Xavier Clifford Nady VI. The name stirs up varying amounts of confidence and nostalgia in baseball fans, from his days as a Cal undergrad, to his current status as a member of the Nationals Goon Squad. A well traveled, wily veteran, it’s safe to say that his best days are well in his rear view mirror, as we can see by his current stats*:
But, looking at his average career stat line, Nady has enjoyed some success as a professional. One of the more touted college prospects from his days at Cal due to his numerous accolades, including Baseball America Freshman of the Year in 1998, and two time All-American in 1999 and 2000, Nady seemed to be destined for MLB greatness, the only question being where he would play in the field.
Time has shown us that the game is a cruel mistress, as numerous injuries sapped Nady of much of his hitting ability, and all but eradicated his shaky at best defensive abilities. However, flashes of former brilliance with the bat were seen in 2008 and 2009, both 20 home run seasons for the X Man.
Currently on his seventh team, Nady is at best a stopgap, limited not only by a body aged rapidly by injury, but also his difficulties with the glove, and a waning hitting stroke. Much has been made by his from off of his couch to starting in left field signing during spring training by Nationals fans, as many have tweeted and blogged disparaging the signing, and scratching their heads as to why the Nationals would continue to give Nady opportunities over younger players, such as Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi, and Roger Bernadina.
I am admittedly a proud member of Team Nady, and look forward to the return of Mark DeRosa from the disabled list, so the mega powers of the two will combine, Transformers style, into über bench player, DENADY:
Damn right there’s more than meets the eye to DENADY, but also to Nady individually. I feel that despite his shortcomings and lack of redeeming stats, Xavier Nady is still a good signing, and the small things he continues to bring to the team remains admirable, and worthy of a roster spot.
As seen in the prior graph, Nady’s stat line is pretty bleh. 22 games as a starter in the outfield is 22 games too many: a .113 batting average, with a .330 OPS attest to that. However, this is the improper focus on Nady’s game – he is no longer a legitimate starter, and many of these starts are out of necessity, given Jayson Werth’s current DL stint, and the limitations of both Bernadina and Rick Ankiel to consistently hit major league pitching. Sometimes, the numbers, and the matchups predilect Davey Johnson to throw Nady out there, with the hope that previous success against a certain pitcher provides a reasonable chance of production.
So we know as a starter, it’s tough to expect anything out of Nady. However…
As a pinch hitter, we find Nady’s true role on the club, and as one of the main Don’s of the Goon Squad. Hitting for average and for power when he gets the call of the bench, Nady thrives as the bat off the bench, coming into the game essentially cold. It is a rare talent to have, indeed, and one that many teams would love to have off of their bench.
Looking deeper into Nady’s past, we see another reason why he has become an unheralded asset to the Nats – have a look at his career against NL East pitching:
Overall, Nady has hit NL East pitching pretty well, in particular, Nationals pitching. Thankfully, he’s on our side now – kind of a reverse ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ predicament. ‘If they beat you, have them join you’, or something. This is always a valuable asset to have off of the bench, especially given the frequency we see NL East foes, and how crucial these games are, and how close the race for the division lead has been. To have a guy pinch hit with the experience, and success against your division rivals that Nady has had gives you ease of mind when you double switch; there isn’t much of a dropoff production-wise when you put Nady in for those late inning at bats.
Another quality Nady brings are his splits against lefty and righty pitchers; here are his stats for his career:
Not too drastic of a difference between pitcher handedness, something that can’t be said for the likes of Rick Ankiel and Steve Lombardozzi; both struggle against left handers, forcing a platoon situation or a premature removal from the game, when a lefty reliever comes in to pitch. While not gaudy numbers, Nady’s left/right splits are respectable enough to add to his versatility as an off the bench offensive weapon.
Speaking of offensive, let’s talk defense. Nady is not a defensive stopper; his career 0.988% fielding percentage overall, and 0.981% as an outfielder are, well, yeah. Much of the reason why he has been so well traveled, and has seen action at so many positions – 6 at last count – is his difficulty in establishing a position on the field. Teams have had to hide him at various positions in order to get his bat in the lineup, with mixed results. While his versatility in playing many positions is valuable, it has come at a cost to the tune of a career -4.5 defensive wins above replacement (dWAR). Overall, you can only hope for Nady to be adequate in the field, which he has been in 2012, to the tune of a 0.0 dWAR. He doesn’t give you anything, but doesn’t take anything away by playing the field, at least this year.
As you can see, the numbers say a lot, but nothing at all, all at once. Nady is not the future, and in many respects, is blocking the progress of guys like Moore and Lombardozzi getting some on the job training, and developing into major league outfielders, after playing other positions in the minors. His value is limited to the little things that can win ballgames, and things that don’t show up in a stat line. Yet, even in the twilight of a respectable and lengthy career, the Nationals have a team record of 23-15 when he steps on to the field, or into the batters box.
As long as those steps remain in the batters box, in the late innings, coming off of the bench, the Nationals could do a lot worse than this Goon.
*All stats from Nady’s Baseball Reference page