The Z-Man Comes to Tampa Bay

I have to admit when I first heard that the Tampa Bay Rays had traded for catcher Gregg Zaun a bit of ease went through my body. Here is a guy who might not be huge in stature, he is listed at 5 ft 10 inches, a slim inch taller than Dioner Navarro. But the fact that Zaun plays like he is 6 foot 9 inches and 250 pounds might be a great boost for the Rays.

We finally got a guy behind the plate that will be effective behind the plate stopping balls in the dirt and also can be a major pain to opponents at the plate. All you have to do is just look at what he has done to the Rays in 2009 to see the potential for added offense.  Zaun went 5 for 17 with 4 runs and 3 walks while homering once with an RBI. You might say that this .294 average is not great, but he has only faced the Rays in 6 games and did that type of damage. Do you need further stats to show you it was a great move?

Okay, maybe you need to be convinced a little more. How about we look at his 2008 numbers and see just how effective this pesky catcher has been against the Rays, even during their Championship season. Zaun hit for a .300 average just during the 3-games series in Walt Disney’s Champion Stadium.

But the Rays did blank him at Tropicana Field in 2008 by getting him to go 0-5 with only a walk. But he always seems to be at the center of any scoring drive against the Rays, and he did most of hid damage in 2008 at home in Toronto. In Rogers Centre, Zaun went 7 for 17, with 4 RBIs and a run scored.  He batted .412 against the Rays with a .647 Slugging Percentage in the confines of his domed home. But this trade was done for other reasons too.

 



Greggzaun.com

In 2009, Zaun has only committed 5 errors in 316 total chances in 435.1 innings. He has caught 5 base runners this season, and has a .984 Fielding Percentage. These numbers are pretty similar when you stack them up next to Navarro’s 2009 numbers of 5 errors in 572 chances in 696 innings. And Navarro has caught 14 base runners and boasts a .991 Fielding Percentage.

Those similar statistics might be the biggest reason he is here in Tampa Bay right now. His numbers are very similar in comparison with Navarro. But he also has a few intangibles that overshadow Navarro. One of the constant complaints on Navarro has been the way he handles balls that scuff into the clay or hit in front of the plate. It always seems like he is not getting his glove down in time, or is not in position to block it effectively with his glove.

This can frustrate a pitching staff and can render the catcher a liability in a close game. Ball getting away from the plate, or even sailing to the backstop can be counter productive to stopping a running game by your opponent. Even tho Navarro has been effective in gunning down guys, his mishandling of balls in the dirt could have prevented runners moving up into scoring position.

Zaun is a workhorse behind the plate, and like Navarro, he is also a switch hitter. But beyond all of that, he brings a professionalism that has lacked since Josh Paul left the Rays. Paul was a great catcher as well as teacher while he was here with the Rays. Navarro is not the type to teach anyone since he still has things to learn himself. Zaun could be the answer to letting him grow without pressure knowing his back-up is totally competent to running the Rays pitching staff.


Nick Wass / AP

But above all, Zaun brings to the Rays a truly professional sense from top to bottom. Who knows who the imfamous player-to-be-named-later will be, but he will be a small player in comparison to what Zaun could do for the rays down the stretch. Another huge plus is his knowledge of the American League East hitters. That brings about instant credibility and a great asset behind the plate.

And also, I think he is the first player we have ever traded for who has a dedicated website to his talents on the web. Just go to http://www.greggzaun.com and you will be impressed not only by the graphics and the music, but by the sheer abilities this guy can bring to the Rays. From the posted videos to the music contained on the website it breeds excitement, and brings you wanting to know more about the guy.

I am truly excited we have a guy that will get behind the plate and throw himself all over the clay and turf to block pitches and get this team into a mode to win every night. This is not to mean that he will come in here and dominate or even replace Navarro. I think he was brought in to compliment the team and not push anyone aside right now.

I can not wait for Zaun to get back to the Trop so I can go up and welcome him here, plus ask him what his walk-up music will be here in Tampa Bay. Could he be staying with his old favorites “BYOB” by System of the Down, or maybe  “Limelight” by Rush. The guy is going to bring some light to the Rays that is needed right now.

Offensive power from the catcher’s spot is needed right now, and his current line of a .244 average with 4 homers and 13 RBIs might not seem like a huge upside, but his 27 walks pose problems for pitchers. That last stat might be the biggest improvement behind the plate. Navarro has only walked a total of 9 times this season.

Zaun, or the “Z-man” as fans have affectionately called him has been a huge part of the scenery in the AL East for a long time. With him now here in Tampa Bay it boosts a soft spot in the Rays offense and defense and makes for a more effective battery going into the stretch run.


Nick Wass / AP

Want to know just what kind of classy guy we are getting here in Tampa Bay? Here is a small sampling from his website on his favorite charity, Right to Play:

Thanks for visiting our website. We started this site for one reason. To help raise awareness and money for RIGHT TO PLAY. I first became exposed to the organization while playing for the Blue Jays, when my wife Jamie and Patrick Grey, a former Blue Jay employee, first brought it to my attention. It was clear to me that Johan Olav Koss, the Olympic speed skater, had truly built an incredible foundation. Their work around the world is timely and crucial to the survival of a generation. I urge you to check the RIGHT TO PLAY website and when ours is finished, give all you can. The children of the world are counting on all of of us to do our part in saving them.

I am so excited to have this guy playing for the Rays. not only is he a great guy on the field in terms of his hustling style, but he is a major player in the community and would be a great asset to the Rays Foundation. Plus, I think he is the first player we have ever acquired who has a web presence besides Rays reliever Brian Shouse.  Mix that with his colorful catcher’s helmet that mirror’s the NHL goalies, and you get a guy with a great zest and love for this game. Can’t wait for him to get behind the plate in the Trop.

8 Comments

Speaking of Zaun, have you seen his website? I don’t know if he does his own web design or not, but holy cow. It’s impressive. Just one more reason he’s a good pickup for the Rays.-Erinhttp://plunking-gomez.blogspot.com

Hey! I like your blog! Zaun was a good pickup for you, since Navarro is not as good as he was last year. Last night was a tough loss for the Rays, and a great win for my Yankees. It really did change the complexion of the whole series. Right now, it’s the 8th inning of the 3rd game, and the Yanks are up 5-0. A is not out of the question. I hope the Rays win the wild card. What are they, 2.5 out? They are a really good club. I have a feeling they will make it to the postseason. -Virginia
http://southernbelle.mlblogs.com

Erin,
I did mention the website, which also includes a small section where he has some great phots and videos.
I love the community angle mostly because it was huge for us in Indy to give back to the community before it was considered “fashionable”.
He is going to be fun to watch behind the plate.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Virgina,
Thank for for the compliment.
The past few days are beginning to look like Andrew Friedman’s personal trade time.
Three guys in three days. Gregg Zaun, RJ Swindle and Russ Springer today.
It is a shame 3 guys will have to go, but it could be the difference between going hom and going to the playoffs for the Rays.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Rays – Zaun should be a great pickup for your guys. And you are right – his commitment to the community will fit in perfectly with what the Rays do off the field. Good luck to all.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Another thing is, Zaun knows all the Jays secrets. He probably doesn’t recognize anyone of the rotation, with the exception of Halladay, but he definately knows the bullpen guys. And you are right, Zaun might be the best catcher I’ve ever seen at blocking ball in the dirt.
http://homerfoodandhistory.mlblogs.com/

Julia,
It is sounding as if Zaun might be the duo-primary catcher right now with getting most of the starts against left-handed pitchers.
He will get the first two starts of the Angels series, with Navarro getting the start during the Wed day game.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jeremy,
That is true, but the Jays beat the Orioles in those first two games of 2009.
He is here for his pitch blocking ability and his right-handed hitting.
He should be a nice veteran presence for the Rays staff.
They respect Navi, but sometimes i think they also clown on him at times.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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