Mike Napoli may have found a silver lining to the offseason hip cloud he experienced.
Think about this: Napoli had agreed to three-year $39 million contract with the Red Sox. Boston fans waited and waited for the deal to become official. Then came the news in December that catcher/first baseman Napoli was suffering from avascular necrosis, a degenerative bone disease that was doing a number on his hips. Both camps regrouped and after much negotiations, now just first baseman Napoli ended up with a one-year deal worth $5 million.
Today, 19 games into this season, Napoli's hips are behaving and he leads the majors with 25 RBI. The team record for April is 25 held by Manny Ramirez who did his damage in 23 games in 2003.
Napoli is hitting .278 and slugging .570. In 10 games at home, he's hitting .306 and slugging .611 with five doubles, two home runs, and 12 RBI. At Fenway, he's hitting .389 with runners on base and has gone 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
This is what .611 slugging looks like
Napoli is showing tremendous horizontal coverage of the strike zone but the pitcher who attempts to get a pitch by Napoli low in the zone is simply punished.
That red area you see on the heat map above reflects a .400 batting average and an .875 slugging percentage, all four of his homers, and 17 RBI.
Look how effective Napoli has been when he's come to the plate with runners on base
- BR = Base runners
- BRS - Base runners scored
- As you can see, Napoli is driving in baserunners at an amazing rate with productivity approaching that of some full seasons.
All of this with the right-hand hitting Napoli so far looking miserable against lefties.
Whiffs are still an issue
There is still some reality that could be an issue when Napoli's .367 BAbip stabilizes: Napoli has struck out 26 times good for sixth in the majors with Rickie Weeks and if you need some perspecitve, Adam Dunn, the current model of hitting inefficiency, has whiffed 27 times.
However, we wait and watch Napoli drive runners home and possibly turn a cloud's silver lining into pure gold.