Friday, April 24, 2009

What Happened to the All-Star Catcher?

Starting in the second half of 2007, Dionner Navarro seemed like he was on his way to being a stud major league catcher. His pitch selection was improving, thus helping the pitchers throw better games. His defense was excellent, throwing out more and more opponents trying to steal. His batting average was steadily increasing, and hits were coming at clutch times. Right about now, Navarro looks like a shell of his former self.

The first thing that sticks out is his lack of clutch hitting, or even producing productive outs. Forget the fact that his average is .189 or is on base percentage is .204, or even that he has struck-out 14 times in 53 at-bats (while walking once). Those stats would be bearable to me (for now) if he was hitting more sac-flies or moving runners up with less than 2 outs. We are now through 10% of the games this season, and Navi has 1 RBI. Let me repeat that: Navi has 1 RBI. His 1 RBI came on a solo homerun, which means that with runners in scoring position, he is not producing. I looked at his at bats with runners on base this season in the 13 games he has played (and yes, I am this bored at work that I went through play by play of the season to find all of Navi’s at bats and how he did).

Runner on 1st, No Outs: 1K, and 1 Grounded into Double Play
Runner on 1st, 1 out: 3K’s, 1 Fielders Choice, 1 Pop-out, 1 Reach on Error,
and 2 doubles (neither of which scored a run)
Runner on 1st and 2nd, 1 out: Fly-out (advancing lead runner to 3rd)
Runner on 1st and 2nd, 2 out: 1K, 1 Fielders Choice, 1 Ground-out, 1 Fly-out
Runner on 1st and 3rd, 1 out: 1K (down 1-0 at the time)
Runner on 2nd, No Outs: Fly-out (not advancing runner)
Runner on 2nd, 1 out: 1 Pop-out, 1 Fly-out, and 1 Infield Single
Runner on 2nd, 2 outs: 2 Fly-outs
Runners on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out: 1 Foul-out, 1 Pop-out (down 2-0 at the time),
and 1 Ground-out to Pitcher (no RBI, down 1-0 at the time)

In 26 at-bats with runners on base, Navi has advanced a runner a whopping total of 4 times. That is not ok for an all-star catcher. I understand that this is a small sample of the season, but there are times when he needs to produce either a hard ground ball or a sacrifice fly, just move the runners up in some way, and he is swinging for the fences (and missing) or hitting lazy pop-ups. With runners on 3rd and less than 2 outs, a run NEEDS to score, and there are no excuses for not getting a run home. 3 out of the 4 times he has been to the plate with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs, the game has been within 2 runs, and the Rays lost those 3 games.

There can be many reasons or excuses attributed to his early season struggles. At first I just thought it was a slump, but last night I saw him do something that made me think his head is not entirely in the game. This actually came with the Rays in the field. The catcher is supposed to be the manager on the field and is supposed to be aware of every situation, including the count, who is on base, and how many outs there are. With 1 out in the bottom of the 7th, Wladimir Balentien was on first base, and catcher Rob Johnson was facing a 3-2 count from James Shields. The Mariners were clinging to a 1 run lead as Shields was pitching a heck of a game. After the pitch was thrown, Balentien took off for 2nd. On a full count, even with 1 out, it seems like a very good situation to send the runner, and Dionner Navarro should know there is a very high probability that the runner would be attempting to steal 2nd in the event of a strikeout. Johnson swung and missed the pitch for strike 3. The pitch was down the middle, Navi did not have to move at all to either side or drop to his knees to block the pitch. What made me realize that Navi’s head was not in the game is the fact that he was leaning back in his crouch as if no one was on base or there was no chance Balentien would be running on the pitch. He threw an effortless ball to 2nd which had zero chance of catching Peter Griffin stealing a base. Balentien made it to 2nd easily. This really bothered me. If Navi had his head in the game and was aware of the situation, he would have been leaning forward in his stance and would have been prepared to throw in the event of a steal attempt. This is the second time I have seen Navi unprepared for a stolen base attempt this season, and that is unacceptable.

This just says to me that Navi is not thinking about anything and everything that could happen if the ball gets to him, a mental aspect of the game that is taught in little league. Navi is not putting forth an all-star effort mentally. This is really hurting the team not only in the field, but also in important situations at the plate. If Dionner Navarro doesn’t get his head in the game NOW, he is going to cost the Rays more games as the season progresses. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

-the rocket scientist

1 comment:

DirtbagFan said...

You're preaching to the choir, my man.
I've been harping on the Rays not making productive outs for a week now...