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Entries in Mike Napoli (13)

Wednesday
Oct192011

Napoli's High-Ball Hacking Pays Off 

No player influenced the AL West in 2011 more than Mike Napoli. The part-time backstop, whose defense never earned him the full trust of Mike Scioscia and the Angels, was shipped to Toronto this past January as part of a deal for Vernon Wells. Four days later, Napoli was traded to L.A.'s chief division rival for Frank Francisco. While Wells turned in a wretched season (-0.3 Wins Above Replacement) and raked in $23 million (it's OK, he has three more years to redeem himself at $21 million a pop!), Napoli paced Rangers players with 5.5 WAR.

Napoli has been devastating offensively. Including the playoffs, his .431 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) places third among MLB hitters with at least 400 trips to the plate. Napoli has pared down his strikeout rate (to a career-low 19.8 percent), and his patient approach produces plenty of walks as well (13.1 percent). And when he does decide to take a whack at a pitch off the plate, there's a reason: Napoli knows he can crush it.

Generally speaking, swinging at pitches out of the zone is a lousy idea. Hitters have a collective .195 wOBA when going after pitches out of the zone. But Napoli? He has a .360 wOBA when he goes fishing, which ranks second to Pablo Sandoval among MLB batters. Napoli is hardly a Vlad Guerrero-esque, hack-happy hitter: his 23 percent chase rate is well below the 28-29 percent big league average. Rather, his out-of-zone swings are calculated. Napoli kills high pitches, so he's not bashful about going after pitches up the ladder.

Take a look at Napoli's out-of-zone swing rate this season, compared to the league average. You'll note that he's awfully aggressive on high pitches, but just about never swings at pitches off the plate in other locations:

 Napoli's out-of-zone swing rate, by pitch location

League average out-of-zone swing rate, by pitch locationHere's how Napoli's chase rate breaks down by vertical pitch location, compared to the league average:

High pitches: 29 percent, 26 percent league average

Middle pitches: 27 percent, 34 percent league average

Low pitches: 13 percent, 28 percent league average

Napoli's aggressiveness on high pitches is paying off handsomely. Check out his in-play slugging percentage on pitches thrown out of the strike zone, compared to the league average:

 Napoli's in-play slugging percentage vs. out-of-zone pitches

League average in-play slugging percentage vs. out-of-zone pitches

Napoli's nine homers on out-of-zone pitches rank second in the majors, and seven of those shots have come on high pitches. A word of advice to Cardinals pitchers as the World Series kicks off tonight: if you're thinking about trying to get Napoli to chase high, think again.

Tuesday
Sep202011

Two-Strike Survivors

When a hitter gets two strikes against him, odds are he's toast. The league average Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) with two strikes is just .236, compared to .314 overall in 2011. Put another way, a hitter turns into a Tsuyoshi Nishioka clone when in the pitcher's clutches. But some batters have managed to wiggle out of those two-strike situations pretty often. Here's a look at the 10 batters with the highest wOBAs in two-strike counts:


1. Mike Napoli, .386

2. David Ortiz, .367

3. Jose Bautista, .348

4. Miguel Cabrera, .348

5. Jacoby Ellsbury, .339

6. Marco Scutaro, .337

7. Prince Fielder, .336

8. Carlos Lee, .335

9. Troy Tulowitzki, .322

10. Curtis Granderson, .322

 Not surprisingly, the best two-strike hitters list includes some of the best hitters in the game overall. Granderson has gone deep a major league-leading 20 times in two-strike counts this season. Bautista (14), Ortiz (13), Napoli (11), Cabrera (11) and Ellsbury (10) have also hit double-digit homers with two strikes.

If there's a common thread among these guys, it's that they do a better job than most of not chasing pitches off the plate. When hitters have less than two strikes against them, they're fairly selective:

League average swing rate by pitch location with less than two strikes

Batters swing about 39 percent of the time overall with less than two strikes, chasing 22 percent of pitches out of the zone. With two strikes, however....

      

League average swing rate by pitch location with two strikes

..Hitters swing 61 percent of the time, including 39 percent of the time on out-of-zone pitches. But, with the exception of Fielder, our two-strike survivors have chase rates below the league average:

Napoli: 38% chase rate with 2 strikes

Ortiz: 37%

Bautista: 35%

Cabrera: 36%

Ellsbury: 25%

Scutaro: 38%

Fielder: 48%

Lee: 37%

Tulowitzki: 34%

Granderson: 40%

As is the case in other counts, it appears that one of the keys to success with two strikes is learning to lay off pitches at the eyes and the ankles. Or, be Prince Fielder. Either will work just fine.

Friday
Sep092011

Top 20 Hitters on Pitches Within the Strike Zone

Top 20 Hitters on Pitches Within the Strike Zone
(Min. 500 pitches in the Strike Zone - click image to enlarge)

While Adrian Gonzalez's wOBA on pitches in the strike zone leads all hitters, it's 184 points higher than his wOBA on pitches out of the strike zone.  Jose Bautista, however, has a .467 wOBA on pitches missing the strike zone, which is 44 points higher than his wOBA on pitches in the strike zone.  Along with Bautista, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers and Mike Napoli of the Texas Rangers are the only other hitters in the top 20 of both lists.