Texas Rangers: Don't Be Surprised at Mike Napoli's World Series Breakout

Luke KrmpotichContributor IIOctober 26, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 24:  Mike Napoli #25 of the Texas Rangers hits a two-run double in the eighth inning during Game Five of the MLB World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Mike Napoli has been the star of the World Series through five games. He's slugging .846 with two home runs and nine RBI, good for an OPS of 1.235.

No one would have predicted this prime-time offensive onslaught a year ago.

Last offseason, Napoli was an afterthought in trades between the Angels, Blue Jays and Rangers. Coming out of spring training, he wasn't the Rangers' starting catcher, and he started just five of the season's first 22 games.

However, as Napoli began to rip the cover off the ball, he was installed as the Rangers' primary backstop.

Garnering surprisingly little attention along the way, Napoli quietly put together one of the best second-half hitting performances in the majors. He went on a tear and was second in batting average among all big leaguers after the All-Star break.

Despite playing in just 113 regular season games, Napoli set career highs in every major offensive statistical category, including home runs (30), doubles (25), runs batted in (75), batting average (.320), on-base percentage (.414), slugging percentage (.631) and OPS (1.046!).

Napoli ranked third on the Rangers with his 30 home runs, one more dinger than NLCS MVP Nelson Cruz had in the regular season. And he did it in just 369 at-bats, 106 fewer than Cruz.

Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre, who tied for the Rangers' home run lead with 32 apiece, required 620 and 487 at-bats, respectively, to reach their totals.

Although most casual baseball fans may not have been aware of Napoli's breakout performance in 2011, the World Series is serving as his coming-out party.

The career .264 hitter was the star of Game 5, both for his offensive heroics and his defensive prowess.

From behind the plate, Napoli cut down two would-be base stealers to snuff out Cardinals rally attempts. In the eighth critical inning, his two-run, bases-loaded double provided the margin of victory for the Rangers as they took a 3-2 series lead.

Was this outburst of hitting from the Rangers' No. 8 hitter to be expected?

Perhaps not.

But after the year Napoli put together, don't be shocked at his World Series performance.

This isn't another Cody Ross putting together a spectacular series and then fading back into oblivion. Mike Napoli is a solid hitter, who should be an anchor in the Rangers lineup for years to come.