Devil Rays (off-day)
With the off-day yesterday, we are going to try something different today. We feel like we have been rather harsh on a handful of players recently and we are not usually that negative. In our defense we supported Edwin Jackson for a long time even though his numbers were just as horrific as Jae Seo and Casey Fossum. And while we have taken some shots at Elijah Dukes, whether they be direct or indirect, we have not been nearly as hard as many people have been and if you pinned us down we would choose to keep Dukes, if only because we hate selling low.

So today we are going to try and put a positive spin on somebody that has been the subject of much bashing from Devil Rays fans. Yes folks, we are here to tell you why Dioner Navarro is still the answer at catcher…Stop laughing. We are serious. And yes, we understand that to many of you this is akin to saying that the Rays should bring back Travis Lee, but bare with us for a few moments.

Our biggest argument is that Navarro is still young. He is still only 23 and if he hadn’t been top prospect, he would probably still be sitting in some team’s minor league system. Catchers are notoriously slow developers with the bat. While other position players spend hours upon hours everyday in the minors honing their swing, teams are more concerned with developing a catcher defensively and worry about their offense later.

Defensively, Navarro is above-average. While you would like a higher caught-stealing rate (9 of 40) he excels at almost every other aspect of defense. Despite being a rather portly fella, Navi is extremely light on his feet. Next time a pitcher throws a ball in the dirt watch how easily Navi moves to block the pitch. Most catchers flail in attempts to block wild pitches. Navi moves with no more effort than as if the pitcher had rolled the ball to him.

Navarro only has 3 passed balls on the season, but even more indicative is the number of wild pitches thrown by the Rays pitching staff. It is no surprise that the Rays are among the league leaders in walks allowed. In fact they rank third in the AL. We aren’t making any bold statements that the Rays staff throws a lot of pitches out of the strike zone. Yet, the Rays are only 10th in the AL in wild pitches thrown. And while it may be easy to block a wild pitch thrown by Fossum which is traveling 12 mph, the Rays do have a number of hard throwers. The fact that the Rays are not near the top of the league in wild pitches needs to be attributed at least in part to Navarro.

Offensively, Navarro has been atrocious. He is hitting .170 with no home runs and only 10 RBI. He has a .241 OBP and a .240 SLG. Only numbers like those could make Buddy Biancalana look like an all-star.

OK…deep breath...you may want to sit down for the next part.

Dioner Navarro is not hitting as poorly as the numbers indicate…

First of all he has 29 strike outs and only 15 walks or approximately a 2:1 ratio. Before this season his ratio was 62:51, or much closer to 1:1. A 1:1 ratio is an exceptional ratio for such a young hitter and is usually a sign of good things to come. Why the drop-off this season? We don’t have an answer, other than to say that it appears that he is in a protracted slump. And yet, his strike out totals are not that high. He is only 9th on the team in K’s, and you would expect more strike outs from a player that was mired in such a deep slump.

So then what is going on when he does make contact? When Navi makes contact, his batting average is .204 which is still horrible. But what is intriguing is how often he hits the ball hard. In fact Navi hits a line drive 15.6% of the time. Using a formula devised by the folks over at the Hardball Times, a line drive percentage of 15.6% means a player should hit .276 on balls he makes contact with.

OK, that’s great, but what does it mean. Well, he is in a slump, but a good chunk of that slump is just good ole’ fashioned bad luck. Dioner Navarro appears to be hitting the ball well. It’s just that he isn’t hitting ‘em where they ain’t. Eventually those line drives will start finding holes, and Navarro’s numbers will improve. He’s not going to hit .330. At least not anytime soon, but he is swinging the bat like a .260 hitter, and with his defense that is good enough.

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

It is difficult [to be patient]…At the same time, you look back and you’re like, “OK, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing the whole time. That’s what got me here.” That’s kind of the situation where I’m at right now. I’m kind of stubborn a little bit…Now when I want to take the next step and get better, it involves something like this.

 
 

2 Comments

  1. Robert Rittner says:

    I agree with your analysis of Navarro. I have been to a number of games when he has hit hard line drives only to have them caught or go slightly foul. More important is that not only is he young, but prior to arriving in TB he hit decently, in particular as to OBP. I do not expect him to become a star, although it would not surprise me should he make an all-star team before his career is over, but I do think he will become at least a serviceable catcher. The Rays have the time to let him work out of his slump, even if it takes all year.

  2. Geraldo says:

    I also agree. It is easy to jump all over Navi for his poor batting average this season. But he barely has a full major league season under his belt, and his numbers at this point in his career compare favorably with those of Pudge Rodriguez at the same point in his career. The guy plays hard through tremendous distractions, and the pitching staff seems to like him a lot. He is always the first on the field to congratulate a teammate and the guy never seems to be in trouble. He seems like a class guy who is in a bad slump. Let’s support the guy and hope we see him turn his season around soon.

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