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.

Author: PLCArchives

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