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The Dish on Navi

2008 AL all-star catcher Dioner Navarro struggled mightily both at the plate and behind the dish over the first month of the season. While a regression from 2008 at the plate was widely expected, no one quite expected the accompanied sloppy plate work.  There had been speculation of personal distractions as well as a potential wrist injury. Let's take a look at Navi's defensive numbers through May:

 

Year

G

PB+WP

SB

Att %

CS%

2007

119

39

71

6.2%

29.7%

2008

120

41

45

4.7%

38.4%

2009

39

20

26

6.0%

18.8%

2009 120 Gm pace

120

61.5

80

 

 

 

Navarro is on pace for roughly 50% more passed balls/wild pitches than 2008. The good news is only 6 of the 20 to date occurred in May despite starting one more game. That is a very good sign. His May pace is right in line with 2008.

After throwing out an excellent 38.4% of base stealers in 2008, Navi is only throwing out 18.8% this year. That is a concerning drop off. Managers seem to have taken note and are running more frequently. 6% of the time a runner is on 1st or 2nd with an open base in front of them there is a steal attempt vs.  4.7% in 2008.

There is a silver lining to this decline at least for Navarro's sake. The addition of Jeff Niemann to the rotation has affected both Navi's wild pitch and stolen base numbers.

 

Starts

SB

CS

CS %

 WP

% of SB att vs TB

Edwin Jackson 2008

31

12

6

33.3%

7

16.8%

Jeff Niemann 2009

10

12

3

20.0%

3

37.5%

Niemann over 31 starts

31

37.2

9.3

 

9.3

 

Niemann has already allowed as many steals as Jackson did all of last year. Assuming 31 starts, he is on pace to allow 37 stolen bases. 37.5% of opponent's stolen base attempts vs. the Rays are coming vs. Niemann whereas Edwin Jackson accounted for 16.8% in 2008.  Because of this, Niemann's walks are far more costly than Jackson's. It is imperative Niemann continue to maintain a low BB rate as he has the past 3 outings if he is to have success in the league. So now we know Jeff Niemann is responsible for the increase in SB attempts. However, his CS % remains marginally ahead of the rest of the staff.  Navi does indeed have to shoulder the blame for this.

How has Navi fared with the stick during his pink eye-infused May?

Split

BB%

K%

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

BAbip

April/March

1.4%

19.4%

0.181

0.192

0.264

0.456

0.211

May

2.4%

9.7%

0.250

0.295

0.333

0.628

0.262

He is still not walking, but has cut the strikeouts in half. He has also undergone a BAbip regression which should continue. A side effect of more contact has been 4 double plays for the month. Perhaps this explains the four sacrifice bunts. One other plus has been his willingness to take one for the team as he has been plunked four times in May.

While still below expectations, Navarro has been improving. I believe he will continue to show progress at the plate but would really like to see him walk a few more times. However like with BJ Upton, if you aren't hitting well, pitchers won't hesitate to challenge hitters. His plate work has improved, though the drastic decline in CS% is alarming. In Navi's case, team management would have a much better picture of what is going on if there is a physical issue. At least he appears to have regained his focus. I don't believe investing dollars from future years' budgets in an alternative catcher is a worthwhile cause at this point given the improved focus being displayed and the plethora of injuries affecting the team.