If you were to, say, create a leaderboard of American League outfielders and, by chance, order it by on-base percentage, your list would feature Mike Trout in the top spot. Obviously. The next player on the list, more than 30 points ahead of the number three qualified outfielder, might surprise you. Because it is Daniel Nava, the increasingly valuable Red Sox outfielder.
The Red Sox did a terrific job this off-season adding low cost players who could also play a little bit. Adding Shane Victorino after a down year and moving him to right field has worked wonders for the Sox, as has the addition of platoon outfielder Jonny Gomes.
The Red Sox and new manager John Farrell are able to control Gomes’ playing time thanks to the emergence of one Daniel Nava. The “good” side of the platoon, Nava is putting up career numbers across the board, boasting a .300/.390/.451 line with 11 home runs. In addition to his solid performance at the plate, Nava has put in time at first base as well as center field on top of taking his regular turn in left field (lacklustre as that defense might be).
Looking for an explanation for Nava’s success in 2013? Credit Farrell for using the switch hitter judiciously against lefties, allowing the superior “lefty masher” Jonny Gomes face off against port-siders while Nava takes his hacks from his superior left side of the plate.
Nava is at 25% of PAs vs lefties, while Ellsbury (as my example of a full time, non-platoon player) is at 38%.
— Sky Kalkman (@Sky_Kalkman) September 6, 2013
Nava’s numbers as a left-handed batter carrying his overall line. A .320/.416/.488 with nine of his long balls coming as a left-handed batter. Pitchers are trying to adjust, offering him fewer fastballs as the season progresses but Nava is handling soft stuff brilliantly in 2013, adding more than 100 points of OPS compared to 2012.
Which isn’t to say Nava is out to sea against left-handed pitchers, as this huge home run in Toronto demonstrates.
Additionally, a paternity leave “rest” gave Nava a brief respite from the day-to-day grind of the regular season, an invaluable mental and physical break for a player logging more at bats this season than ever before.
Like many Red Sox players, everything has coming together beautifully. The team assembled a great mix of players and a top notch staff that isn’t afraid to pull the right levels in terms of putting them in great positions to succeed. Keeping Nava away from lefties while also giving players like Mike Napoli rest (by cycling Carp and Nava through first base when required) gives the Red Sox numerous options.
All the games their winning makes it much easier for players to take “reduced” roles as the team is headed to the playoffs. Much has gone right for the Sox this season – including minimizing the damage when things go wrong. No one player can claim responsibility for the Red Sox resurgence in 2013 but Daniel Nava has quietly made very significant contributions.