Mike Napoli Turns The AL West Tables

One has to imagine that Tony Reagins didn’t expect Mike Napoli to end up in Texas when he signed off on the deal to bring in Vernon Wells this winter. But here we are, and Mike Napoli is hitting .312/.411/.613 for the Rangers while the Angels stagnate 3.5 games behind, unable to make a push in recent weeks. Napoli may not be the singular reason why the Rangers are atop the AL West, but with 5.0 WAR bolstered by his impeccable batting line, he’s near the top of the list.

This situation presents is with one of the greatest “what ifs” of the 2011 season: what if the Angels never traded for Vernon Wells this offseason?

The issue of Mike Scioscia‘s unwillingness to play Napoli over intangibles freak Jeff Mathis remains for the Angels, but by last season, Scioscia had given Napoli 510 plate appearances, likely a similar number to what Napoli ends with this season. Although Napoli was absolutely not a guarantee to put up these kinds of numbers this season, he was all but a mortal lock to outhit Mathis, who now has a .183/.233/.274 line in 263 plate appearances. His colleagues at catcher haven’t done much better — Bobby Wilson owns a .198/.264/.302 line in 109 plate appearances, and Hank Conger owns a .209/.284/.343 line in 192 trips. As a group, they’ve totaled -0.6 WAR (mostly from Mathis). Even taking 250 plate appearances away from this triumvirate of outs and giving them to Napoli would probably gain about two wins for the Angels, especially as Napoli can be subbed out for a defensive replacement if necessary.

Of similar importance, not dealing Napoli would mean Vernon Wells would not be an Angel. Wells has a .218/.251/.399 line in 478 plate appearances for the Angels this year and currently holds the worst on-base percentage for a qualifying player since Matt Walbeck‘s .246 for the 1994 (strike shortened!) Twins. These are plate appearances which could’ve gone to Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout, Bobby Abreu, or a proper fourth outfielder to be signed in free agency instead of paying Wells $23 million per year. Although Wells only checks in at -0.3 WAR, even a mediocre fourth outfielder could provide 1.0 WAR in his spot — the Angels would not have been pursuing freely available talent, but rather would have been willing to pay for production, if not for Wells’s presence.

Finally, there’s the simple fact that Napoli wouldn’t be a Texas Ranger. The Rangers have shown themselves to be a very deep offensive team this season, weathering injuries to Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre while still maintaining the third-highest run scoring clip in the league. A good deal of that is due to Napoli’s presence, as his 176 wRC+ is by a wide margin the best on the team, with Hamilton’s 131 checking in next. It’s not as though the Rangers would’ve been replacing Napoli with scrubs — without him, we probably would’ve seen more plate appearances for Mitch Moreland, Craig Gentry, Endy Chavez, and David Murphy. Although these players aren’t going to post 1.000+ OPS numbers like Napoli, they most certainly aren’t replacement level, either, so while Napoli has posted five wins above replacement, he’s probably been closer to three wins above what the Rangers had in place already (still a major contribution).

Still, with all the impacts of Napoli’s movement put together, I don’t think it’s a great leap to think that we could be talking about the first-place Angels instead of the Rangers had Tony Reagins and Arte Moreno shied away from what might go down as one of the worst trades in the club’s history. Saddling their team with the poor play and worse contract of Vernon Wells and allowing Mike Napoli to get away might’ve been enough to doom them to second place regardless of Napoli’s final landing spot. When their undervalued slugger ended up with a division rival? It was game over, right from the start.



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Jimbo
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Jimbo
4 years 9 months ago

I’m pretty sure Getting Blanked had this exact same article earlier this week.

BJ
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BJ
4 years 9 months ago

Hard to disagree with anything here.

I was furious when this move was originally made. Hard to believe that it’s even possible to be more angry now. And yet here I am.

I said it before and I’ll say it again … Reagins and everyone else who did not stand up and make a big stink about the Wells trade should be fired immediately. This singular move has killed and will continue to kill the organization for the next 3 years.

Robbie G.
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Robbie G.
4 years 9 months ago

Don’t blame management. Blame ownership. Ownership signed off on this. If I am an owner of a pro sports franchise, and my management tries to sell me on a trade for Vernon Wells and his godawful contract, then it’s on me to kick management to the curb and find somebody who isn’t an idiot.

Are we seriously going to blame the individual soldiers who were waterboarding folks at Guantanamo Bay for these atrocities? No, we blame the folks who signed off on that garbage. Same deal here, as far as I’m concerned. It always starts at the top!

Jon
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Jon
4 years 9 months ago

No, it’s not ownership’s job to make baseball decisions. It’s their job to ok payroll increases at the recommendations from management. As a Yankee fan, believe me when I tell you how crappy it is for ownership to be involved in baseball decisions.

Yes, it’s ownership’s ultimate responsibility for hiring such incompetent management. But they can’t be blamed for particular moves that management makes.

Ryan
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Ryan
4 years 9 months ago

This hurts far too much for this Angels fan. It was incredibly foolish to let Napoli go, especially with KendryS a big question mark coming into the year. Naps could’ve picked up ABs at 1B, and Trumbo could have picked some up from 1B, OF, DH. With that extra bat, Abreu’s 2012 option might not have vested either…

Ryan
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Ryan
4 years 9 months ago

Snowball the fact that Napoli is an elite hitter, not just for his position either, with no serviceable replacement for the organization in order to trade for Vernon Wells, who serves as a potential block a top nationwide prospect, while compiling average-at-best numbers with an elite salary of a back loaded contract, all in a close race for first place equals the fact that this is the worst trade of all time. This isn’t a Bagwell for Whoever trade where a prospect flourished — this had no chance of working out and was an unequivocal failure from the beginning.

Misfit
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Misfit
4 years 9 months ago

I normally shy away from best/worst ever proclamations when it comes to baseball, a sport with well over 100 years of history, but not here. I think this trade is easily in the discussion of “worst ever” because it’s one that didn’t even require hindsight to look bad. Add in that nugget of hindsight though where Napoli ends up with a division rival and that just puts it over the top. I still can’t understand why the Angels felt that this was a good move and I bet every other GM in baseball is still wondering the same thing. How does Reagins keep his job after this? Mabe Wells will go out and hit 30 bombs next year with his usual terribl peripherals and that will save him for another year, but this trade really is a firable offense.

joser
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joser
4 years 9 months ago

Had the Angels just taken over Wells’ contract, without giving up any talent however slight, it would’ve been a bad deal. Pile on Napoli (even before he gets flipped to a rival) and, yeah, one of the worst.

Josh
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Josh
4 years 9 months ago

Would have been awesome to have Napoli on the Jays, but even if Napoli somehow ended up with the 2011 MVP, AA wouldn’t care. All that money he saved makes AA one happy man.

Birdle
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Birdle
4 years 9 months ago

I read this article sitting in my Napoli Angels shirt. Hurts man, hurts.

wobatus
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wobatus
4 years 9 months ago

Did you go put it on to read the article or did you just happen to be wearing it?

Joey E.
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Joey E.
4 years 9 months ago

once the angels traded him i bet they had no idea AA would flip him, and when he did, the Angels INSTANTLY regretted it. lol Angels

GVeers
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4 years 9 months ago

The Napoli trade (Jays-Rangers) has to look like a rare AA mistake, right?

Brad Johnson
Member
Member
4 years 9 months ago

In retrospect the Jays could and would have gotten more for Napoli had they given him some full time reps. At the time, it seemed more important to give JP full time play and find out which Adam Lind was the real one.

joser
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joser
4 years 9 months ago

Getting rid of the Wells contract was the sundae. Hanging onto Napoli would’ve just been the cherry on top.

Torgen
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Torgen
4 years 9 months ago

Francisco was going to turn into a draft pick a year sooner.

Jesse
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Jesse
4 years 9 months ago

Francisco was going to turn into a draft pick, at all. The comp pick system will probably be scrapped by the time Napoli is eligible. Plus, we didn’t have a single back-end pen arm that could get lefties out, and Frankie can. We needed an arm like his desperately.

Amanda
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Amanda
4 years 9 months ago

All these numbers are true, but there is no guarantee that Scoscia would have played Napoli, that was obvious last year. I love Mike Naps and think that the numbers he is putting up this year are and should be normal. Funny how everyone can see the Mathis isn’t putting up numbers and never has but he is constent in the line-up. Funny how Naps put up numbers and as a fan you were never sure if he would be in the line-up. I am sorry to say but the 2 best things to happen for Naps are 1) Morales getting hurt, gave Naps some visibility at another positions, and 2) getting traded.

hk
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hk
4 years 9 months ago

While there are no guarantees that Scoscia would have played Napoli, he did give him 510 PA’s last year when Kendry was healthy for most of the year. I believe Scoscia would have found 500 PA’s for his best hitter, even with his defensive deficiencies, this year.

ralph
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ralph
4 years 9 months ago

Napoli’s season so far has been seriously incredible.

Of all players who have at least as many PA as Napoli does (392 at the moment), only Jose Bautista has a higher SLG (.613 to .628), wOBA (.435 to .446), and wRC+(176 to 186). So it’s not inconceivable that Napoli could surpass Bautista in one or more of these categories by the end of the season.

So you might be thinking that Napoli has done this by destroying lefties and taking extreme advantage of Arlington’s friendly hitting environment…. and I guess he is, but he’s pretty much doing the same thing against RHP, and on the road (.311/.430/.623 vs. LHP compared to .313/.402/.608 vs. RHP ; .310/.418/..613 at home vs .315/.403/.612 on the road).

And it’s very hard to pick on his defensive game going by the statistical record, seeing as how his CS% is 40.7% and his CERA is 3.25. I’m not trying to defend CERA… but I think it’s a reasonable statement that low CERA at the very least precludes a complete dismissal of his abilities as a catcher.

Jeff
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Jeff
4 years 9 months ago

If Mike Scioscia wasn’t so anal retentive with the catchers’ spot, maybe Napoli wouldn’t have slumped the past 2 seasons due to Mike’s overbearing way of working with catchers, and would then still be here.

We get how much you know about catching Mike. Can you please mentor the catchers instead of being an overbearing boss to them?

Thank you

joser
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joser
4 years 9 months ago

The funny thing is that, at least offensively, Napoli is much more like Scioscia than Mathis. Better, but similar.

Richie
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Richie
4 years 9 months ago

I thought Scioscia was a good defensive catcher. Anyways, managers identify with the last few years of their playing career, rather than the earlier ones.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
4 years 9 months ago

Napoli is also having a career year at the plate.

K% = 19.9 % — 5% better than career average (CarAvr).
BB% = 13.8 % — 2% better than CarAvr.
ISO = .300 — 50 pts better than CarAvr.
BABIP = .338 — 38 pts higher than CarAvr.

HR/FB% and on and on.

My initial suspicion was that playing in TEX helps his numbers, but I looked it up and his H/R splits are almost identical.

This IS interesting …

BABIP – Mike napoli (2011)
————————–

1st half: .226
2nd half: .432

He has most often batted 6th or 7th. Wow. That’s incredible production from those order slots.

I can’t remeber where I was reading about, but Naploi’s performance with 2-strikes has been one of his mark notable improvements.

Agree with what others have said … the Vernon Wells trade is just mind-numbing, and I did not think Wells would perform this badly. I was more concerned with him taking Mike Trout’s playing time. We;;s performance, combined with Napoli’s, could easily make up the difference in W-L between LAA and TEX, acknowledging that if he remained in LAA he might not put up a 5 WAR performance in only ~400 PA.

Erick
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Erick
4 years 9 months ago

His high BABIP is not suprising(even though this stat IMO can be overated) because he hits the ball on nose every single AB. While a guy like Ian Kinsler has a low BABIP because he has such a high pop up/fly ball ratio. CERA is also overated, but its even more impressive considering Napoli handles the youngest pitchers on the Rangers PS. Basically Texas got a guy who is putting up slightly below MVP level numbers for a failed closer in Frank Francisco..

Notrotographs
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Notrotographs
4 years 9 months ago

BABIP isn’t overrated, it’s just easily misused.

CERA isn’t overrated, it’s completely worthless.

Colm
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Colm
4 years 9 months ago

As a Mariners fan, reading this article has been close to the highlight of the 2011 season.

Schadenfreude: It’s all we’ve got.

joser
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joser
4 years 9 months ago

Should just make it the mascot, instead of that stupid Moose.

Not sure what a “Schadenfreude” mascot costume looks like, however. Oh wait, yes I do: it looks exactly like a Mariners’ fan.

Choo
Member
4 years 9 months ago

Schadenfreude: It’s German for Chone Figgins.

Big Ol Meanie
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Big Ol Meanie
4 years 9 months ago

I cannot let a Mariners fan be happy, because I’m a jerk.

How’s Smoak treating you? Wish you had Montero + Nova or whatever the Yankees were offering?

Choo
Member
4 years 9 months ago

Hey now. Justin Smoak is a fine southern gentleman who projects to be an elite middle-of-the-order Fan Fest representative for months to come.

joser
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joser
4 years 9 months ago

We don’t know what the Yankees were offering. Probably less than that. Smoak and Montero were both wildly overrated. The only difference is, we already know that about Smoak. And he’s still better-suited to Safeco. BTW, Smoak and Montero both played in a game Nova started on Wednesday. Smoak left after the 3rd inning with an injury. And he still got more hits than Montero, who went 0 for 5 with 3 K (against Jason Vargas and the M’s bullpen, including a guy who wasn’t even in baseball on April 1). And Nova got a no-decision in the loss.

And meanwhile, the Yankees didn’t get Cliff Lee last year and don’t have him now. All in all, that situation worked out pretty good for everybody… except Yankees fans.

Target
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Target
4 years 9 months ago

The only reason Napoli even got that much playing time last year was due to the Morales trade. Scioscia was forced to play him. And even then he too frequently chose to bench Napoli in favor of all 4 of those weak-hitting middle infielders as well as the catchers.

Target
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Target
4 years 9 months ago

sorry, I meant “Morales injury”, not “Morales trade”

Chad
Member
Chad
4 years 9 months ago

I was at a bar with an Angels fan friend the night this trade happened. Hilarity ensued.

I’m glad Napoli finally got a chance to show his skills. I’ve been a fan of him since he got called up and was so happy to see finally go to an organization that would give him a chance (though it did take the Rangers a while to give him one, IIRC).

joser
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joser
4 years 9 months ago

It took them a while, but he was also injured for a stretch there too. The Rangers have had a lot of injuries to key players this year, but it seems like they always have somebody coming off the DL just about the time someone else goes on, so the drumbbeat of offense doesn’t stutter.

Marcus
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Marcus
4 years 9 months ago

All I can say as a Jays fan is l-o-l, told ya so

Newcomer
Member
4 years 9 months ago

So the Angels didn’t want to use Napoli at catcher, and they wanted a good left fielder. Here’s one of those crazy what-ifs… What if they had decided to move Napoli to left field??

Clearly, he wouldn’t be a good defender out there. Still, the man can hit, so I think he’d still be a positive contributor. Let’s assume he’d be a -15 defender in LF. Keep in mind that if he’s truly terrible, they could always play him at 1B and put Trumbo in LF..

ZiPS projected him for 11.6 wRAA in 419 PA. Assuming he played every day in left, prorate that to 16.6 wRAA in 600 PA.

So:
16.6 batting runs
-15 fielding runs
-7.5 positional runs
+20 replacement runs
= a projected 1.4 WAR if his fielding was atrocious in the outfield.

He should have more value as a terrible defender at the premium position of C than as a terrible defender at an offensive position like LF, but even so, if the Angels wouldn’t play him at C, he *would* have positive value in the outfield. Add to that the roster flexibility of being able to use your left fielder as your backup catcher, and he’d probably see some time at 1B and DH as well.

I’m not advocating that this is what the Angels should have done, but clearly it would have worked out better than playing Wells in LF, trading away Napoli, AND paying that contract! ZiPS had Wells projected at -3.7 wRAA for this season. Generously assume +5 defense in the outfield corners, and he’d still come out to the same projected value as Napoli-as-left-fielder:
-3.7 batting runs
+5 fielding runs
-7.5 fielding runs
+20 replacement runs
= 1.4 projected WAR for Wells

That’s the *exact* same projected WAR, for Napoli in LF or Wells in LF. Assuming that Wells is 20 runs better defensively than Napoli. And it’s only exacerbated by the fact that Napoli has hit better than expected, while Wells has hit worse. And then there’s the money.

Mitch
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Mitch
4 years 9 months ago

making it more absurd is that Napoli should have been the Angels 1Bman once Morales got injured.

Rally
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Rally
4 years 9 months ago

What in the name of Brian Jay Downing makes you think an Angels catcher could learn how to play left field?

Jacob
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Jacob
4 years 9 months ago

Aw… beautiful

Walter Guest
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Walter Guest
4 years 9 months ago

That trade is worse than Sabean’s worst and that’s saying some. Like the fat lady glorying in seeing someone fatter, Sabean can point to that and say, “See, I’m not so bad.”

I’d like to be a fly on the wall when some of those trades are discussed. You suppose there’s anyone there telling them how dumb they are? Or would that get you fired?

Professor_Earthtones
Member
Professor_Earthtones
4 years 9 months ago

Not to mention Napoli has put up these numbers through some streaky hitting. He started off the season with power, but May was a horrid month, as was June (plus he got hurt). When he came back from DL, he wasn’t getting consistent ABs either. Napoli really turned it on from July onward.

Mike SanClemente
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4 years 9 months ago

Rangers may still not be full believers in Napoli yet: why else would you bat your best hitter 6th & 7th? Doesn’t make sense.

Oscar
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Oscar
4 years 9 months ago

I don’t think anybody actually thinks Napoli’s a true talent 1.020 OPS guy.

Danny
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Danny
4 years 9 months ago

SERIOUSLY!? Nap is good and has been hot but you must not know the Texas line up from a hole in the ground. Who you going to bump from thier spot? Young? Beltre? Cruz? Josh, the reigning MVP?? Don’t be clueless, dude.

plain_g
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plain_g
4 years 9 months ago

napoli is not as good as he looks, and wells is not as bad as he looks. they just both happen to be having outlier years in opposite directions.

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