Boston Red Sox Mike Napoli hits the baseball a ‘country mile’

Source: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Mike Napoli goes the distance.

Boston Red Sox hitters compiled a woeful .202/.291/.332 line in the ALCS. While Red Sox hitters as a whole struggled against the Detroit Tigers pitching, first baseman Mike Napoli did not.

He posted .300./.333/.700 line. His home run against Anibal Sanchez Thursday night was a majestic shot to dead center. In case you were wondering how impressive this home run really was, Baseball Guru Peter Gammons will tell you.

Mike Napoli has always had the ability to hit a baseball a very long way.  Even as a high schooler, scouting reports took note of his impressive power (and his full beard). At least one recap of Thursday night’s game described the home run off Sanchez as having traveled a ‘country mile.’

With that in mind, I endeavored to determine exactly how many miles Napoli’s home runs have traveled over the course of his career. Thanks to ESPN Home Run Tracker, I can calculate this obscure statistic. Below is the cumulative distance of Napoli’s home runs by year:

  • 2013: 25 home runs, 1.95 miles
  • 2012: 24 home runs, 1.80 miles
  • 2011: 33 home runs, 2.55 miles
  • 2010: 26 home runs, 1.96 miles
  • 2009: 20 home runs, 1.56 miles
  • 2008: 22 home runs, 1.71 miles
  • 2007: 10 home runs, 0.74 miles
  • 2006: 16 home runs, 1.21 miles
  • Total: 176 home runs, 13.5 miles

I don’t know if Mike Napoli has run 13.5 miles in the course of his life. Okay, I’ll give him the benefit of his doubt and say that he has. Maybe.

He’s a classic big-swinging slugger. Since he came into the league in 2006, he has a higher Isolated Power than Alex Rodriguez or Josh Hamilton. His 2013 strikeout rate of 32.4 percent is the 10th highest of all-time (though much lower with an adjustment for league rate). Over the course of his career, Napoli has a higher HR/contact rate than David Ortiz, and is almost even with Barry Bonds.

Napoli struck out in his first six at-bats of the ALCS. Fans and pundits clamored for him to be benched in favor of Mike Carp. I think it’s safe to say that the Tigers would have taken this series if not for Napoli’s contributions in games three and five. There will be a dilemma in the World series. Napoli and Ortiz can’t both start for the Red Sox when the St. Louis Cardinals host. I suspect Ortiz will start at first, but losing Napoli’s bat and superior defense will be a blow to the Sox lineup.

Oh, and if you haven’t had enough of Mike Napoli home runs already, here’s his biggest (by Win Probability Added)  home run of the 2013 regular season. This one only traveled 423 feet.

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