Trot Nixon – An Unsung Hero of the 1999 to 2005 Red Sox

Christopher Trotman Nixon, better known as “Trot,” was a first-round selection of the Boston Red Sox. Despite how highly Nixon was regarded, his first few seasons in the minor leagues weren’t all that exciting. Nixon did get called up to the Major Leagues in 1996, and got 2 hits in 4 at-bats. His 1997 season at AAA Pawtucket was merely OK, although he did hit 20 HR and steal 11 bases.

But, it wasn’t until 1998 when he broke out at AAA in a big way, hitting .310/.400/.513 with 23 HR and stealing 26 bases. Trot was rewarded with a cuppa coffee in 1998 and didn’t do much to impress. The 1999 season, however, his true rookie season, would be a very good one.

As 1999 was the first season in which I personally began to watch MLB on a regular basis, Trot Nixon was a young star that I enjoyed watching play. In 126 games, Nixon hit .270/.357/.472 with 15 HR, 51 RBI, and stole 3 bases. Those Red Sox teams didn’t really run, after all. Also, despite 7 errors, Nixon flashed the leather with defense worth 15 runs above average thanks to his above-average range. 

Trot finished only 9th in Rookie of the Year voting, although it was a pretty stacked year in 1999. His own teammate, Brian Daubach, in his own first full season finished 4th. It was also Carlos Lee’s rookie year, although he didn’t outperform Trot, although Chris Singleton, who finished 6th in voting, actually did. The winner that year was Carlos Beltran, which was honestly a smart decision, especially considering the career Beltran would have.

Trot Nixon’s Solid Numbers and 2003 Career Year

Because of various injuries, Trot Nixon never would display his once above-average speed in the major leagues. So, while he was once thought as a 20 HR/20 SB threat, that never came to be. What did come to be was that Trot translated his spectacular plate discipline and above-average power to above-average major league performance. Injuries would also limit his range in the field, but he’d still be an above-average defender overall for the most part until the tail end of his career.

However, from 1999 to 2005, Trot was never a below-average player. Keep in mind that 2 WAR is a roughly average regular in the major leagues playing a full season.

1999: 2.9 WAR in 124 games
2000: 2,5 WAR in 123 games
2001: 3.8 WAR in 148 games
2002: 2.9 WAR in 152 games
2003: 5.1 WAR in 134 games
2004: 0.9 WAR in 48 games 
2005: 3.4 WAR in 123 games

Trot’s best year was 2003, a year that many expected the Red Sox to make the World Series. Of course, Aaron Boone made sure that didn’t happen… But Trot posted a career best slash line of .306/.396/.578 for a 152 wRC+ with 28 HR and 87 RBI. Those results were partially fueled by a slightly high .334 BABIP, but he did have a truly good year. He also hit very well in the playoffs and may have been the ALCS MVP that year had the Red Sox not been eliminated.

Nixon wasn’t a below average player until 2006, when he posted only 1.1 WAR in 114 games. Injuries finally caught up to him and he was never the same player again. He was truly awful after leaving the Red Sox for the Indians in 2007. and didn’t fare too well in 2008 with the Mets, either.

Trot Nixon’s Ability to Drive in Runs

There were a couple of knocks against Trot Nixon that limited his overall numbers. Firstly, he was dreadful against left-handed pitching (.630 career OPS vs LHP, ..872 career OPS vs RHP). The other major knock against him was that in the “clutch” it seemed like Trot was more likely to draw a walk rather than get a big hit. This may sound like a silly knock in today’s game where walks are much more highly valued. But, it is true that in high leverage situations, Trot hit just .256/.348/.433. That’s compared to .290/.380/.480 in medium leverage plate appearances and .270/.359/.466 in low-leverage PA’s.

However, I argue Trot was much more “clutch” than some commentators suggest. After all, Trot had 223 RBi in 864 plate appearances and 711 at-bats. That means Trot had an RBI for every 3.87 plate appearances and an RBI for every 3.19 at-bats. Those ratios are pretty spectacular. So, he made the hits he did get count! Trot was also an extremely good hitter in the 8th inning, with a career .879 OPS in that inning. 

The reason he has a poor reputation in the clutch? He was below average in the 9th inning, hitting merely .220/.332/.390 (.722 OPS), and he hit a dreadful .200/.304/.300 (.604 OPS) in extra innings. Those things being said, not all of those 9th inning plate appearances were high leverage situations and 71 PA’s in extra innings is an awfully small sample size. He also has positive career marks in WPA (Win Probability Added) and WPA/LI (Win Probability Added in Late Innings). The one downside is that his “Clutch” score was negative in every season except 2004 and 2005.

So, was Trot Nixon bad in the clutch? Perhaps, as far as the leverage indexes are concerned. What I can say is that Trot helped his teammates trot across home plate in high leverage situations on a regular basis. In that way, I’ve always felt he was underrated.

Trot Nixon’s Time with the Indians & Mets, Retirement, and Career Overview

Somewhat ironically, it was Trot Nixon who played for the Indians that the Red Sox came back to beat down three games to one in the 2007 ALCS. After a lousy regular season, Nixon was actually a good contributor for the Indians in the ALCS. It was a strange feeling for him, especially when he came back to Boston, where he received a very warm welcome.

Nixon retired before the 2009 season after a subpar stint with the Mets and a failed comeback in early 2009 with the Brewers. Trot went home to Wilmington, North Carolina to spend more time with his two children. He now serves as a co-host for a high school football highlight show called “The 5th Quarter” for a local channel.

As it turned out, the Red Sox turned to J.D. Drew to replace Nixon. Somewhat ironically, Drew took Nixon’s #7 with the Sox. While it was a frustrating five years for Drew, who dealt with many nagging injuries, overall he was actually a very similar player to Nixon. Drew, of course, had a great 2007 playoffs and helped the Sox win the World Series. But, replacing the popular Nixon, he never really endeared himself to fans. 

Trot Nixon wasn’t just a fan favorite for his consistent production, often underappreciated by non-Red Sox fans. He was a great teammate and his explosive temper actually endeared him to fans. Most of all, Boston fans loved him for his hustle and enthusiasm for the game. He constantly was getting his uniform dirty making great plays and hard slides on the basepaths. Trot became the inspiration for the term “Boston Dirt Dogs.” 

Had Nixon been a bit better against left-handed pitching, he may have posted even better numbers; the Red Sox often spelled Nixon against lefty starters for guys like Gabe Kapler, Wily Mo Pena, and other lefty mashers. Still, from a sabermetric standpoint, Nixon was an above average player for a long time, even playing through injuries and ineffectiveness against same-side pitching.

Trot, hope you’re having a great time with your new career and with your family!

8/30/2019

Writing words, spreading love <3 Owner/operator of Content Revival (www.content-revival.com)

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