If you don’t love yourself, who else will? Given that fact, here is a direct quote from my 2011 BaseballGuys.com Hitter Capsules from April 1st, 2011.
“For three years Mike Napoli has bashed his way to 20 homers despite an average of 354 at-bats a season. Few catchers can match his power. Adding the dimension of playing first base last season allowed him to post a career-high at-bat total, and one would think that if he ever was given 500 at-bats that he might be capable of posting that elusive 30 homer season.”
Napoli didn’t get those 500 at-bats. In fact, he didn’t even get 400. Hell, he didn’t even get 375 as he finished the year with 369 at-bats. I know he was hurt for a while there, but the Rangers horribly mismanaged him this season and as a result almost torpedoed what ended up being a magical season.
I don’t know if you noticed it, but Napoli hit 30 homers. Thirty. That’s a homer every 12.3 at-bats. If he had maintained that pace over 500 at-bats, and I’m pretty certain he couldn’t have, he would have hit 41 homers. As a result his .631 SLG was the best in baseball for a player who had at least 400 plate appearances. The power has always been his calling card, but in 2011 he also added a batting average.
Napoli, who had never hit better than .273 in a season and owned a career mark of .251 entering the year, hit .320. Not .230 but .320 (Joe Mauer owns a career mark of .323). He hit lefties (.319) and righties (.320), he hit at home (.307) and on the road (.332), and he hit at night (.318) and during the day (.324). He isn’t a .300 hitter, his BABIP this year was .344 or .041 points above his career rate, but he cut his strikeouts to a career low 19.7 percent of his at-bats, so he showed some improvement. Thanks to the lack of punchouts and a solid walk rate his BB/K mark was a well worth the price of admission at 0.68 leading to a superb .414 OBP (Mauer owns a career mark of .403). Amongst players with at least 400 plate appearances this year Napoli’s .414 mark was 5th best in baseball.
Adding his work getting on base and his ability to produce extra bases, Napoli posted a 1.046 OPS, the second best mark in baseball for a player with 400 plate appearances (Jose Bautista was 1st with a 1.056 mark).
So let’s put things in historical perspective. How many catchers in the 21st century have hit .320 with 30 homers an a 1.000 OPS? The answer is three.
.320-30-1.046 – Napoli this year
.324-38-1.012 – Mike Piazza in 2000
.328-43-1.065 – Javy Lopez in 2003
Piazza had 545 plate appearances.
Lopez had 495 plate appearances.
Napoli had 432 plate appearances.
Think it’s about time that (a) Napoli gets his due and (b) someone gives the guy 500 at-bats?
By Ray Flowers