BOSTON — Mike Napoli’s power outage is still in effect. At some point, he’ll need to flip the switch back into its early-season position.
Napoli exploded out of the gate this year, racking up extra-base hits and climbing to the top of the American League’s statistical leaderboard. Now, although Napoli is still getting on base at a decent clip, he’s failing to generate the same pop that made him such a middle-of-the-order threat earlier in the year.
Napoli’s average sits at .262 and his on-base percentage at .345, both of which are comparable to his early-season figures. His slugging percentage continues to dip, though, as Napoli has only two extra-base hits in 20 June games. That includes one home run, which came all the way back on the first of the month.
In Napoli’s defense, he’s had a somewhat tumultuous road this month, having missed seven games, including three in a row from June 14-16 because of illness. But it’s clear that something is plaguing Napoli at the dish right now, and it’s something that will become increasingly concerning for the Red Sox if at some point they start dropping off in other areas offensively.
Napoli struck out four times against the Blue Jays on Saturday. The 31-year-old has always been prone to striking out, and the high strikeout rate has been there all of this season. (Napoli is among the major league leaders in K’s.) The strikeouts are much more difficult to deal with, however, when the power numbers don’t accompany them.
So far, the Red Sox’ offense has managed just fine amid Napoli’s “struggles,” but it’s undeniable that the lineup is far more dynamic when he’s driving the ball behind Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. That’s especially true now that Will Middlebrooks, who was supposed to be Boston’s other major power source this season, is no longer on the major league roster.
Napoli has a reputation of being a streaky hitter, so a slump isn’t something that’s completely out of left field. In fact, it means that a power resurgence could very well be on the horizon. He’ll need to make some adjustments quickly, however, or else we could be looking at a bigger issue in due time.
“We’re working to create some consistency. Obviously there’s been swing and miss in his track record. He just missed a couple of pitches today – tough day for him,” John Farrell said after Napoli’s four-strikeout game Saturday. “At times, his swing can get long and he can get beat with some velocity up. [Steve] Delabar expanded up in the strike zone [in the eighth inning] but we’re working to try and shorten that down.”
Whether it’s shortening his swing, getting his timing back or overcoming some mental hurdle, Napoli must get back to his early-season level – or at least some sliver of it. The Red Sox are OK for right now, but a simple power outage could turn into a full-scale blackout if things don’t turn around.