Why Mike Napoli believes he might have left his slump behind
|08.15.13 at 11:36 pm ET|
TORONTO – Any slump is accompanied by plenty of suggestions of how to break free from the problems.
It’s a reality Mike Napoli has been forced to live through for the past month or so.
Is his eyesight OK?
“I just had Lasik surgery in the offseason,” he said. “It’s never been better.”
Does he close his eyes when swinging?
(Chuckles. Shakes his head back and forth.)
Has he considered using a different size bat?
“I’ve always used the same size bat,” Napoli noted.
Napoli has felt all along there was no need for drastic adjustments during his recent downturn. The first baseman had a pretty good idea what was wrong, it was just finding a way to fix it.
“I think it wasn’t so much a different stance, but just trying to calm down my leg kick, stop having such a big load (leading up to the swing) so my hands get locked up behind my body,” explained Napoli, who had Thursday night off. “For me it’s just being able to see the ball good. When I’m going good I can really see the ball. For me I was a little lost. I couldn’t find the right combination of my legs and hands.
“It was hard to me fire from that position. My body was getting so jumpy. I wasn’t seeing the ball well. There was a lot of movement. I tried different things in BP with my leg kick and hands maybe a little higher, away from my body a little bit. Obviously something wasn’t working.”
But then, starting with his third at-bat Wednesday night, something clicked. Ultimately, the result was a two-out, two-run, opposite field home run in the ninth inning that officially put Napoli’s confidence back on the map.
“I hit that line-drive the first time up and it still wasn’t there. It was so-so. [Toronto starter Esmil Rogers] threw me some backup cutters and it didn’t feel right,” he said. “But the last three at-bats I had was the best I felt for a very long time where I was seeing the ball, staying short to the ball, my body was still. I felt good. I felt I was on the right path. When I can drive the ball that way, that’s where I need to be.”
It’s a feeling that took longer to uncover than Napoli would have ever hoped.
Since June 1, he has compiled a .229 batting average and .719 OPS with seven home runs over. It was a stretch that came after totaling a .261 batting average and .824 OPS with eight homers in his first two months.
Adding to the difficulty of rediscovering success was realizing that there was more to the process than just his swing mechanics. There was also actually zeroing in on what the pitcher was throwing, and where he was throwing it.
“I just need to get myself in position to hit, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “I was doing something where I wasn’t recognizing the ball. It was just a weird feeling. I’m not seeing the ball right.
“You try and do all the work in BP and then you go into a game and compete sometimes its hard. You find yourself worrying about where your hands are and you realize after the at-bat I’m not competing. I want to do good so I’m trying to get in the right spots so I can compete.”
Napoli had a feeling that kind of moment – the one arrived Wednesday night – would eventually emerge. He didn’t feel like he needed to change a batting stance he has had since his rookie year. There was no call for a change in equipment. No overhauls were needed.
“I’ve done it for a long time. I know where I want to be,” he said. “It’s not like I’m going into rookie ball and they’re trying to mold me. I’ve done it before. I had a good couple of months. That’s where I was. I know I can do it. I just got into these habits where I wasn’t seeing it as well while trying to compete at a big league level.
“It’s just me getting in the right position to hit, that’s what it comes down to. I know that. Everybody thinks you have to make these drastic changes. I’m trying to do the same things I was doing in April and spring training.”
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