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Did Daniel Nava’s paternity leave benefit him on the field? The numbers say so

09.02.13 at 9:33 pm ET
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On a day that he moved into the top five in on-base percentage in the American League, Daniel Nava struggled for answers when asked why he’s been so good. It’s a hard thing to pinpoint, but perhaps he benefited from last month’s paternity leave in more ways than one.

Nava only had three days of paternity leave as he went to be with his wife for the birth of their daughter, Faith, but when you consider that he hadn’t played the two days prior, Nava ended up with five days off between games, a rare non-All-Star-break experience in which he had the better part of a week off without it being due to injury or performance.

While the biggest takeaway from the that time was his family’s new addition, Nava’s play has been off the charts since returning. In 17 games, he’s his .425 with a sky-high .500 on-base percentage and nine doubles. For the sake of comparison, he hit .279 with a .353 OBP and four doubles in his 17 games prior to the birth of his daughter.

“Maybe I need to have a baby more often,” Nava said with a laugh. “I wish I had an answer for [the play since Aug. 8], because if I did I’d bottle it up and sell it to everybody and say ‘This is the key to success.'”

Nava says he doesn’t think the break helped him physically, saying that going the few days without a bat in his hands didn’t make him feel any fresher. However, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of being mentally refreshed upon his return. After all, it isn’t that often that you get time off during the season with things more important than baseball on your mind.

“I’m sure that definitely helped,” Nava said. “When it’s your first [child], you obviously don’t know what to expect, so maybe going into it I was just thinking more about my wife and her safety and the baby’s health and all that stuff more than I realized, and then once it happened I was able to relax. I don’t know. I didn’t lose sleep when she was [nearing her due date].”

Nava’s current run has improved his OBP on the season to .387, which ranks him behind Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Joe Mauer and David Ortiz. It’s been a career year for Nava, but his manager played it cool when asked about seemingly unforeseen success.

“I don’t think what he’s doing this year should be seen as a total surprise,” John Farrell said after Monday’s loss. “This is very much a part of his track record as a player.”

While Nava’s always had good on-base percentages relative to his batting averages, this is indeed uncharted territory for him. He’s never been in the high .380s range for on-base percentage this deep into a season, and whatever the cause of it is, he’ll take it.

“I don’t know,” Nava said honestly when asked what’s allowed him to thrive this season. “I really don’t. Obviously it helps knowing your role and helps knowing when you’re going to play and not going to play. I’ve said from the get go that that allows any player — Johnny [Gomes], myself, [Mike] Carp — to get in a rhythm. Once you get in that rhythm you can just come to the field and know, ‘This is when I’m going to play and when I’m not going to play,’ and you’re able to lock yourself in.”

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