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Entries in Mike Napoli (13)


The Mike Napoli RBI Machine

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
  Base Runners
2010 326 42 13%
2012 283 33 12%
2011 268 48 18%
2009 283 36 13%
2007 183 24 13%
2006 200 26 13%
2008 175 31 18%
2013 78 21 27%
8 Yrs 1796 261 15%
MLB Average     15%
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2013. 
  • 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.

Napoli is lifetime .271 against lefties and .255 hitter versus righties. This season, he's hitting .188 against lefties and .302 against righties.

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.


My All Star Starters: AL Catcher

As I told everyone earlier, I will be profiling the main all-star vote getters for each position. Each article will feature the top four vote getters at the position, as well as one of my wild cards. Vote totals can be found here.

Today is all about the junior circuit backstop. These guys have one of the toughest jobs in baseball, squatting behind the dish for nine innings, constantly being required to remain alert and focused on every facet of the game, all the while taking 3-4 ABs per game. At this position, the greatest value lies in durability. Catchers will normally catch four of every five games, usually taking day games off after a night game, but the real all-stars make their time in the game count. 

#1: Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers  2,239,047

Napoli has made his living crushing the ball in Arlington over the past few years, hitting 41 home runs in the last year and a half. Historically, Napoli has annihilated left handed pitching, averaging .312 with a 1.005 OPS between 2008 and 2011. These are all-star type numbers, but this year has proven more difficult for Napoli, who seems lost versus south-paws. He is only managing a .150 AVG with a .604 OPS, significantly lower than his averages and breakout season in 2011. Below is a heat map of Napoli's Slugging percentage versus lefties over the two time periods indicated.

It seems that Napoli may have been figured out because he has been baffled. His general line from this season is as follows:

60 G, 45 H, 3 2b, 2 3b, 11 HR, 29 RBI, 29 BB, 67 SO, .234 AVG, .346 OBP, .443 SLG.

Per usual, Napoli has his long ball stroke intact, his 11 homers ranking him third among league leaders at the position. The problem is, there are not enough guys getting on in front of him (mainly due to Josh Hamilton clearing the bases before him, but we'll get to him when we get to AL Outfielders). The most alarming statistic there may be the strikeouts, pacing the American League lead at his position. While Napoli may have the big name, the numbers from last year, and a monstrous power stroke, The numbers just don't indicate an all-type season out of an all-star player.


#2: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins 1,283,804

As chronicled in a previous article, Joe Mauer needed to be a force if the Twins wanted to contend this year, and thus far, some of his numbers have returned to form, in conjunction with his return to health. So far, his power numbers haven't returned to his Most Valuable Player Season, but the average is there, pacing the American League qualifiers at .314. He also has more walks than strikeouts (37/31), which has helped to bolster his strong .415 OBP. He has had a .355 batting average on balls in play, extremely close to his career average of .349, so there is little doubt that this Joe Mauer is legit. His righty/lefty splits have been fantastic, and he has taken a liking to left handed pitching, hitting a solid .356 in lefty-lefty matchups. Mauer's issue so far has been against the soft stuff.

As long as Mauer can continue to take advantage of mistake fastballs left on the inner half of the plate, he'll be a .300 hitter again by years end. His season line to this point is as follows:

60 G, 69 H, 14 2b, 1 3b, 3 HR, 33 RBI, 3 SB, 37 BB, 31 SO, .314 BA, .415 OBP, .427 SLG.

According to this line, Mauer is out hitting Napoli in almost every major category for catchers except HRs, which he makes up plenty for in terms of doubles boosting his slugging percentage. The 33 RBI tie Mauer for third in the American league at catcher thus far, indicating his ability to hit in the clutch with men in scoring position (.377 w/RISP and 27 RBI).

Mauer with Runners in Scoring Position

Mauer has been a stud and is definitely worthy of a few more all-star votes than he is getting. Minnesota fans need to hit the ballots and get this guy up there. 


#3. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles 1,242,247

Early in his career, Wieters was heralded as the second coming of Mark Teixeira, but it took a long time for him to really get accustomed to the major leagues. Young offensive and defensive backstops are few and far between in baseball, increasing Wieters' value to the O's as a centerpiece in their future plans. For this piece, let's play guess that player.

Player A: 60 AB, 24 H, 6 2b, 1 HR, 7 BB, 13 SO, 10 RBI, .400 AVG, .471 OBP, .583 SLG

Player B: 164 AB, 33 H, 8 2b, 8 HR, 19 BB, 35 K, 22 RBI, .201 AVG, .294 OBP, .396 SLG

Did you get it? Player A is Matt Wieters from the right side of the plate while Player B is Wieters on the left. When facing right handed pitching, Wieters has had trouble with balls on the inner half, but he has pulled half 7 of his 8 HRs from that side which means he is out in front of balls on the outer half of the plate. When facing lefties, Wieters has shown a little more power throughout the zone, as well as the ability to hit for a significantly higher average. 

Wieters still has some work to do, but he is just a tweak here or there from being an all-star for years to come. Wieters line this season:

62 G, 57 H, 14 2b, 1 3b, 9 HR, 32 RBI, 26 BB, 48 SO, .254 BA, .341 OBP, .446 SLG.

Wieters leads all catchers in games so far, is tied with Mauer for the lead in doubles, tied for fourth in home runs and fifth in RBIs. He is in third in AVG among qualifying hitters, but not very much better then Napoli at the top of this list. While I do not think that this is Wieters' year to start, he certainly has all-star quality numbers and should definitely be considered for a nod on the bench.


#4. AJ Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox 1,048,603

So who expected this? An absolutely monster year out of Pierzynski has him in fourth place in the all-star voting. Over the last four seasons, AJ has averaged approximately 11 HRs per season; This year he already has 12. Over the past four seasons he has averaged about 53 RBI; this year he has 41. Many baseball fans and fantasy junkies probably thought this was some kind of fluke, because it isn't often that a 35 year old ball player can flip a switch and revert back to prime form, especially at the catcher position. And believe it or not, his batting average on balls in play is actually lower than his average, pointing to a notion that he might actually be getting robbed of a few hits here and there. So what could possibly be the secret to his success? His swing rate is up, his miss rate is up, his in play rate is down, and his chase rate is up, but he continues to hit. Most of his hitting numbers are right around his career average, except for an astonishing 19.7% HR/FB ratio. 

If you take a look at the general location of Pierzynski's dingers, he has been unbelievable at pulling mistake pitches (middle-in) out of the park. AJ's Stats:

59 G, 61 H, 8 2b, 2 3b, 12 HR, 41 RBI, 14 BB, 27 SO, .285 BA, .330 OBP, .509 SLG.

Pierzynski could absolutely afford to take more walks, but he has also managed to limit his strikeout numbers, constantly putting the ball in play in his at bats, and when you do that, good things happen. His average ranks him second among qualifiers and he is second in the bigs in HRs and his SLG paces all qualifiers. This guy has been an absolute machine and absolutely deserves an all-star appearance just by straight numbers alone.


Wild Card: Jarrod Saltalamaccia, Boston Red Sox

My wild card All-Star for this segment is "Salty". This kid has been clutch in every sense of the word, and he is finally blossoming into the talent that the Red Sox and Rangers believed he would eventually be. The second switch hitter on this list, Salty leads all AL catchers in HRs and though he doesn't qualify, he has the highest SLG. Salty will not be voted in by fans, but managers and coaches could see how he has come up big for the Red Sox this year with some clutch extra base hits and decide that he is worthy of his first all-star appearance.

54 G, 46 H, 12 2b, 0 3b, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 12 BB, 49 SO, .263 BA, .307 OBP, .554 SLG



Starter: AJ Pierzynski

Reserve: Joe Mauer

3: Mike Napoli

4: Matt Wieters



Napoli's Lefty Lashing

With the score tied at two in the eighth inning of Game Five, Bullpen-Phone-Gate apparently led to lefty Mark Rzepczynski facing Mike Napoli, as righty relief ace Jason Motte never got the signal to warm up. Given Napoli's slugging exploits against southpaws, Tony La Russa and the Cardinals should have used every tool at their disposal -- bullhorns, flares, a team of special-ops Rally Squirrels -- to make sure Scrabble hit the S-H-O-W-E-R-S.

Napoli is no slouch against right-handed pitching, with a .259 batting average, a .337 OBP and a .495 slugging percentage over the past three seasons. But versus lefties, he's rocking a .312/.407/.589 line. In fact, the erstwhile Angel has one of the five best Weighted On-Base Averages (wOBA) against left-handers from 2009-2011 (minimum 400 plate appearances vs. LHP):


There's no clear pattern in how lefty pitchers try to combat Napoli. They're not shy about throwing him fastballs/sinkers, as Napoli gets one about 57 percent of the time versus lefties (58 percent league average). And they're all over the place in terms of pitch selection, dotting all four quadrants of the zone:

Left-handers' pitch location vs. Napoli, 2009-2011

That jumble of pitch locations stands in contrast to how lefties typically approach right-handed hitters. They mostly try to hit the outside corner:

Pitch frequency by location for left-handed pitchers vs. right-handed batters

It really doesn't seem to matter where lefties locate, however. Napoli mashes just about everything thrown in the zone, and, as noted last week, he hammers pitchers who try to climb the ladder out of the zone:

Napoli's in-play slugging percentage vs. lefties by pitch location, 2009-2011With left-handers throwing in and out, high and low, Napoli goes with the pitch. He pulls inside pitches, but he also punches outside offerings to center and right field:

Napoli's hit chart vs. lefties, 2009-2011

Napoli will take on another lefty, Jaime Garcia, in Game Six tonight. But this much can be said loud and clear: there's no way Napoli sees another southpaw in the late innings in this series.