A Tale of Two Catchers


There is a current Texas Ranger that has built a legacy for himself that will not likely be forgotten by fans of this era. He is a man whose name echoes thoroughout the Ballpark in Arlington almost every game. Unfortunately, he has probably built a legacy that even he is incapable of equalling. That player is Mike Napoli.

Texas traded for Napoli before the start of the 2011 season. They gave up a bullpen arm who they had soured on, Frankie Francisco. It wasn’t seen by anybody as a flashy move at the time. It was seen as a necessary move due to the retirement of Bengie Molina. Texas had also recently signed Yorvit Torrealba, but needed depth at catcher.

Napoli came out of the gate in 2011 as expected. He wasn’t disappointing, but didn’t raise anybody’s eyebrows either. After the All Star break, though, something happened. Napoli’s bat caught fire. It could be argued that he was the best offensive player in the American League during the mythical second half of the season. He finished the year with 118 hits, 30 home runs, a .320 batting average, and 1.045 OPS. He did all that in 369 at bats. There was no track record for Napoli having such stellar production. That was great for the Rangers in 2011. Unfortunately, such a statistical anomaly is rarely a prediction of future performance.

Let’s look at just how far off of the norm Napoli’s 2011 season was. I’m going to do that by comparing it to both his 2010 season (for the most recent comparison) and to his career averages before that (for a better sample size).

In 2010, Napoli had 453 at bats. In those, he had 108 hits, 26 home runs, a .238 average, and .784 OPS. That’s 10 fewer hits and 4 fewer home runs than 2011…in 82 more at bats. Let’s not overlook he also had a 90 point jump in average and a .261 increase in OPS. This doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Maybe 2010 was a down year for Nap. Maybe 2011 was a good year (actually, there’s no maybe about that), or maybe both are true. Looking at his career numbers should tell a better story, right? 
Napoli’s average season prior to 2011 looked like this: 309 at bats, 78 hits, 18 home runs, .252 average, and .839 OPS. That’s a far cry from the season that made him an instant Ranger legend. That is all in the past, though. It’s 2012 now, and a new season is two thirds in the books. Napoli has played in 84 of the Rangers’ 100 games (which made figuring percentages extra easy for me). He is on pace for 444 at bats, 102 hits, and 26 home runs in 444 at bats. Since batting average and OPS are already averages, they require no extrapolating for the rest of the season. Napoli is currently hitting .230 with .789 OPS. Those numbers are down a bit from Napoli’s pre-2011 stats, but not much.

It’s clear that 2011 was a magical season for Mike Napoli. He turned out to be a huge player in their second straight World Series season. Unfortunately, that magic hasn’t carried over to 2012. You are now seeing the Napoli that Texas traded for.

Chris Kautz is a Senior Staff Writer for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at Chris.Kautz@ShutDowninning.com or on Twitter @SDIChris.
Chris Kautz

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