Mike Napoli is thriving in his first season in Texas. The 29-year-old masher, never fully embraced by Mike Scioscia in L.A., was traded to Toronto in the logic-defying Vernon Wells deal last off-season and then sent to the Rangers in exchange for reliever Frank Francisco. The part-time catcher is raking to the tune of a .294 average, a .386 on-base percentage and a .592 slugging percentage with Texas, racking up a career-best 3.3 Wins Above Replacement so far.
Napoli's having his best season yet by paring down his strikeout rate from 26.9 percent of his plate appearances last season to 18.6 percent in 2011. In particular, he's making for more contact in two-strike counts.
First, here's the league average contact rate by pitch location in two-strike situations:
Overall, non-pitchers miss 20.5 percent of pitches swung at with two strikes.
Now, compare Napoli's contact rates in two-stike counts in 2010 and 2011:
Napoli is whiffing less just about everywhere, especially against high pitches and offerings thrown inside. His miss percentage with two strikes has dropped from 29.6 percent in 2010 to 19.9 percent in 2011. And while most players are fighting a losing battle once they have two strikes on them, hitting a collective .191/.260/.288, Napoli has a .277/.358/.484 line in such situations.
Considering that Angels catchers are getting on base barely a quarter of the time and slugging .300, you'd have to think they'd love to have Napoli back instead of watching him dim their playoff prospects on hard cut at a time.