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Gregg Zaun & Dioner Navarro Platoon Is Catching On

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It's probably a bit premature to be looking at the numbers at this point, but we have an off day and I'm still feeling the high off Gregg Zaun's pinch-hit, game winning grand slam. When the Rays acquired Zaun for a PTBN Rhyne Hughes we all were overjoyed to be getting a catcher with a .250 batting average and an OPS of greater than .700. The catching position had been so bad that just average looked fantastic (think Gabe Gross).

At first, we did not know how the at bats would be split between Dioner Navarro and Zaun, but it soon became apparent that we would see an old fashion platoon at the position. While both catchers are switch hitters, each had a considerable difference in splits.

2009

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

Zaun vs RHP

164

0.261

0.360

0.444

0.804

Zaun vs LHP

49

0.220

0.347

0.244

0.591

Navi vs RHP

211

0.183

0.225

0.264

0.489

Navi vs LHP

111

0.291

0.299

0.476

0.775


*Numbers do not include 8/16 game and the Z Slam

With that in mind Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon decided that Zaun would bat left handed and face right handers while Navi would stick to hitting from the right side and handling southpaws. Again we are way, way, way early on looking at the returns of the Zaun/Navi platoon, but early indications are promising. Yesterday the platoon worked to perfection as Navi went 1-3 against the left handed starter and Zaun brought his Z Game off the bench to hit the game winning grand slam against the right handed reliever. Zaun has been a beast since joining the Rays on August 7th, and as R.J. pointed out has half as many homers with the Rays as he did with Baltimore. Since moving to the right side, Navi hasn't lit the world on fire, but has looked a lot better.

We will expand our sample size over the final 55 games, and should things pan out as expected, the Rays could have a temporary fix at backstop. With both players under contract for the 2010 season at a combined near ~$5 million dollars(estimating Navarro's arbitration number) the Rays would need a combined 1 WAR to make that a valuable platoon. With the success of the all Gabe platoon, the Rays have shown no fear of going with two halves to make one complete player. Again, it's too early to call the platoon a success, as well as penciling them in for 2010, but considering what our catcher situation was like two weeks ago, I like where this is going.