Discussion: Mike Napoli

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that Mike Napoli, unhappy with his playing time so far this year, requested a meeting with skipper Mike Scioscia. Napoli was the Angels' primary catcher last season, starting 84 games behind the plate (to Jeff Mathis' 78) and another 16 games at designated hitter. So far in 2010, Mathis has started seven of the Angels' ten contests.

"I don't like coming in here and not seeing my name in the lineup," said Napoli. "I'm a competitor. I want to be on the field. I don't feel like a player who should be in the lineup for only two of nine games. I feel like I should be a starter."

Napoli has provided impressive offensive production over the past two seasons, hitting .273/.359/.527 combined in 2008 and 2009, slugging 20 homers each year. Mathis' numbers with the bat have been considerably less impressive (.202/.281/.313), but Scioscia, a former backstop himself, values Mathis' defensive ability: "First and foremost, we need that defensive presence behind the plate. Jeff is getting more playing time because he's playing at a very high level on defense."

Ten games into the season, it's too early to jump to any conclusions about the Angels' catching situation, but supposing Scioscia continues to divide the playing time as he has so far, the team could have some flexibility. Each player has two more years of arbitration eligibility, but Mathis is more affordable than Napoli, earning $1.3MM in 2010 to Napoli's $3.6MM. One would think the Angels might entertain the idea of shopping their second catcher, who is not only more expensive, but also publicly frustrated with his playing time.

That's not to say the 28-year-old Napoli is likely to be dealt. Having his bat on their bench is a luxury the Angels can afford, and when Mathis (.333/.346/.458 this year) cools off, Napoli should earn a few more at-bats. However, as long as Napoli is sitting more often than he's starting, teams will take notice. There are plenty of less defensive-minded clubs who'd love to acquire a catcher that doesn't hit free agency for two more years and outslugged Victor Martinez and Brian McCann last season.

How would you handle your two backstops if you were the Angels? Should Napoli be playing more often, or is Mathis' defense strong enough to make up for his lesser offense? Which clubs could you see inquiring about Napoli's availability?


Leave a Reply

61 Comments on "Discussion: Mike Napoli"


giantsfan1976
5 years 4 months ago

i may not be a smart man (spoken in the voice of Forrest Gump) but even I know that with the numbers you gave, Napoli started 62% of the games last year. If he has started 7 of 10 games this year, that’s 70%. Unless I’m wrong, that’s more than last year. I wonder if he was told this in his meeting?

wests
5 years 4 months ago

Mathis has started 7 or 10 not Naps.

giantsfan1976
5 years 4 months ago

lol, i read that wrong! call me stupid

bjsguess
5 years 4 months ago

The Angels have two realistic options.

1. Commit to Mathis and Bobby Wilson. Suck it up offensively and focus on having solid defense (although Mathis doesn’t rate well with according to certain defensive metrics). Trade Napoli and get something really nice in return. For what it’s worth I doubt the Angels sniff at anything close to Napoli’s real value. The guy is a beast but just doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

2. Trade Wilson and get back closer to a 50/50 split with Napoli/Mathis. Give Matsui a day off every week. That would give Napoli 4 starts a week. I would like to see him get more but that just isn’t in the cards with Scioscia.

Trading Napoli/Mathis/Wilson is inevitable with Conger now knocking on the door. A strong season in AAA and he could be ready to start in ’11 at the earliest.

Yankees10
5 years 4 months ago

Napoli should start. I dont care how good Mathis defense is. He isnt a good hitter. Napoli clearly is the better player.

bobbybaseball
5 years 4 months ago

Don’t feel bad, I made the same mistake when I first read it!

Defensive play at catcher is very difficult to quantify. So-called “calling a game” and “handling a staff” are nebulous terms at best. Of course, Scioscia is a former catcher, so maybe he knows better. If two catchers are somewhat similar offensively, of course you take the better defense (again, if you can quantify it objectively). But if one is much better offensively and isn’t horrible behind the plate, you take the guy who can hit since hitting at that position is such a premium. Why do you think Mike Piazza had such a long career? Not saying Napoli is Piazza, though.

dizfactor
5 years 4 months ago

Scioscia is being stupid here. Napoli is a far better player than Mathis, if you want to play mathis a lot fine, but the smart thing is like a 60/40 split with Napoli getting a few more starts. a 70/30 split is borderline idiocy. Napoli is a proven player, its just a slap in the face to do this to him to start a season. Scioscia is either 1. A complete idiot for doing this or 2. Just doesn’t like Napoli for some reason.

angels56
5 years 4 months ago

You left off #3. Scioscia may simply know better …

thegoche
5 years 4 months ago

(Bias alert, I went to high school with Mathis.)

Both Mathis and Napoli are streaky hitters. Mathis is clearly the better defensive catcher and is on a hot streak at the plate. I mean if you have a guy who is 8-24 with a 7 game hit streak and is better defensively compared to a guy who is 2-12 and not as good, you play the 8-24 guy.

When Mathis goes hitless let Napoli have a couple games. Plus it’s catcher, Nap will get chances to swing because catchers need rest. If he wants more ABs he should hit in the one he gets.

But it’s not like Scocia has Jeff pencilled in for 110 games. It’s 10 games into the season, and Nap always knew it was going to a time-share. All he has to do to get more ABs is outhit Mathis. If Mathis sucks as much as everyone says (and admittedly no one thinks Mathis will hit anything like this for a whole year), then Napoli shouldn’t have any trouble getting in the lineup.

RyanLion
5 years 4 months ago

Due to Napoli’s lack in defense, what the Angels need to do is put him at DH. Of course, that would require them to move either Hideki Matsui or Juan Rivera (Rivera being the more likely option since he is the more attractive player to other teams). I say trade Rivera for some bullpen help and/or some prospects, put Napoli at DH, Matsui in LF (not ideal but what else?), and then commit to Mathis and Wilson at catcher. However, it must be mentioned that the Angels have a top prospect in catcher Hank Conger who is also lacking in defense but abundant in power. Thus, it could be that Napoli is easily expendable, and rather than trading Rivera, they deal Napoli, wait till the end of the year for Matsui’s contract to come up and then insert Conger at DH in 2011 with Mathis and Wilson behind the plate. Both are valid options.

Yankees420
5 years 4 months ago

No way Matsui can ever play the field, his knees are just horrendous, if they were planning on doing that then they’d be looking for a replacement LF in about 3 games when Matsui would inevitably hit the DL.

RyanLion
5 years 4 months ago

Scoscia has played Matsui in left field I think two times this season, and compared to Juan Rivera, he wasn’t terrible. Sure he’s slow, but I think the only flaw of him being in the outfield is keeping healthy, and Scoscia seems to think he’s healthy.

RyanLion
5 years 4 months ago

Scoscia has played Matsui in left field I think two times this season, and compared to Juan Rivera, he wasn’t terrible. Sure he’s slow, but I think the only flaw of him being in the outfield is keeping healthy, and Scoscia seems to think he’s healthy.

post2010exangelsfan
5 years 4 months ago

Call me skeptical, but I never liked (and still dont like, despite his numbers so far) the Matsui signing. In a scenario where Matsui HADN’T signed with the Angels, the Halos would’ve not had the issues roster-wise they’ve had this year. Napoli can put up the same numbers as Hideki as a full-time DH, if not better (he is much younger too), and u save a couple of million bucks. Mathis could be the everyday catcher with Bobby and Napoli as back up, also, carrying a third catcher in this circumstance is more logical than carrying 3 catchers right now. What do you think?

Suzysman
5 years 4 months ago

Fangraphs called this problem back in December with a post titled “Is Matsui a Potential Problem?” It details the writing being on the wall last season for Napoli, and the addition of Matsui really cemented his spot on the bench. Its a good read.

And yeah, the team should trade him. In fact, the team should have traded him 3 months ago while other teams were scrambling for a catcher. But keeping him on the roster after adding a fulltime DH and deciding Mathis is the starter is foolish. The return he can bring will be more valuable then an occasional start behind the plate.

5 years 4 months ago

I’m sure Milwaukee would have loved to have Naps over Zaun.

5 years 4 months ago

This entire situation is a ridiculous joke. Napoli’s career OPS is .846 while Mathis’ is just about .600, which is feeble even for a catcher. As for Scioscia’s “he’s playing at a very high level defensively” quote about Mathis, let’s look at the facts. The facts are that Mathis has a lower career fielding percentage than Napoli, had more passed balls last year despite less playing time, and has thrown out 3 percent more basestealers than Napoli (26% to 23%). Sounds like it’s roughly a wash defensively. Oh, and with Napoli as the primary catcher the past few years, the Angels have always enjoyed a good team ERA, have they not?

So what we have, to recap, is two catchers in the same ballpark defensively and one who is a better hitter than the other by about 245 points of OPS. Naturally, the guy with the lower OPS should be playing, right?

It’s a joke.

RyanLion
5 years 4 months ago

The reason for Mathis having a high pass ball rating is because last year he played about every five games being the catcher always for John Lackey. Lackey has serious movement on his curveball and slider and is difficult for any cathcer to block. Napoli had more trouble with pass balls, that’s why they stopped having him catch when Lackey was pitching.

5 years 4 months ago

Look, Napoli had 5 passed balls all year last year, it’s not like he was a passed ball machine. Mathis had 6. My overall point is the same. Jeff Mathis is not some incredible defensive catcher, and any defensive metric–or just eyesight of watching the games–proves that.

You don’t bench an excellent hitting catcher for a terrible hitting catcher who might be a slight upgrade defensively. And yes, Mathis is a terrible hitter, and 10 games this season don’t change that fact. It’s a total slap in the face to one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. Hopefully for Napoli, he’ll get moved to a team that values an outstanding OPS at such a scarce position. Napoli is not a butcher behind the plate, far from it.

So what teams would Napoli be a fit for? I think the Brewers make a ton of sense, with 38-year-old Gregg Zaun as the starter right now and the unproven Kottaras behind him. And don’t dismiss Boston. If they were to decide to release Ortiz, they could slide V-Mart to DH and use Napoli as the primary catcher. Since the Brewers are in the other league though, it’s likely they would want to ship Napoli there.

RyanLion
5 years 4 months ago

I have to disagree with that. I (being an Angel fan) have seen both Napoli and Mathis play many times, and I can honestly say that Napoli’s lack in defense is noticeable where as Mathis’s (if it exists) is less recognizable. I do agree that Napoli is obviously the better hitter but he’s not so good that he can’t be kept out of the lineup. I believe it was said before, Napoli is a very streaky hitter and when he’s off, he’s off, and even when he’s on you only see occasional hits. And although many of those are Home runs, it is not worth the terrible plate discipline and frequent strike outs. He also has an uppercut swing that, although great for hitting the occasional home run, makes him incapable of hitting pitches both on the inside and outside corners.

Another reason why Scoscia is using Mathis over Napoli is because Mathis is a better game caller. Last year, earned runs when Mathis was catching averaged at 4.65 whereas when Napoli was catching it averaged at 5.34. Napoli’s offense is not worth giving up about 5 runs per game, and if Mathis is performing well offensively why take him out when he’s also calling a better game than Napoli?

alxn
5 years 4 months ago

We’re probably talking about a top 5 offensive player at his position. Napoli is that good that he can’t be kept out of the lineup.

jsinclair15
5 years 4 months ago

Best post yet! Well written and I couldnt agree with you more!

bjsguess
5 years 4 months ago

RyanLion …

Come one now.

There is NO evidence to suggest that a pitchers ERA is lowered based off who calls the game. Some pitchers are more comfortable with certain catchers (may have more confidence in certain catchers) but calling the game is pretty insignificant. ESPECIALLY because the pitches all come in from the dugout anyway. All Napoli or Mathis do is put up the target and receive the pitch.

To call Napoli streaky at the plate is fair. When he is off he is off. But you totally dismiss when he is on. He gets more than the “occasional” hit or “occasional” HR. You do realize that he is one of the best power hitters in the game right? 4th highest catcher wOBA in 2009 (362 – within 15 points of every catcher not named Mauer). In 2008 he was the TOP rated catcher in wOBA (399).

Napoli hits for a decent average, takes tons of walks, and can hit the ball as hard as anyone in the game. His defense is bad. Not Piazza bad though. Even with his warts, Napoli is a top starting catcher in baseball. Meanwhile, Mathis is best suited as a platoon type catcher. I’m sure his offense will improve but he has nowhere near the potential as Napoli.

5 years 4 months ago

Scoscia does not give the call from the dugout. He said it himself. He lets Mathis and Naps do all the calling. He places a lot of trust in his catchers. I remember a game that Lackey pitched and Napoli caught. It was horrible. 4 passed balls. In ONE game. There was a reason Scoscia uses Mathis as the catcher. If Napoli caught Pineiro it would be a disaster. I think Napoli should be dealt for other needs of the team. Besides Conger has a ton of potential and hes in AAA

bjsguess
5 years 4 months ago

RyanLion …

Come one now.

There is NO evidence to suggest that a pitchers ERA is lowered based off who calls the game. Some pitchers are more comfortable with certain catchers (may have more confidence in certain catchers) but calling the game is pretty insignificant. ESPECIALLY because the pitches all come in from the dugout anyway. All Napoli or Mathis do is put up the target and receive the pitch.

To call Napoli streaky at the plate is fair. When he is off he is off. But you totally dismiss when he is on. He gets more than the “occasional” hit or “occasional” HR. You do realize that he is one of the best power hitters in the game right? 4th highest catcher wOBA in 2009 (362 – within 15 points of every catcher not named Mauer). In 2008 he was the TOP rated catcher in wOBA (399).

Napoli hits for a decent average, takes tons of walks, and can hit the ball as hard as anyone in the game. His defense is bad. Not Piazza bad though. Even with his warts, Napoli is a top starting catcher in baseball. Meanwhile, Mathis is best suited as a platoon type catcher. I’m sure his offense will improve but he has nowhere near the potential as Napoli.

jsinclair15
5 years 4 months ago

No way….apparently you have never seen an Angels game. Reason why Mathis’ stolen base throw outs is less is because teams did not run on Mathis BECAUSE he was better defensively.

Anybody who knows anything about baseball can see that Mathis is the better catcher. He does the little things that Nappy cant do. Mathis can bunt, he can hit to the right side moving the runners over or hit a sac fly.

post2010exangelsfan
5 years 4 months ago

I’ll be a sad angels fan if napoli leaves

ze3
5 years 4 months ago

Call me skeptical, but I never liked (and still dont like, despite his numbers so far) the Matsui signing. In a scenario where Matsui HADN’T signed with the Angels, the Halos would’ve not had the issues roster-wise they’ve had this year. Napoli can put up the same numbers as Hideki as a full-time DH, if not better (he is much younger too), and u save a couple of million bucks. Mathis could be the everyday catcher with Bobby and Napoli as back up, also, carrying a third catcher in this circumstance is more logical than carrying 3 catchers right now.

bjsguess
5 years 4 months ago

They needed Matsui and it was a smart signing.

Let’s assume that Matsui wasn’t signed and Mathis is the catcher and Napoli the DH. On the days that Napoli has to catch (probably a minimum of 50 games) who is going to DH? The Angels have no one that makes sense. If they brought in a part timer/platoon type guy then maybe that was a possibility. But on their current roster I don’t see anyone that I would want to DH for 50 games.

I also don’t think Napoli is good enough to be a full-time DH. His value lies in being a superior offensive player in a premium defensive position. You move him to 1st base or DH and he loses a good chunk of his value.

In a perfect world, Napoli catches 4 games per week. He DH’s 1 game and has another game to rest or PH. That’s how I would do it. Of course, Scioscia and I just don’t see it the same way.

ze3
5 years 4 months ago

Good arguments. The only thing is, we’ve never seen Napoli play a full season, you don’t think he can hit .280 and 35+ home runs as a full DH? Last two years he averaged 304 ABs with 20 HR and a .272 BA, what would it look like if he got more than 500 ABs? Maybe Rivera could DH some and Terry Evans could play the outfield? It ‘s risky, but I’d give it a shot, at least I could save up (some dough and a spot) for Crawford next offseason

jsinclair15
5 years 4 months ago

Problem that I have with this statement is this….on August 29 last year every Angels starter had an average of 300 or better and look where Nappy finished. He went hitless in something like 25-30 straight AB’s dropping his average 30 points. Nappy has been and always will be a streaky player. I honestly do not think that Nap could post 35 HR’s in a full season or hit 272. In the last two years, his average has dropped significantly during the last 3rd of the season.

Suzysman
5 years 4 months ago

“on August 29 last year every Angels starter had an average of 300 or better and look where Nappy finished. He went hitless in something like 25-30 straight AB’s dropping his average 30 points.”

It was Aug 18

And he never had 25 AB without a hit. He did have a 14 PA stretch without a hit Aug 25-Sept 1 which is hardly different then the 17 PA Mathis went without a hit from May 15 to May 25 or the 18 PA Mathis went without one Jun 3 to June 11

Besides, citing just BA is the worst judge of hitting results. This is more important. Say a catcher receives 450 PA. Using 2009 rates over 450 PA, that means roughly

158 Times on Base, 110 Hits and 201 Total Bases – Napoli

130 Times on Base, 87 Hits and 128 Total Bases – Mathis

That is extreme.

randomk1ng
5 years 4 months ago

I think the Rangers NEED a catcher more than any other team and a guy like Napoli who can hit .270 with 20+ HR’s is a perfect fit for the team and the ballpark. But since the Angels and Rangers are in the same division, I’m not sure if either side would wanna work out a trade.

5 years 4 months ago

Yeah I agree with you, I don’t see them trading within the division. Unlike the earlier poster, I like the Matsui signing. The guy is just such a tough out, and is big-time in the late innings. As great as the numbers Vladdy put up (although his numbers did go down last year), he was a guy that great pitchers usually exploited because he would swing at anything. I already have a prediction as to who will be the Angel DH next year…Manny Ramirez.

ze3
5 years 4 months ago

I don’t understand why the angels need to go after veteran players when they don’t give the young guys the chance to prove themselves, if they go after manny i’ll be pretty pissed.

bjsguess
5 years 4 months ago

Who isn’t getting a chance? Is there someone down on the farm that should be starting for the team? Last check they have under 30 guys who all came up through the system starting at C, 1B, 2B, SS, and 3B.

ze3
5 years 4 months ago

I’m talking about Napoli, as in being younger than Matsui… And true, they have had many players coming up through the system, but the angels have failed at keeping them in uniform. Think about Kendry Morales hiring Scott Boras, how long do you think he’ll remain an angel?

ze3
5 years 4 months ago

Anywho, i don’t want to see napoli leave, i wanna see him in an angels uniform getting frequent ABs, and i’m sure there are are a lot of people out there who feel the same way…

CardinalVirtue
5 years 4 months ago

Most of the comparisons on defense between Nap and Mathis we need to remember are based on this season not last season alone. Nap had a terrible spring on defense, which in many cases was the main reason Mathis started the season as the Angels catcher. He was also benched many times last season for the same reason, for the break down on defense. If he would demonstrate some at least above average defense, he may ultimately win the job. For long time Angels fans who remember players like Eckstein and Ernstad, Scioscia is looking for more than ability he is looking for effort, something that Mathis has done to this point more than Nap.

mmwatkin
5 years 4 months ago

Call me crazy, but Detroit could be a trade partner with the Angels for Napoli. Alex Avila needs to be in AAA working on his catching skills and hitting on a regular basis. Laird would make a great defensive backup.

Make the call, DD. The current catchers are brutal at the plate.

xTheHalosx
5 years 4 months ago

Just curious, what would Detroit have to offer for Naps? I would say the Angels need someone consistent in the pen. Right now even Sheilds is inconsistent and I’d like to see a pitcher come in and not worry a 2+ run won’t be enough for the win.

bjsguess
5 years 4 months ago

Unless Shields is hurt I would be pissed if we got another bullpen arm. We already have too many.

Bulger + Jepsen + Shields + Rodney + Fuentes is solid. You have Stokes for clean-up work. You have guys down on the farm that can come up in the case of injury. Don’t let the performance of the staff in the first 10 games cause a knee jerk reaction.

I would prefer it if Wilson or Mathis was traded. The return wouldn’t be great but we could land some bench help. If Napoli is traded then make it a blockbuster. Bundle him with Wood or Rivera and make a significant upgrade at either LF or 3B.

bjsguess
5 years 4 months ago

Unless Shields is hurt I would be pissed if we got another bullpen arm. We already have too many.

Bulger + Jepsen + Shields + Rodney + Fuentes is solid. You have Stokes for clean-up work. You have guys down on the farm that can come up in the case of injury. Don’t let the performance of the staff in the first 10 games cause a knee jerk reaction.

I would prefer it if Wilson or Mathis was traded. The return wouldn’t be great but we could land some bench help. If Napoli is traded then make it a blockbuster. Bundle him with Wood or Rivera and make a significant upgrade at either LF or 3B.

cookmeister
5 years 4 months ago

i think Mathis should catch Santana and Pineiro, Napoli should catch Kazmir and Saunder, aand Weaver matched up with either guy. Especially when you watch Santana pitcch with Napoli catching, its like he dooesnt want to throw hard sliders because he doesnt trust Nap behind the plate. Maybe it just looks that way to me. Also thus far, Mathis has been swinging the bat fairly well. I hate how much they both strike out though.

jsinclair15
5 years 4 months ago

Oh here is the deal…..contrary to some of you here, Mathis is one of the best defensive catchers in the game right now. He has a cannon for arm, he blocks balls (Nappy had the most PB’s in all of baseball last year) and Mathis has a great attitude. Adding injury to insult, a catcher myself felt that the official scorers gave some WP on balls that should have been blocked or caught last year.

Nappy is a HUGE strike out and double play threat. He cant get the job done when its time to move over a runner or just put wood on the bat. Mathis can do anything you ask him to do. He is a true team player and he busts his butt. Nappy has to be one of the laziest ballplayers I have ever seen.

I am SOOOO thrilled that Mathis is getting his time to shine and Nappy should figure out how to play first-base.

5 years 4 months ago

As a true Angel fan who has watched every game for the past 4 or 5 years, all I can say is that your post is so fraught with lies and/or distortions that I don’t know where to begin. Mathis had more PBs last year, in fewer chances. And Vladdy had 4 x the GIDPs as Napoli.
And by the way? The Angels already have a top-notch 1Bman. ( Additionally, Naps had 66 games at 1b, in the minors.)

bjsguess
5 years 4 months ago

Honestly – how could someone be so wrong. Forget about subjective opinions – you didn’t even take the time to look up the stats you spout.

Mathis: 2793 PA / 7 Errors / 6 PBs / 27% CS
Napoli: 3326 PA / 8 Errors / 5 PBs / 22% CS

While I grant you that these stats are not terribly persuasive when arguing a catchers defensive contribution, they are readily available and CONTRADICT what you just wrote.

bjsguess
5 years 4 months ago

Honestly – how could someone be so wrong. Forget about subjective opinions – you didn’t even take the time to look up the stats you spout.

Mathis: 2793 PA / 7 Errors / 6 PBs / 27% CS
Napoli: 3326 PA / 8 Errors / 5 PBs / 22% CS

While I grant you that these stats are not terribly persuasive when arguing a catchers defensive contribution, they are readily available and CONTRADICT what you just wrote.

RedbirdRuffian
5 years 4 months ago

Lotta teams would love to have Napoli, Mets and Red Sox come to mind. Even if Mathis is better defensively in the manager’s mind Napoli can more than hold his own. Looks like Angels need some bullpen help too bad the Sox and Mets have nothing to offer.