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The Season that Was: Dioner Navarro

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A look at Dioner Navarro's 2014 season.

Tom Szczerbowski

Coming into the season Dioner Navarro was our 'big' free agent signing of the off-season. getting a big 2 year, $8 million contract.

Dioner had a good 2013 season, for the Cubs, hitting .300/.365/.492 in 89 games. There were worries about how durable he would be, he hadn't appeared in 100 games since 2009, when he played 115 games, and his career high was 120 games in a 10 year career.

Keith Law had this to say about him:

I liked Dioner Navarro as a potential value signing in free agency this winter, looking at him for one year and about $2 million (which could easily stretch to $2.5-3 million with continued acceleration in free agent salaries this winter) to see if his offensive spike in 2013 had any legs to it.

He does a few things well enough to merit giving him a major league deal and a starting job, including solid walk rates, average pop, and above-average throwing, but just hadn't performed anything like this in five years, and the breakout came back in the National League.

After watching him for a season, I don't know where that 'above average throwing' comes from, and 'average pop' might be over selling what we saw, but other than that, he was pretty much what he was advertised to be.

                                                             
Year     G  AB  R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB CS  BB SO   BA   OBP  SLG
2014   139 481 40 132 22  0  12  69   3  0    32 76   .274 .317  .395

Provided by "Baseball-Reference.com"

Fangraphs has him at a 2.0 WAR giving him a value of $11 million to the Jays. Baseball Reference liked him a little better, giving him a 2.3 WAR.

Dioner had a .315 wOBA and a 98 wRC+.

Compared to 2013 Navarro: walked less (6.2% down from 8.6%) and struck out more (14.6%, up from 13.5). Why is it guys always walk less when they join our team. I mean it isn't like we don't have guys that can take a walk. Jose Bautista is a leader on the team and he takes walks. Why can't guys follow his lead? Navarro hit slightly fewer line drives (24.1%, down from 25.4), slightly fewer ground balls (39.9%, from 41.0) and a few more fly balls (36.0% from 33.7). Far fewer of his fly balls left the park (8.1%, down from 18.8). 2013 was the outlier, he never had more than 10% of his fly balls leave the park in any over season.

His BABIP was .301, about the same as his .307 of last year, up from his career .278 mark.

A switch hitter, Dioner was pretty much the same hitter from both sides of the plate. He hit .272/.315/.395 against right-handed pitchers and .280/.324/.402 against left-handers.

He hit better at home (.300/.333/.456) than on the road (.247/.301/.329).

And he was better in the second half of the season (.295/.339/.450) than the first half (.260/.301/.356).

With RISP .343/.382/.432. Very good numbers. Course I think if this was an actual skill, why wouldn't you hit like this all the time?

Dioner hit Navarro by month:

April: .311/.340/.389, with 1 home run and 14 RBI.

May: .222/.278/.278, with 1 home run and 7 RBI.

June: .253/.306/.418 with 3 home runs and 13 RBI.

July: .300/.330/.467 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI.

August: .289/.322/.398 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI.

September: .254/.320/.403 with 2 home runs and 12 RBI.

A pretty consistent season with the bat.

Defense?

Where to start? How about the easy to measure stuff. He threw out 21% of base stealers, worse than the league average of 27%. If I was an opposing manager, I'd be looking to run off him.

He was definitely not athletic behind the plate. His pitchers had 28 wild pitches and he was credited with 7 passed balls in his 112 games. He seemed to swipe at balls in the dirt instead of moving his body to get in front of the ball.

His ball framing? Well, you know. Again, he tended to slap at balls, instead of getting his glove there and holding it in place, at least when his pitchers were missing the target. When he had to move the glove to make a catch, he seemed to be very slow at it. I think that's the point to pitch framing. Anyone can make a pitch look good when the pitcher hits the target. It is when the pitcher misses the target, which happens a lot, that seems to separate the good from the bad for catchers. Dioner isn't quick in any sense of the word, so when a pitcher misses, Dioner glove seems (at least to me) slow to get the the ball. A pitch doesn't look good when the catchers glove is moving when he gets it.

The other hard to measure aspect of catching is the pitcher/catcher relationship, which might be the most important part of catching and yet we'll really never have a decent way to measure it. It seems like Dioner gets along well with his pitchers. At the start of the season, when Mark Buehrle was pitching so well, we heard how great Dioner was with him and how much better he was with the pitchers than J.P. was. Then Buehrle stopped pitching so well and we stopped hearing about how great Dioner was with him.

Pitchers all seem to say nice things about Navarro, but then what are they going to say? We'd likely have to wait until after his career is over to get a real answer from a pitcher about that sort of thing.

I think we can safely say that Dioner's defense wasn't good. I'm not sure I'd go as far as saying it was a disaster, but your mileage might vary.

As a base runner? Fangraphs has him at -3.5 runs compared to the average base runner. Watching him, he seems to be about as slow a human being can be, while still calling himself an athlete.

His favorite team to hit? Well, he hit .500/.500/.600 in 3 games against the Cubs. Among AL teams, he hit .333/.375/.617, in 6 games, against the Astros.

His least favorite? He his just .125/.176/.125 in 5 games against the Mariners.

His longest hitting streak was 8 games, at the end of April. Longest on base streak was 10 games.

I'm of two minds on Dioner. The good? He isn't J.P. He hit .274. He walks more than once every two or three weeks. The RISP numbers are great. He hits lefties and righties equally well,  so he doesn't need a platoon partner.

The bad? The .274 batting average was pretty empty. No real power, and the walk rate, though better than J.P., it isn't exactly something you want to see.

I think. we can live with him for another year. I wish we had a better backup.

I thought Gibby did a terrific job using the DH spot to keep in healthy and in the lineup. I wish he would do the same with more of his players. Dioner set a new career high in games played, and he seemed pretty healthy all season long. Unfortunately, when he DHed, Josh Thole had to play, and that really isn't a good thing. I wish we could find, or we would look for, someone that can catch Dickey that isn't such a negative on offense.  It is too bad that  A.J. Jimenez had such a bad year.

If we could get a little bump in his power numbers, if he could take walks at the same rate as he his in the past and if he was just a little more agile behind the plate, we would really have something. Then, we could say the same about any player in the lineup.

My favorite numbers in his stat line, is the 3 stolen bases with the 0 caught stealing. He's the sort of guy you time to first base on a sundial and yet 3 for 3 in steals. It really shows that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.