Despite a 2-7 finish to the season, the Texas Rangers still have a chance to reach the World Series for the third straight year when they face the Baltimore Orioles in the wild card playoff Friday. But the offense, the component of this team that ultimately betrayed the Rangers down the stretch, must respond.
Aside from Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre, there would be no better player to provide that response than Mike Napoli, the star of last year’s postseason for Texas.
Rangers fans went crazy last year during “Nap-tober,” when Mike Napoli had a monster postseason.
Rangers fans went crazy last year during “Nap-tober,” when Napoli had a monster postseason, hitting .328 with three home runs and 15 RBI in 17 games.
He would have been the World Series Most Valuable Player, had the Rangers beaten the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals ended up winning the series in seven games, a series that many baseball historians consider one of the best in recent memory.
Napoli’s postseason followed up a regular season in which he hit .320, knocked out 30 home runs and drove in 75 RBI. This season it would be easy to accuse Napoli of being a one-year wonder. He followed up his career-best season with his worst one since his rookie year in 2006.
A tale of two seasons
In 2012, in addition to a month-long stint on the disabled list, Napoli hit .230 with 24 home runs and 56 RBI. But, in one way Napoli has mimicked his monster 2011, and that provides at least some hope that Napoli could bolster the Rangers in their playoff run this year.
Napoli’s bat is important, as much for its clout as its location in the order.
In 2011, Napoli’s season picked up after a stint on the DL. When Napoli returned to the lineup on July 3, he went on a tear that saw him finish the final three months of the season with a .377 batting average, 19 home runs and 50 RBI.
Since returning from the DL this year, Napoli has seen his numbers jump, though not as much as last year. Still, in September Napoli hit .276 with seven home runs and 16 RBI. The average is nearly 50 points better than his season average, plus the home runs and RBI are an improvement.
Napoli’s bat is important, as much for its clout as its location in the order. In a batting order as deep as the Rangers’ is, a player with Napoli’s ability in the bottom third is a tremendous asset.
He has shown the ability to jump start rallies that can carry over into the top of the order. It’s not a coincidence that Napoli’s struggles have had an impact on the Rangers’ overall offensive downturn as the season has continued.
We’re hoping for another “Nap-tober” — starting Friday.