The X-Factor

I’ll be the first to admit that a starting rotation featuring Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny and Oliver Perez would be downright scary this year. The trio has combined to throw 247 innings in 2007, allowing 81 earned runs while striking out 191 batters—good for a 2.95 ERA. By comparsion, Brandon Webb pitched 235 innings in 2006, setting down 178 while compiling a 3.10 ERA. Webb won the Cy Young.
I’m sure if the opportunity presented itself for David Littlefield to go back and re-work the trade that sent Perez and Roberto Hernandez to the New York Mets last July, he’d take it in a heartbeat. Littlefield dealt away a broken down Ollie—a version of the southpaw that was at its lowest possible value.
Still, the return on DL’s trade has turned out to be better than originally expected, I think. Last August, most diehard fans viewed Xavier Nady as nothing more than a platoon player—and some of us still believe that Nady would be best suited for a part-time role.
Unfortunately, it seems as if Nady has other plans. The way he’s playing, Xavier is making every case to be in the lineup on a daily basis. It’s even gotten to the point where I’m penciling Nady into my 2008 batting order.
According to the charts and graphs available on his ESPN scouting report—premium content, subscription required—Nady is a breaking-ball hitter that crushes left-handed pitching. But you don’t need sabermetric analysis to notice that: X is hitting .395 against southpaws this year, .246 against righties. The plain eye sees the difference in his splits.
I’ve been one of the loudmouths campaigning for Tracy to use Nady in a strict platoon in right field. The more I look at the stats, though, the less sure I am that the Pirates have a better option than X.
His OPS against right-handed pitching is .760—not stellar, but acceptable by our standards. Better yet, his batting average with runners in scoring position is .345. That’s correct, he actually hits with ducks on the pond. When you consider his spot in the order—Nady often protects Adam LaRoche or Jason Bay—the fact that he’s contributing in big situations becomes that much more important. Obviously our sluggers will see better pitches with a legitimate threat in the on-deck circle.
If you project his numbers out over the course of a full year—he’s played in 52 games, so to cheat, I’m multiplying by three—Nady would hit 33 homers, drive in 114 runs and score 84 times in 552 at-bats. Those figures would turn X into a poor man’s version of Mark Teixeira or Carlos Lee. I’d take it—and you would too.
Granted, this reeks of small sample size. And I haven’t mentioned his outfield defense, which at times has been questionable. (The Stats Geek characterized Nady as average in right.) But still, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of next year’s lineup being anchored by Bautista, Bay, LaRoche and Nady. You’re a #2 hitter away from a solid top of the order if all goes as planned.
Everything gets shot to hell if Xavier starts to tank. But if you’re the Pirates, what do you have to lose? Run him out there and see what he can do day in and day out. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised for once. Maybe Nady will pan out.
Consider him the X-factor.

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  • Vaughn

    He’s actually up to .797 against righties after last night’s effort, which is more than acceptable.

  • http://none Brad Crouse

    Do you think we have a potential #2 hitter in the system? Would that be Sanchez potentially?

  • MikeD

    McCutchen has slowed at Altoona, so it’s hard to imagine him making it to Indy early enough in ’07 to have a shot at an ’08 starting position. Maybe mid-year ’08?? If so, then you have some choices to make in the OF — Bay/Duffy/McCutchen? Bay/McCutchen/Nady? McCutchen/Duffy/Nady? Many potential combinations, and possibly a mid-year trade of an established contributor that can bring some real value to the Buccos. I suppose for now, we can only hope that Duffy’s bat comes alive to match his stellar defense, and the rest keep putting up decent numbers. Worst case, they all stay and we enjoy a summer of wonder in 2008!

  • Cory Humes

    Sanchez would seem to be that #2 guy, Brad. Hopefully. He should hit around .300 and he can handle the bat.
    If I were running the Pirates, I would be finding out what I could get for Jason Bay in a trade right now. (The answer: A lot.) I doubt that’s the direction we’re headed, though.
    I’m guessing the 2008 outfield will feature something like Bay in left, Nady in right and a stopgap free agent in center. McCutchen would really have to turn his game up a notch to be ready for Opening Day.
    If Bautista’s glove continues to deteriorate (seems as if he’s been making more than his share of errors lately), I wouldn’t be against playing him in center, moving Freddy back to third and giving Castillo another shot at second.
    If Duffy doesn’t start to hit a bit more, there’s no way the Pirates can consider him a part of the future. He might be a decent fourth outfielder—defense, speed—but his stick won’t keep him in the lineup.

  • Travis

    It is hard for me to say this, but as long as Nady KEEPS it decent against RHP (I swear his swing is different against RHP vs LHP, but Manto would never see this), I wouldn’t mind him being in CF everyday or at least most of the time (the offense from CF has been nonexistent). I would put Doumit in RF everyday. Bautista in CF is also a good option. Duffy has been worthless at the plate most of the time, esp. against LHP.

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