Commentary

Forget stats, Mike Napoli can't catch

When it comes to catcher defense, the numbers don't tell much of the story

Originally Published: January 28, 2011
By Dave Cameron | Fangraphs.com
AP Photo/Mark AveryMike Napoli is clumsy behind the plate, which is a major reason why no team wants him there.

The Angels decision to acquire Vernon Wells and his previously-assumed-to-be-unmovable contract caused nearly everyone who follows the game to scratch their heads. The deal was so bizarre that I labeled it as The Most Inexplicable Trade Ever. To some, however, the confusing part lies not just in acquiring Wells' bloated contract, but in the simultaneous dumping of catcher Mike Napoli, who had provided significant offense from a position where power is a scarce resource.

Over the last three years, the only catchers with better offensive numbers than Napoli are Joe Mauer, Brian McCann and Jorge Posada. Since arriving in the big leagues, Napoli's offensive production has been essentially in line with that of Victor Martinez, who signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Tigers as a free agent this winter. So why were the Angels so interested in tossing Napoli off the roster to free up at-bats for Jeff Mathis, one of the worst hitters in Major League Baseball today?