Napoli's strong start is reminding Angels fans of his breakout 2008 season
Angels catcher Mike Napoli has been on a tear lately. A Pujols-like tear, really, that has seen him reach base in 13 of his last 14 at-bats. After last night's 4-for-4, 2 RBI performance, his average sits at .364 to go along with 4 HR and 11 RBI in just 55 at-bats. I'm guessing those AB's are going to skyrocket over the next few weeks, as manager Mike Scioscia just can't afford to take him out of the lineup. He's been the primary catcher all season, getting slightly more playing time than counterpart Jeff Mathis, but many of his upcoming plate appearances may come in a DH role, as he was in last night.
The Halos' offense has been rolling lately, as Napoli, Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales have all been driving in runs, and after stumbling a bit, 2B Howie Kendrick has found his stroke and has been hitting the ball much better lately. We all saw Napoli's power potential last season when he belted 20 HR's in just 227 AB's, a staggering pace that lead the majors. He also got hot down the stretch to finish with a .273 batting average (he's a career .250 hitter).
That ungodly HR rate was impossible to expect Naps to repeat, or even approach this season, but Angels fans were still expecting big things from Naps big bat. The 4 HR so far are nice, but what I've seen is a shorter, quicker swing, especially when he's down in the count, making him a really tough out. He can, and does, still turn it loose early in the count and when he's ahead, but even when he does, he still looks more under control than last season. He's always been a patient hitter with a good eye, but a long swing lead to a few too many strikeouts. He'll still strikeout a bit, but he looks like a much more complete hitter so far this season. I'm guessing a .265 average with 25-plus HR's isn't out of the realm of possibility. For now, Scioscia just has to put that bat of his in the lineup and ride out this hot streak.