Friday, May 8, 2009

Kudos to You, Mike Scioscia

I've made no secret of my belief that consistently starting Jeff Mathis over Mike Napoli is an act of total insanity. And so far, it looks like Mike Scioscia agrees with me. Although Napoli started off the season playing second fiddle to BFF Mathis, he has gotten more starts (19-11, with 16 of those starts behind the dish and 3 as a DH) and his bat has remained red hot. Put simply, Napoli is absolutely mashing the ball, hitting .328/.444/.642 with 5 HR, 6 2B, and 43 TB in only 19 games. He's already a 1.1 WAR player (as opposed to Jeff Mathis's 0.0 WAR).

Mathis, meanwhile, has come down to earth after a solid first week, and is currently maintaining a .237/.310/.263 batting line (I suppose that's more subterranian than it is "down to earth").

Although OPS isn't the whole picture, particularly since Mathis supporters are quick to label him a defensive whiz kid, here's a game-by-game look at just how much better Napoli has been at the plate than Mathis (each box represents a game in which the player made at least one plate appearance):

Note that at no time was Mathis outhitting Napoli, and that Napoli's OPS has not yet dropped below .850 for even one game this season. If Scioscia continues to play Napoli as often as he has so far (a big question mark given Vladimir Guerrero's imminent return), Napoli is on pace to be a 6.6 WAR player this year. I'm not saying that he will be worth six extra wins, but it seems foolish not to let Napoli show his stuff for a full season (finally). So far, Scioscia is giving Napoli the playing time he deserves and Mike is capitalizing; here's hoping both trends continue.

1 comment:

  1. It is worth noting that Napoli has gotten rather lucky so far this year. His BABIP is .362, well above his .301 lifetime BABIP despite a typical (based on four years of data, anyway) LD% of 17.3 and a much higher than usual GB% of 46.2. His HR/FB% is insane (26.3), but it was last year as well (23.5). Still, I've got to imagine that Napoli's BABIP will regress somewhat if his GB% remains as high as it's been so far. The old "line drive rate plus .120 rule" suggests that Napoli should be sporting a BABIP closer to .293 right now, which would be a bit below his career average. Even still, he's looking at a hell of a year if he's healthy and getting playing time.