Earlier this month Mike Napoli became the first Cleveland Indians player to reach 30 home runs in a season since Grady Sizemore in 2008. His isolated power is .242, the highest by an qualified Indians hitter since Travis Hafner (.350) and Grady Sizemore (.243) in 2006. Napoli hit some real tape measure blasts, in large part because when he swings, he gets his money's worth. When he connects, the ball often goes very far, but he also swings and misses more often than the average player (His contact rate ranks 137th out of 149 qualified players this year.), which, when combined with a pretty good amount of patience, leading to more called strikes than the average player sees, means a lot of strikeouts. Thursday night he struck out for the 185th and 186th times of the season, tying and then breaking the franchise record set by Jim Thome in 2001.
Here are the highest single-season strikeout totals in Indians history:
- 1) Mike Napoli 186 (2016)
- 2) Jim Thome 185 (2001)
- t3) Jim Thome 171 (1999)
- t3) Jim Thome 171 (2000)
- 5) Cory Snyder 166 (1987)
- 6) Grady Sizemore 155 (2007)
- 7) Grady Sizemore 153 (2006)
- 8) Jhonny Peralta 152 (2006)
- 9) Shin-Soo Choo 151 (2009)
- 10) Shin-Soo Choo 150 (2012)
Thome led the American League in strikeouts in 1999 and 2001, while none of the others on that list led the league. Thome is the only Indians hitter to lead the AL in strikeouts since 1953, when Larry Doby led the league for the second year in a row. Pat Seerey led the AL in 144, 1945, and 1946; Ed Morgan in 1930; and Braggo Roth in 1917. Chris Davis leads the AL with 202 strikeouts at the moment, so there's no chance of Napoli joining Thome, Doby, Seerey, Morgan, and Roth, but the franchise record is his.
With 12 games still to go, he's got a fair amount of time to add to his total, and is on pace to reach 200, something only five MLB players have ever done in a season. Those five are Mark Reynolds (who did it three times, and holds the MLB record of 223), Adam Dunn (who has the AL record of 222), Chris Carter (who could do it for a second time this season), Chris Davis (who has now done it twice), and Drew Stubbs (the only player to strikeout 200+ times without also hitting at least 25 home runs).
Napoli has struck out in 30.7% of his plate appearances this season, giving him a comfortable edge on Thome's 28.7% mark from 2001. Chris Carter holds that particular MLB mark, having struck out in 36.2% of his PA in 2013.
Because of Napoli's prodigious power and strong walk rate, he's been the second-best hitter this season among qualified players, behind only Carlos Santana. Putting more balls in play would allow Napoli to hit for a better average, but his team-leading power would almost certainly suffer if he took a different approach at the plate. This isn't to say Napoli need be proud of his new record, but one might think of it as simply a side effect of his particular brand of success.