The buzz started Wednesday but it’s been a long time coming. Red Sox play-by-play radio announcer Joe Castiglione reported that Mike Napoli might be platooned for the rest of the season. MIGHT be platooned? Leading up to this not so big time revelation I’ve been exchanging emails with fellow BSI staffers and crunching some numbers. The emerging picture is clear; Napoli is hurting the Red Sox and he and the Sox could benefit from him sitting down for a while.
Gone is the April and early May mashing that made Red Sox fans feel like Napoli was the steal of the decade. He started to tail off before the All-Star break but that was nothing compared to his post All-Star break free fall.
This is about optimizing. This is about a pennant race. This is about winning. Napoli’s playing time has to be cut because he’s hurting Boston’s ability to do all three. He’s a mechanical mess at the plate, missing by huge margins and swinging at pitches that would send minor league call ups, well, back to the minors.
OK, so he hit a homer last night against the Blue Jays to tie the game. It’s tough to be crass but allow me. So what? Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.
How bad is Napoli breaking? From a high of .269 in April when he was mashing homers and hitting extra base hits, driving in a ton of runs (27) and slugging at a .529 clip, he is in August batting .143 with 5 RBI and slugging at .238. Sure there’s half the month left but that would mean he’s on pace to knock in all of 10 runs in August.
Curiously, the strikeouts, which have been the critics’ primary bone of contention lately aren’t really the issue. In April and May everyone was OK with his stats even though he struck out a combined 78 times in two months. In August he’s on pace to K 36 times, which appears to be about average for the year. Still ridiculously high but nevertheless Napoli-esque. Mike Napoli and “contact hitter” have never been uttered in the same sentence.
In sum total Napoli’s numbers break down like this:
Pre All-Star Break
On base + Slugging: .791
Post All-Star Break
On base + Slugging: .699
In short, all phases of his offensive game – and let’s be clear Boston didn’t buy him for his first base prowess – are off. Let’s compare that with Mike Carp‘s post All-Star break stats.
On base + Slugging: .765
Last seven days:
Napoli: .167, .259, .333, .592
Carp: .667, .750, .667, 1.417
There you have it ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I rest my case. The days are getting shorter. The pace is quickening. After tonight there are only 39 games left, a little over seven more starts per pitcher left to go. Every game counts and while you maybe don’t have your best players in, you certainly need to have your hottest lineup on the field. Napoli’s sitting it out tonight in Toronto. That’s a start.