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Dioner Navarro's Unlucky (and Bad) 2009. Possible Rebound in 2010?

Please don't get his confused as making an excuse for Dioner Navarro's poor season. No major leaguer should accumulate 410 plate appearances and hit .218/.261/.322, but that's what Dioner Navarro did this past season. His .583 OPS was second worst amongst all Major Leaguers with at least 400 PAs. Also finishing runner up was his .261 OBP. To say his season was bad is an understatement, but, and this is a Kim Kardashian sized but(t), the man was a tad unlucky.

As mentioned, his OPS and OBP were second worst in the Majors. However, he also had the second lowest BABIP amongst big leaguers with 400 PAs. His BABIP of .233 trailed only Ken Griffey Jr.'s .222 as the lowest. A .233 is an extremely low BABIP considering his line drive percentage was a pretty normal 19.8%. It was also over .50 points lower than his career .285 BABIP coming into the 2009 season.

Just for comparison's sake here is how Navi's season compared with the equally slow Jack Cust.
















Of course, there are other factors in this like Cust hitting the ball a lot harder (Career .216 ISO to Navi's .111) as well as home park factors, opponents defense and so on and so forth. Nonetheless, they basically hit the same types of balls and Cust's landed nearly 10% more for a hit. Again, it's not a perfect comparison, but just goes to show there was definitely some bad mojo coming from Navarro's bat.

In somewhat of a statistically oddity, I noticed the AL East catchers were just unlucky as a group. While Navi's BABIP was the second lowest, the third and fourth lowest totals belong to fellow AL East backstops Rod Barajas(.234) and Jason Varitek(.238). I'm sure being a catcher, and therefore slow doesn't help, but it seems Jorge Posada and his .335 BABIP put a hex on them.

Bad luck may explain part of Dioner Navarro's nearly .80 point drop in batting average year over year, and of course fewer hits mean fewer times on base, but luck did not have anything to do with his poor pitch selection. He swung at a career high 28.4% of pitches out of the zone, and also walked a career low 4.6%.

At this point, we don't know if Navarro will be offered arbitration or non-tendered. At age 25, Navarro and the Rays are at a crossroad. He's probably not as bad as he was in 2009, but definitely not as good as he was in 2008. In fact, Navi's success at the plate, as well as his BABIP, has fluctuated quite a bit over the last four years ).294, .253, .321, and .233). The trend, as well as regression, suggests that he is likely to rebound in 2010, but that's a gamble in the neighborhood of $2.5 million dollars. All I know is if he does stick around maybe a lucky rabbits' foot or some horseshoes could make his 2010 a bit better than 2009.