Red Sox Should Extend Mike Napoli


In the offseason following the atrocious 2012 season, the Red Sox decided to make some much needed changes in the roster. One notable change was signing free agent first baseman Mike Napoli. Napoli and the Sox had agreed on a 3 year $39 million deal until a hip condition that was discovered in his physical led him to a 1 year $5 million contract. That turned out to be a great deal for Boston when Napoli hit .259/.360/.482 with 23 home runs and 92 RBIs en route to a World Series championship. In the 2013 offseason Napoli was inked to a 2 year $32 million contract to ensure that his services would be in Boston the next two years.

So is it time for the front office and ownership to extend Napoli’s contract? Or do they transfer prospect Garin Checcini across the diamond and to first base and hope that his prized on base skills follow him to the Big Leagues? Personally I think that they should sign Napoli to a contract for two years or one year with a vesting option.

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Believe it or not, Napoli is one of the top first baseman in the American League. I took a look at Napoli’s numbers the past two seasons and compared them against other AL first baseman. These players include

Miguel Cabrera

(Detroit Tigers),

Jose Abreu

(Chicago White Sox),

Edwin Encarnacion

(Toronto Blue Jays),

Prince Fielder

(Texas Rangers),

Eric Hosmer

(Kansas City Royals),

James Loney

(Tampa Bay Rays),

Albert Pujols

(Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), Logan Morrsion (Seattle Mariners),

Carlos Santana

(Cleveland Indians),

Billy Butler

(Oakland A’s),

Joe Mauer

(Minnesota Twins), Mark Teixeira (New York Yankees), and

Chris Carter

(Houston Astros).

Since 2013 Napoli ranks 6th among AL first basemen in wRC+. The stat wRC+ is based off of runs created (RC) that estimates the number of runs a hitter has contributed to his team. The stat is adjusted to the player’s park and league and is set to an average of 100 meaning anything above 100 is better than league average and anything below is worse than league average. Napoli sports a 127 wRC+ over the past two seasons trailing only Cabrera, Abreu (did not play in 2013), Encarnacion and Santana.

Throughout his career in Boston, Napoli has been praised for his on base skills, owning the second best BB% among his fellow first baseman at 14% as well as the third best OBP at .365. I then took a deeper look into Napoli’s numbers and compared them to one of the top firstbaseman in baseball, Albert Pujols. Pujols signed with Aneheim following the 2011 season. I did a comparative analysis of the two sluggers from 2010 through 2014. During those five seasons, Napoli and Pujols had very similar numbers. During those five years both men have played in over 600 games as well as hit at least 120 home runs. Napoli has a slightly better ISO (Isolated Power) than Pujols over that span. ISO measures the raw power of a hitter by subtracting the players’ batting average from their slugging percentage.

These two on base machines also have nearly the same wOBA (Napoli at .370 and Pujols at .369). This stat can be looked at in the same way as on base percentage except instead of valuing each hit, wOBA values each base. The two first baseman also have a wRC+ in the 130s with Napoli sporting a wRC+ of 131 and Pujols with 139. As much as their offense has helped their careers, these two men happen to be very good defensively too. They both own a UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) around 12 during that span. UZR compares the event that actually happened (hit, out, or error) to data on similarly hit balls in the past to determine how much better or worse the fielder is than the average player. During this spring Napoli has played in 13 games where he’s hit .433 with 4 homeruns (leading the team), 7 RBIs along with a 1.367 OPS.

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