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Napoli's Lefty Lashing

With the score tied at two in the eighth inning of Game Five, Bullpen-Phone-Gate apparently led to lefty Mark Rzepczynski facing Mike Napoli, as righty relief ace Jason Motte never got the signal to warm up. Given Napoli's slugging exploits against southpaws, Tony La Russa and the Cardinals should have used every tool at their disposal -- bullhorns, flares, a team of special-ops Rally Squirrels -- to make sure Scrabble hit the S-H-O-W-E-R-S.

Napoli is no slouch against right-handed pitching, with a .259 batting average, a .337 OBP and a .495 slugging percentage over the past three seasons. But versus lefties, he's rocking a .312/.407/.589 line. In fact, the erstwhile Angel has one of the five best Weighted On-Base Averages (wOBA) against left-handers from 2009-2011 (minimum 400 plate appearances vs. LHP):


There's no clear pattern in how lefty pitchers try to combat Napoli. They're not shy about throwing him fastballs/sinkers, as Napoli gets one about 57 percent of the time versus lefties (58 percent league average). And they're all over the place in terms of pitch selection, dotting all four quadrants of the zone:

Left-handers' pitch location vs. Napoli, 2009-2011

That jumble of pitch locations stands in contrast to how lefties typically approach right-handed hitters. They mostly try to hit the outside corner:

Pitch frequency by location for left-handed pitchers vs. right-handed batters

It really doesn't seem to matter where lefties locate, however. Napoli mashes just about everything thrown in the zone, and, as noted last week, he hammers pitchers who try to climb the ladder out of the zone:

Napoli's in-play slugging percentage vs. lefties by pitch location, 2009-2011With left-handers throwing in and out, high and low, Napoli goes with the pitch. He pulls inside pitches, but he also punches outside offerings to center and right field:

Napoli's hit chart vs. lefties, 2009-2011

Napoli will take on another lefty, Jaime Garcia, in Game Six tonight. But this much can be said loud and clear: there's no way Napoli sees another southpaw in the late innings in this series.

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