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Friday, November 23, 2012

Twitter / JimBowdenESPNxm: Mike Napoli holding out for ...

Jim Bowden reports…

Mike Napoli holding out for 4th year from Red Sox…meeting with Mariners who might be willing to give the extra year according to sources

Jim Furtado Posted: November 23, 2012 at 11:03 AM | 40 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mariners, red sox

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   1. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 23, 2012 at 12:05 PM (#4308295)
Twitter / JimBowdenESPNxm: Mike Napoli holding out for ...


...a hero?
   2. Darnell McDonald had a farm Posted: November 23, 2012 at 12:15 PM (#4308299)
The new GM has a lot of work to do but signing Napoli would be a great start. Not sure if they see him as a C that frees up a deal involving Salty or a 1B but either way I don't see why a 4th year should stand in the way. He's only 31, which is weird since I've always thought of him as old
   3. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 23, 2012 at 12:35 PM (#4308309)
31 is old, especially for a catcher, especially for a player with a bad body type, especially for a player with old player skills. The great thing about a Mike Napoli is not that he is actually great - he hasn't played full seasons so he really can't be - but that he was undervalued. His stock has risen now. And once you start valuing him at his market value or above, you need to be careful.

I love him as a player, but I wouldn't give him an oversized contract. Of course, the entire issue is what you'd be paying him, and for how long.

Can he catch full time? I'd try to find out, but it's an issue. On the other hand, he's only caught 500+ games, so it's not like he has the wear on him that other 31 yo catchers do.

He's actually one of the more interesting free agent situations out there.
   4. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:26 PM (#4308344)
There's some evidence out there that players start hitting better once they don't have to catch anymore. It certainly seems reasonable that Napoli might be able to play a larger share of team games if he weren't catching. If you could get Napoli's 125 OPS+ bat in the lineup every day (more or less) by playing him exclusively at 1B, I think that would probably be a good trade. And you might get a better bat in the bargain.
   5. The District Attorney Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:41 PM (#4308351)
Yeesh, seems like a real bad fit for Safeco.
   6. Dan Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:45 PM (#4308354)
Yeah I think I'd really prefer to hit at Fenway for 81 games rather than Safeco if I were Napoli, even with the fences being moved in at Safeco.
   7. Pleasant Nate (Upgraded from 'Nate') Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:50 PM (#4308359)
Is there a floated dollar amount? 3/35 or 4/44 I think would be perfectly fine.

No draft pick compensation for Napoli, which is nice.

   8. Walt Davis Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:51 PM (#4308361)
There's some evidence out there that players start hitting better once they don't have to catch anymore.

There is? Have a link?

You have guys like Biggio and Murphy who moved before they'd accumulated any serious time at C. You've got Torre who I think may be single-handedly responsible for this notion but it was really just that one year. Of course most other Cs are pretty much done by the time they are moved and it's a last-ditch attempt to revive a dying bat.

With Napoli, even if he can bounce up to a 130-135 OPS+ 1B that's still a lot less special than a 125 OPS+ C. He's also missed some time in the last 2 seasons (and I recall some with the Angels too but might be wrong about that).
   9. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 23, 2012 at 01:52 PM (#4308363)
Maybe the Red Sox could try an experiment by swapping Napoli and Saltamacchia between C and 1B every day, thus keeping them both in the lineup every day while staying fresh and maybe improving their offensive output from not catching full time.

This would also allow the Red Sox to make good use of two roster spots, not needing a roster spot solely for a backup C: the backup C would be in the lineup, and you wouldn't need a DH penalty to use him.
   10. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 23, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4308370)
There is? Have a link?
I felt like I'd seen evidence elsewhere, but I was thinking of this recent Tango post on Inside The Book. He took all players aged 25-29 between 1993-2010 and compared their hitting (by wOBA) at different positions in the same season. He found the expected DH effect, perhaps a small 3B effect, and pretty much nothing else, except at catcher.
Let’s go back to catcher. If I relax the standard, and only look for 1000 matching PA, I also get 3B, LF, and RF. Including 1B, then this is the comparison:
.323 at catcher
.342 at 1B, 3B, LF, RF

That 19 point difference is 3.3 standard deviations from the mean. So, we can safely say that it’s harder to hit as catcher than hit at any other position. Is it really a 19 point difference? Well, the only thing we can say is that we are almost positive it’s greater than 0. This is where Bayes would help. If we had catchers tell us that their body can’t really handle it as easily when behind the plate than when they play the field, then we would use a better prior. Heck, our prior could have been even 30 points, and seeing only 19 would understate the difference. The problem is that we have no way of quantifying a good prior.

I’m inclined to give at least a 10 point difference as the true difference, which is 6 runs of impact.
This would only apply to Napoli's non-C PA, but it would make a difference. It doesn't seem crazy to extrapolate from this effect to further problems developed from catching, but I can't find anything to back up that intuition.
   11. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 23, 2012 at 02:06 PM (#4308374)
Ray -

You can't play Jarrod Saltamacchia against LHP. He has a career batting line of 203/256/335 against left handed pitchers. I guess you could catch Napoli against LHP and have a platoon 1B.

The problem is, Napoli has shown little ability to stay in the lineup while playing part-time C. I'd like to try him out as a full-time 1B and see if that improves his durability.

The bigger problem is, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is terrible hitter for a 1B. He has OPS+ of 93 and 95 the last two years. Every day that he's playing 1B is a day the Sox are throwing away runs.
   12. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 23, 2012 at 02:08 PM (#4308377)
You can't play Jarrod Saltamacchia against LHP. He has a career batting line of 203/256/335 against left handed pitchers.


Fair enough. I didn't realize his splits were that bad.
   13. What Zupcic? Posted: November 23, 2012 at 02:17 PM (#4308382)
The problem is, Napoli has shown little ability to stay in the lineup while playing part-time C. I'd like to try him out as a full-time 1B and see if that improves his durability.


Also, what with Salty, Ross AND Lavarnway on the roster AND Napoli being of 'bleh' reputation behind the dish, I can't imagine there would be much sense in playing Napoli at C that much. Salty certainly seems like he needs frequent (ish) days off but they can probably get him that without putting Napoli at catcher (risking his health and hurting the defense).

(by reputation, Ross is a FAR superior catcher to Napoli right?)
   14. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: November 23, 2012 at 02:24 PM (#4308386)
It looks to me like the Sox are still looking to trade Salty. Napoli would be, primarily, a first baseman, catching once in a while. After 2014, Napoli could DH most of the time, if the right first baseman becomes available.

I'm not too hot on this potential signing. Four years? Do you really think he's going to be worth it the fourth year? Signing him to a 4yr/$44m contract is what happens when you have lots of money to spend, and a weak FA market.
   15. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 23, 2012 at 02:25 PM (#4308387)
And a follow-up by Tango in the comments, breaking up full time and part time catchers:
As for catchers: full-time catchers are .341 at C, and .318 elsewhere. Presumably they are hurt, but they want to keep their bat in the lineup. Only 990 PA, so 1.4 SD.

Among all the other catchers (less than 90% of their playing time at catcher): .321 at C and .350 (!) elsewhere. 6916 PA, so 4.8 SD!!

In this case, these are probably guys who tried their hand at catching, and they got moved from behind the plate. With shackles removed, their hitting exploded.

This is just a big wow as far as I’m concerned.
Napoli, interestingly, has hit slightly better as a catcher than as a 1B/DH. But it's only 600 PA at other positions. So despite Napoli's individual numbers, I'm getting pretty well sold on Napoli as a first baseman.
   16. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 23, 2012 at 02:26 PM (#4308388)
I'm not too hot on this potential signing. Four years? Do you really think he's going to be worth it the fourth year? Signing him to a 4yr/$44m contract is what happens when you have lots of money to spend, and a weak FA market.
To be fair, the report is that the Sox won't offer him a fourth year.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: November 23, 2012 at 07:37 PM (#4308495)
I’m inclined to give at least a 10 point difference as the true difference, which is 6 runs of impact.

Of course the positional adjustment for C is on the order of 6-8 runs above average and something like 15-18 runs vs. 1B. You'd bet a playing time boost of course but you have to see a very big improvement in offense to make this move worth it.

Among all the other catchers (less than 90% of their playing time at catcher): .321 at C and .350 (!) elsewhere. 6916 PA, so 4.8 SD!!

In this case, these are probably guys who tried their hand at catching, and they got moved from behind the plate. With shackles removed, their hitting exploded.


Yeah, I'm not sure who's in this group. I can't think of very many guys who are backup Cs and get substantial time at another position. Napoli has been one ... and you note he's hit better at C. Historically speaking, Cliff Johnson was another guy but he wasn't much of a C. If this is a pool of players that includes guys like Murphy and Biggio (and Delgado?) then I'm not sure how applicable it is.

If I knew who we were talking about I might happily change my mind. I am perfectly willing to believe that there are young players like those mentioned who get moved early and blossom. For Murphy and Biggio, they got moved early because their teams identified them as players ready to blossom. But as I said, most full-time Cs who get moved (that I can think of ... and that's not a long list either) get moved in their 30s and it's probably too late. Maybe they could/should have been moved earlier but teams understand at least that much about positional advantage.

And that positional difference doesn't make Tango's findings all that shocking to me. A reasonable Bayesian prior would be that no team would move a guy off C unless they felt he could make up the positional difference with his bat. If most of them are moving to 1B/DH/LF/RF, they need to improve by something on the order of 15 runs to break even. The sample of Cs who get moved (or sample of guys who split time between C and other positions) is not a random sample of Cs, it's players whose teams felt it was worth the risk to try this. Unless the teams completely underestimate the risk (on average) then you'd expect big jumps in hitting.

PS Inge is another guy with a lot of time at C (although only 355 games) and elsewhere. He did hit better as a non-C and he was also an excellent defensive 3B. That could be shifting off C (most of the time) or it could be he didn't hit well from 25 to 27. Michael Barrett was split with 3B early in his career because the Expos expected him to be a good bat. It became clear he wasn't and he became a full-time C then had 3 nice seasons for the Cubs at 27-29.
   18. Boxkutter Posted: November 23, 2012 at 08:17 PM (#4308505)
It looks to me like the Sox are still looking to trade Salty. Napoli would be, primarily, a first baseman, catching once in a while. After 2014, Napoli could DH most of the time, if the right first baseman becomes available.


Like Adrian Gonzales?
   19. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: November 23, 2012 at 08:55 PM (#4308510)
And that positional difference doesn't make Tango's findings all that shocking to me. A reasonable Bayesian prior would be that no team would move a guy off C unless they felt he could make up the positional difference with his bat. If most of them are moving to 1B/DH/LF/RF, they need to improve by something on the order of 15 runs to break even. The sample of Cs who get moved (or sample of guys who split time between C and other positions) is not a random sample of Cs, it's players whose teams felt it was worth the risk to try this. Unless the teams completely underestimate the risk (on average) then you'd expect big jumps in hitting.

I'm not sure I understand your point here, Walt. I think that teams would move players off of catcher if they think that their bat could currently play at another position and they want to get the bat in the lineup more often (during the year) and longer (for the career). I don't think that a team would move expecting an improvement. They think that the bat is good enough to play at an easier position.
   20. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: November 23, 2012 at 09:28 PM (#4308517)
Yeesh, seems like a real bad fit for Safeco.


Is any hitter a good fit for Safeco?
   21. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 23, 2012 at 09:33 PM (#4308519)
Is any hitter a good fit for Safeco?


Ichiro, actually.
   22. Where have you gone Brady Anderson? Posted: November 23, 2012 at 09:33 PM (#4308520)
B.J. Surhoff would be one example of a player who started at catcher, moved to other positions, and hit better once he no longer had to catch.
   23. JJ1986 Posted: November 23, 2012 at 09:37 PM (#4308523)
Is any hitter a good fit for Safeco?


It's better to be left-handed and it's better to hit the ball on the ground.
   24. something like a train wreck Posted: November 23, 2012 at 11:23 PM (#4308541)
Brandon Inge
   25. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: November 24, 2012 at 12:35 AM (#4308554)
A left-handed pool player would be ideal. No massé.
   26. shoelesjoe Posted: November 24, 2012 at 12:49 AM (#4308558)
The Fruit Loop Kid says hi.
   27. Ned Garvin: Male Prostitute Posted: November 24, 2012 at 04:33 AM (#4308582)
I think both Carlos Delgado and Mike Sweeney were catchers in the minors and briefly in the majors, but quickly moved to 1B and started raking.
   28. Russ Posted: November 24, 2012 at 07:25 AM (#4308588)
I think both Carlos Delgado and Mike Sweeney were catchers in the minors and briefly in the majors, but quickly moved to 1B and started raking.


Delgado was raking in the minors as a catcher before he reached the bigs. Sweeney was an example of what you suggest.

   29. BDC Posted: November 24, 2012 at 10:08 AM (#4308605)
I can't think of very many guys who are backup Cs and get substantial time at another position

Jim Leyritz comes to mind. A stint with the Angels in 1997 was his chance to break out of the bench role he had played for good Yankees teams into fulltime catching, and it didn't work out; he was back to backup catching, DH/pinch-hitting, and filling in wherever and whenever. It's rare to get stuck between positions like that. Is there perhaps a paradoxical sense in which you'd have a more secure career if you couldn't hit as well? Then you'd have to concentrate on backup catching. But Leyritz played 900 games over eleven years (just about half of them at catcher), so he had a career a lot of guys would envy, if not a retirement many would wish for. Napoli already has far more career HR than Leyritz, and almost as many career RBI.
   30. puck Posted: November 24, 2012 at 01:55 PM (#4308677)
I guess Gene Tenace doesn't qualify since he moved back to catcher, but I thought of him...and then saw that on bb-ref he was born "Fiore Gino Tenacci." I remember the "Fury Gene" part. When/why did the family change the spelling of all the names? It's also curious they didn't change it to "Gene Fury Tenace."
   31. BDC Posted: November 24, 2012 at 02:20 PM (#4308683)
I found a couple of other players (in B-Ref, unlike Leyritz who came out of my memory) who never really moved definitively behind the plate or away from it, and were never really starters (for long) at a single position: Gene Oliver and John Ellis. Actually I do remember them both, now that B-Ref reminds me. Oliver was more a true utility guy, though his positions were C, 1B, and OF, oddly enough. Ellis just kept shuttling back and forth between first and catcher his whole career. Both could hit (Oliver could hit a lot better than I remembered, given that I only really saw him play at the end of his career), à la Leyritz, but Ellis at least was not gifted with the glove, as I recall: his teams would keep fretting over whether he could catch or not, and he ended up as a standard aging PH type who could pop one now and then and catch occasionally as a curiosity.

Again, not really instructive for Napoli, though the common theme of worrying whether the guy was really a catcher or not runs across the (small) group. Maybe with such players somebody should early on have just put them behind the plate and stopped worrying.
   32. Walt Davis Posted: November 24, 2012 at 03:56 PM (#4308700)
I'm not sure I understand your point here, Walt. I think that teams would move players off of catcher if they think that their bat could currently play at another position and they want to get the bat in the lineup more often (during the year) and longer (for the career). I don't think that a team would move expecting an improvement. They think that the bat is good enough to play at an easier position.

Well my point is that, due to positional adjustment, a 125 OPS+ at C is worth about 15 runs more than a 125 OPS+ at 1B minus the loss of playing time (which could easily be on the order of half that). So I'm saying teams would generally not consider moving a defensively-viable good-hitting C unless they believed he would hit substantially better (at least 10 runs) if he didn't have to C. In essence, it's a biased, "self-selected" sample because the only observations we have are observations where the teams have decided the positional tradeoff will be offset by the offensive improvement.* Of course that's a bit easier if you're moving a guy to 2B or CF (Biggio and Murphy) where the playing time increase is about enough to offset the positional difference and surely the less wear-and-tear will lengthen their career.

Or maybe you mean cases like Bench who was often put at 3B on his "days off" to keep his bat in the lineup. And Bench hit better at C. :-) So has Joe Mauer. Napoli doesn't seem to have hit any better away from C.

Sweeney and Delgado are guys everybody decided weren't good enough defensively to catch. I'm not sure that moving guys at 23 is the same thing as moving a guy mid-career. I'll add Ed Kirkpatrick as a long-time C/OF but he seems to have hit about the same at C as at other spots. Ellis hit slightly better at C, Leyritz hit better at C while Oliver did better at 1B. Cliff Johnson raked at C but raked even more at DH. But then starting Johnson at C was a bit like starting Kevin Mitchell at SS. Brian Downing was one of the success stories.

I don't mean to run counter to the obvious common sense that catching wears a guy down and, of course, generally means he's only gonna start about 120 games a year. I'm happy to assume that any player moved off C at age 23 would hit better and stay healthier through his career. But if a guy can hit and catch then you're generally going to catch him as much as possible and the damage is going to be done. That said, it wouldn't shock me if moving somebody like Montero to full-time 1B/DH might be exactly what he needs (a la Delgado or Sweeney). I assume guys like those hear nothing at AA and AAA other than "you've got to get better defensively." Taking that away and allowing them to concentrate on hitting probably does wonders.

Now Napoli is a case where potentially he's caught a small enough number of games that we might still expect some improvement in hitting without that wear and tear. But he's clearly well past the Delgado/Sweeney/Montero stage. For the most part, I'm just trying to make sure we're comparing apples to apples. If Tango's analysis included Murphy, Biggio, Sweeney, Delgado then I call shenanigans for Napoli comparisons. If it's stud bats like Mauer and Bench being kept in the lineup in their early 20s I don't think that's what we want either. If it's mainly guys like Downing, Leyritz and maybe Inge, Kirkpatrick, Ellis, etc. then it might be a perfectly sensible comparison. If it includes late-career moves like Piazza (at 1B then DH in Oakland), that would be overly pessimistic.

Or maybe there's just some talking at cross-purposes here. If the general notion is that it makes sense to use Napoli for 60 games at C and 80 games at 1B/DH, I'm in complete agreement and it doesn't matter if he hits better or not. But then I'm reasonably certain that, justified or not, the perception of Napoli around the league is as a defensively-limited C so nobody is really thinking of him as a 120-game C to begin with.

*Obviously each such decision is made relative to that team's particular mix of personnel. If you have a stud 1B, you don't consider moving Napoli there; if you have a promising young C, you're more likely to move Napoli to 1B; etc.

   33. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 24, 2012 at 04:18 PM (#4308703)
If Tango's analysis included Murphy, Biggio, Sweeney, Delgado then I call shenanigans for Napoli comparisons. If it's stud bats like Mauer and Bench being kept in the lineup in their early 20s I don't think that's what we want either. If it's mainly guys like Downing, Leyritz and maybe Inge, Kirkpatrick, Ellis, etc. then it might be a perfectly sensible comparison. If it includes late-career moves like Piazza (at 1B then DH in Oakland), that would be overly pessimistic.
Tango's data set was only players who played C and other positions in the majors between the ages of 25-29. This will not include players who were moved in the minors or very early in their careers (so, no Delgado, Murphy, or Sweeney). Biggio might show up in the data set given he was a catcher at age 25, but he was moved to 2B, and Tango was only looking at players moved to 1B/3B/LF/RF. You can reverse engineer the data set if you want.

The Napoli comparison has a problem in that Napoli himself falls outside of the comparison set due to age. But to me, the whole concern that Walt raises seems to be of questionable value. It's not clear to me why a finding that players who moved off C in their peak years performed better away from catching should apply only to players in their peak years. I think it's more likely that it applies to players at most all ages - catching is hard. Tango restricted the data set to players at their peak ages in order to get a five-year sample that wouldn't be significantly skewed by aging patterns, not because there's something special about being moved off catcher during peak baseball playing ages.
   34. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 24, 2012 at 04:24 PM (#4308709)
The bottom line seems to be that it's not clear that you get any edge from moving a C off his position, in that it's not clear at all that he's going to hit better. And then there's the hit on defense - both positional value and speculative quality at his new position.

Thus, you shouldn't make decisions that are based on expecting a C to hit better once he moves off of his position.
   35. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 24, 2012 at 04:34 PM (#4308713)
The bottom line seems to be that it's not clear that you get any edge from moving a C off his position, in that it's not clear at all that he's going to hit better.
It's not clear or certain, but Tango's study suggests in fact that you should expect improvement in offensive production when a catcher is moved to an easier position. Obviously this requires more analysis, and I don't mean to present it as settled science or anything. But the idea has prima facie plausibility - catching is bad for you - and is backed up by the best study I've found of the relevant evidence.
   36. BDC Posted: November 24, 2012 at 04:49 PM (#4308716)
The other guy that B-Ref remembered for me and I recall quite well is John Wockenfuss. He was taught to catch in the minors, came up rather late (age 25), and then Ralph Houk recognized that Wockenfuss could play a bunch of positions (largely as a platoon player) while serving as backup catcher, in which role(s) Sparky Anderson later deployed him to greater advantage. Wockenfuss could hit lefties for sure, righties much less so. He could play first, third, outfield – possibly thanks to Sparky's power of positive thinking as much as any actual ability. Irrelevant to Napoli, but I have enjoyed this uncontributive trip down Memory Lane :)
   37. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 24, 2012 at 04:57 PM (#4308721)
Quick shots at reverse engineering the data set...

Play-Index: Players with 10% of games played at both 1B and C, ages 25-29, 1980-2012
Play-Index: Players with 10% of games played at both 3B and C, ages 25-29, 1980-2012
Play-Index: Players with 10% of games played at both LF and C, ages 25-29, 1980-2012
Play-Index: Players with 10% of games played at both RF and C, ages 25-29, 1980-2012

This won't capture the whole data set, but it should give a pretty general sense. Major names: Dave Nilsson, Brandon Inge, BJ Surhoff, Mike Napoli, Phil Nevin, Mike Heath, Robert Fick, Jason Phillips, Carlos Santana, Jim Leyritz, Ryan Doumit, Tyler Houston, Matt LeCroy, Keith Moreland, Eli Marrero, Charlie Moore, Bill Schroeder, Eric Munson, Floyd Rayford, Todd Greene, Paul LoDuca
   38. 2 Posted: November 24, 2012 at 05:49 PM (#4308733)
Fat, old and slow while getting booed at Fenway is no way to go through life, son. Next, please.
   39. Ned Garvin: Male Prostitute Posted: November 24, 2012 at 08:39 PM (#4308812)
Is Mike Stanley a good comp? RH catcher with bad defense (perceived anyway). Good enough bat to get him PT outside of catching.

Looking at BBRef, Stanley didn't stop catching until his 30's, and didn't last too long after he did so. He caught longer than I remembered. Still, a reasonable comp for Napoli I think.
   40. Nasty Nate Posted: November 24, 2012 at 08:59 PM (#4308818)
Fat, old and slow while getting booed at Fenway is no way to go through life, son. Next, please.


Why is that posted in this thread? Napoli is only one of those things.

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