As the Red Sox prepare for the second half of the season they’ll have some big decisions to make and Mike Napoli is at the center of the one of them.
After a torrid April that vaulted Napoli to the top of the RBI leader board his career averages have been catching up with him. As of the All-Star break Napoli has struck out 122 times, far outdistancing his 96 per year career average. At this rate Napoli is on pace to get rung up 200+ times this season, not a good scenario. Batters who whiff a lot say that an out is an out and that it doesn’t matter that much. I get it. I’d say that too if I was protecting my livelihood.
The bottom line is that when you strike out the ball doesn’t get put into play. It’s a wasted out, period. When you have a guy like Mike Carp waiting in the wings, it creates a conundrum that manager John Farrell with eventually have to deal with down the stretch as he makes decisions about who becomes key to getting the Sox to the promised land.
Carp is currently batting .305. Napoli is batting .259 and sinking. In today’s extra inning loss to the As, Napoli came in late in the game and went 0-1. Sure, Carp has had fewer at bats – 128 to Napoli’s 323 but the numbers don’t lie. Carp has struck out 14 times in his at bats – on pace to K 24 times over the course of the season given the same number of at bats. That’s a whole lot of putting the ball in play instead of whiffing and sitting down.
I like Napoli. I think he’s a great team guy. I also think that winning baseball games is a business. Right now he needs to step up or Farrell needs to play him less until Carp proves that over the long haul he’s essentially the same player as Napoli.
As always, in the second half of the season, things are about to get interesting. Mike Napoli needs to figure out how to make contact or hit home runs and knock in base runners like he did in April. Mike Carp needs to figure out if he can produce at the same rate over the remainder of the season while playing a more pivotal role. This is why we watch. Go Sox!