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In the end, Napoli has been exactly what the Red Sox should've expected

Posted by David D'Onofrio  September 8, 2013 08:00 AM

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It has come with peaks and with valleys and with so many swings and missses they could've built a wind turbine outside the batter's box and powered the Back Bay. But, in the end, it appears as though the Red Sox are going to get exactly what they should've expected from Mike Napoli.

Those whose previous exposure to him was limited to the memories of watching him pulverize the ball at Fenway Park, or of the terrific postseason he put together at the end of his career year in 2011 might still be a little disappointed. So might the Red Sox if they expected a transition away from the daily rigors of catching would dramatically improve his offensive production.

Though if the club's original willingness to pay him $13 million a season came with the supposition that he'd continue to be the same player in Boston that he was in Los Angeles and Texas, then it's received pretty much exactly what it paid for on an offensive level. (And that says nothing about the value he and his team-long beard have added as a well-liked teammate in the clubhouse.)

His career batting average is .259; with 18 games to go, he's batting .260. In the seasons he's played at least 100 games, he's averaged 25 home runs; after crushing a couple on Saturday, he's got 21 this year.

As a big-leaguer, he's averaged an RBI every 6.8 plate appearances; this year it's been every 6.2. Throughout his career, 10.1 percent of his plate appearances have resulted in an extra-base hit; this season it's been 10.9 percent.

He's seeing a career-high 4.55 pitches per plate appearance, which is slightly better than his career mark of 4.31. His walk rate is 11.8 percent lifetime, compared with 11.3 percent this year. That explains why his career on-base percentage is .356, and this year it's .351.

His slugging percentage is .502 in the big leagues; it's .480 this year. And though his career OPS is .858, that's inflated by a couple years in hitter-friendly Texas.It was .831 in five seasons with the Angels ... and that's exactly what it is this year. Adjusted for ballparks and the league, his OPS-plus is 126 for his career, and 123 this year.

The area in which Napoli's numbers have most changed for the worse is in terms of strikeouts, where he's six away from Mark Bellhorn's single-season Red Sox record. Over his career he's whiffed in 26.6 percent of his plate appearances, and that number has jumped to 32.6 this season -- although it had already spiked up to 30 percent last year, before the Sox decided to sign him.

And so, according to the Baseball-Reference calculation, this has actually been Napoli's second-best season in terms of win against replacement (WAR). He hasn't hurt the team defensively in his first year as a full-time first baseman, he's a decent baserunner, and so he's been worth 3.3 wins to the Red Sox this season.

It varies year to year, but studies have been done that suggest every WAR is worth about $5 million in salary. If that's true, Napoli has been worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $16.5 million.

So for all the ups and downs and boos of August, with three weeks to go it's hard to say the money given Napoli hasn't been well-spent.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Dave D'Onofrio is a sports journalist who focuses on the Red Sox and Patriots, and also writes Boston.com's "Off The Field" blog about what Boston's sportsmen do away from the More »

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