" standings


  2. Appear to be the product of Wilton’s experimentation with Glenfiddich.
    Lou Merloni isn’t posting a .251 EqA in any significant playing time.

Does this injury kill the Sox’s chance to break the Yankees’ stranglehold on
the AL East? Well, my initial reaction is a qualified "yes." The
problem is that it’s hard to gauge just how much this is going to cost the
Sox. If Garciaparra misses two months, comes back on June 1 and plays like
Nomar Garciaparra the rest of the way, the Sox may survive the two- or
three-game hit. If he’s out until the All-Star Break, then scuffles a bit
upon his return and simply has a good year, but one below his established
level, that’s just too much to make up.

Right now, though, I can say that this injury will cause me to change my
pre-season pick in the AL East. It’s just too much time lost by too great a
player, with no expectation that the replacements will be assets.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by

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