by, 04-27-2012 at 09:38 AM (704 Views)
I was thinking about the 2012 Twins' imbalance on offense, between getting on base (acceptable) and power (low). A guy we look to for power is Joe Mauer, so I decided to see where he stands at this early stage of the season. Arbitrarily I picked his 2008 season as a benchmark - an excellent season by any standard, but not as insanely high a bar to set as his 2009 season, and one very much in line with his career numbers. In 2008 he had 633 plate appearances, and so far in 2012 he has 83. If I scale up his production proportionally, what do we get?
This is almost freakish, especially considering how small the sample-size is for 2012 as yet. He's almost exactly on pace for the same number of hits *and* walks - you can see that the OBP's are similar (.413/.410) but these two components line up too. The home runs are close as well, though largely a coincidence because the lone HR in 2012 could just as easily be 0 or 2.
It's the doubles and triples, which I'll combine as similar kinds of hits especially for a lefty, where he's coming up short in 2012. 35 versus 23, if this performance continues, looks like a significant dropoff for a season, and continues the trend from his 2011 season; a dozen fewer chances to drive Denard or Jamey home from first if one is there, a dozen fewer chances for someone else to drive Joe home with just a single. Of course, I have to repeat that this is a small sample size, and a mere two doubles stretched from singles would have brought things into (freakishly) perfect alignment.
So... what to make of this? First, clutch/RISP issues aside (which I think to be non-existent for Joe anyway), there's nothing horribly wrong with Mauer's hitting, especially only 19 games into the season. Second, nevertheless, I would like to see something changed.
Anecdotally, we've seen too many bases-loaded situations not turn into crooked numbers (or even a vertical); this suggests enough table setting and not enough power. It's not only a question of making better use of these bases-loaded situations; some of these situations would not have been bases-loaded at all if somebody had hit a double to drive in a run earlier in the sequence.
We can't ask most of the Twins table-setters to change; Jamey Carroll isn't going to suddenly start hitting doubles in the gap, and Ben Revere won't be launching balls over the fence anytime soon. We can't ask Clete Thomas to stop swinging and missing, for that matter, though we can ask Gardy to stop penciling him in. And the power guys, Willingham and Morneau, are providing the power (Morneau's batting average aside).
But Joe Mauer is the one guy on the team who has the range of batting skills, IMO, to adjust his game to the needs of his team in a given year. Joe's getting on base at a .410 clip, as mentioned earlier, which is phenomenal. He needs to stop that. Well, if he could give us 2008 numbers, that would be super. But if he has to sacrifice some of the on-base part of his game, to increase the power above even 2008, I think he should do it. Launch a few home runs, drive a lot of balls to the gap. Fifteen homers and 45 doubles/triples? I think he's capable. If he bats only .280 in doing so, with a few less walks, so be it.
This is somewhat independent of being in the #3 slot in the batting order, but that's another good/traditional reason too.
I don't want to think of him as Joe Table-Setter. We need to see Mauer Power. Not because it would make him a "better" hitter, but because it's what the team needs this year. It would be an aspect of "quiet leadership", given that he's not known for being a vocal leader, that would help his team a lot.