Is Xavier Nady in the midst of a career year? Most people would say yes.
His batting average, .330, is .050 above his career high. Meanwhile, his IsoD — that is, the difference between his batting average and on base perentage — is exactly the same as last year, and is relatively consistent with his earlier career. Anyone who reads Baseball Prospectus can tell you that spikes in batting average without a corresponding spike in relative OBP (that is, IsoD) raises a red flag.
Over the years, I’ve come to learn the mistake in making a broad generalization for a single player. Just because a sacrifice bunt statistically doesn’t work out doesn’t mean that we should abolish it from the strategy book. Just because the hit and run fails often doesn’t mean we should kill the manager when he calls for one. Just because we’ve found that OBP and SLG are more important than BA doesn’t mean we should go out and get a team of Adam Dunns (though having one would be awful nice).
In 2005, when he hit .261/.321/.439, Nady showed some pretty hefty splits. He hit .223/.270/.431 against righties, while shellacking lefties to the tune of .323/.400/.452. In 2006, the season he split between the Mets and Pirates, he hit .280/.337/.453. His splits were even more drastic: .263/.312/.424 against righties, .336/.418/.551 against lefties. Considering how many more righties the typical player faces than lefties — Nady’s plate appearances were split 390 to 122 — he wasn’t looking like a guy you wanted in the lineup every day.
In 2007, things took a turn for the better. His overall numbers were along the same lines as 2006: .278/.330/.476. Yet his splits were much more even. Against lefties he hit .295/.356/.463. Against righties he hit .274/.322/.479. While those aren’t ideal numbers against righties, it is still an OPS over .800. More importantly, it was an improvement.
This year, he’s showing a pattern similar to 2007, though the tide has risen. Overall, he’s at .330/.383/.535. Against lefties, that’s .313/.434/.522, and against righties it’s .335/.368/.538 — a .956 OPS vs. a .907 OPS.
Will Nady maintain these stellar numbers? We can’t be certain. But over the last two years, as he has entered his prime, he has shown a greater competency against right-handed pitchers. That could be what turns him from a fringe starter into a solid one.