Sep 17, 2011, 09:58AM

Mike Napoli Powers Texas Rangers Quest For Repeat

With a 1.023 OPS, Napoli could lead the Rangers to another World Series bout.

The Texas Rangers are fighting off the Los Angeles Angels in an effort to repeat as American League West Champions. Texas has received major contributions from some surprising sources with former Angel Mike Napoli at the head of that list.

Napoli’s name always grabs my attention in the box score because my great grandfather departed from Napoli (Naples) in 1905 aboard The Sicilian Prince as he journeyed to America. Mike Napoli took quite a journey of his own last winter.  After serving for five seasons as the Angels’ part-time catcher and back-up first baseman, Napoli was dealt to Toronto in the Vernon Wells deal. He was a Blue Jay for just four days before Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos shipped Napoli to Texas for relief pitcher Frank Francisco.

While Francisco has been a serviceable closer for Toronto this season, Napoli has channeled his inner Jimmie Foxx. Entering 2011 Napoli had a career slash line of .251/.346/.485. He was a pretty good player who lacked a defined position. He was also approaching his 30th birthday and didn’t figure to progress much over his career averages.

They say that everything is bigger and Texas and Napoli’s bat has been no exception. Through September 15th Napoli has mashed his way to a staggering 1.023 OPS, which would be good for second in the American League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Napoli has also clobbered 26 homes runs in just 392 plate appearances this season.

It certainly helps that Napoli hits in the middle of a very potent Rangers lineup. He’s surrounded by sluggers like Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre, all of whom rank in the top 26 in the AL in OPS. Cruz, Beltre and Hamilton each missed significant time this season due to injury and Napoli’s production helped keep Texas in first place. Given that Napoli is a right handed hitter who has seen an extreme spike in production I was inclined to believe that he had done much of his damage this season against lefties. Much to my surprise Napoli has been an equal opportunity slugger.

While he’s hammered southpaws to the tune of a 1.052 OPS with nine homers in 106 ABs, he’s been equally adept at punishing right-handers. Napoli has a 1.009 OPS in 227 at bats this season against righties, quite an increase over his career .832 OPS against righties. In addition, Napoli has also improved his walk rate and decreased his strikeout percentage this season. Perhaps the most telling statistic in Napoli’s monster season is his BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which currently sits at .338, well above his career high and probably unsustainable for the long haul. Regardless of the underlying reasons, the Texas Rangers are no doubt happy to reap the rewards of Napoli’s career year.

  • Since the beginning of 2010 I wanted the 'Sox to get Napoli, and when I heard that AA was looking to peddle him after just acquiring the slugger, I got excited. Of course, Theo had to stick with his Salty/Tek platoon, which in all fairness has done pretty well, but not nearly as well as Napoli.

    Responses to this comment

Register or Login to leave a comment