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  • Is Joe Mauer a lock for the HOF?

    Bill Baer wrote an interesting article the other day at ESPN.com letting the world know that it was time to appreciate Joe Mauer. This is a skill that many Twins fans are lacking in recent years especially following his injury plagued 2011 season. As far as the rest of the baseball world, there is probably a little less recognition for Mauer’s continued consistency since the Twins have been one of the worst teams in baseball over the last two seasons. Mauer is one of the best players in baseball and he might just be the best hitting catcher of all-time.
    One interesting portion of the article took a look at Mauer's career WAR when compared to other catchers that are already enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. "Mauer currently ranks ahead of Roy Campanella, Rick Ferrell and Ray Schalk. He isn't far behind Roger Bresnahan or Ernie Lombardi. If Mauer can stay healthy and productive through the end of his current contract (a very big if), he very well could be a lock for enshrinement in Cooperstown."

    So this begs the question, is Mauer nearly a lock for the HOF?

    If Mauer's career were tragically to end before the start of next season, it doesn't seem likely that he would have the numbers to be elected. He is close to crossing the 1,300 hit mark so he hasn't even made it to the halfway point of the 3,000 hit plateau. His power numbers are never going to get him elected since he has yet to hit 100 home runs in nine years of big league experience. The true test of his greatness might be in his ability to keep his lifetime batting average as high as possible. Mauer is a career .323 batter and he gets on base over 40% of the time.

    There are plenty of accolades that have started to mount for Mauer. The three batting titles that he has already won are unprecedented for a catcher. He was close to winning his fourth title last season before falling off at the end of the year. Batting titles are great but they don't necessarily mean that he will get enshrined in Cooperstown. Twins fans are well aware of the case for Tony Oliva to make the HOF and he had three batting titles to his credit before he was forced to retire.

    Mauer's MVP season in 2009 was something that statisticians could drool about because of his combination of power, average, and playing a tough defensive position. One great season doesn't mean a player should be a lock for the Hall. There have been plenty of players to win one MVP and never be close to reaching that mark again. Some consider Justin Morneau's MVP selection as one of the worst in the Division Era. Injuries have made it tough for him to get back to that form.

    Looking toward the future and projecting the rest of Mauer's career, it is easy to think that he will get strong consideration for the Hall of Fame. His health will continue to be something to watch especially since he is close to 6-foot-6 and he has a lot of weight on those precious knees every time that he squats behind the plate. The Twins will continue to use him at other positions as he ages but his tie to greatness is his ability to be a catcher.

    When some try to name the best catcher in the history of the game, Johnny Bench usually tops most lists. Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, and others are also thought of highly. These men racked up a lot of innings behind the plate and it doesn't look like Mauer will be a full-time catcher for the rest of his career. These men were solid as catchers in a gritty era of baseball.

    Bench played 17 seasons and caught close to 14,500 innings, Bera caught over 12,000 innings, and Fisk racked up 18.500 innings. Mauer currently sits at 7,224 innings as a catcher and he has averaged 858.2 innings per season. Last season, he logged a little over 600 frames at catcher, which were the fewest he had in a season that he played over 100 games. If this trend continues, it could take away some of his votes when it comes to election time.

    At this point, it doesn't seem like Mauer would be a lock for the Hall of Fame. It will likely take multiple more seasons at his current rate of production for him to be a lock. Twins fans will get to watch Mauer on every step of his journey and hopefully that path will lead him to the gates of Cooperstown.

    What does Mauer have left to accomplish to get into the HOF? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
    This article was originally published in blog: Is Joe Mauer a lock for the HOF? started by Cody Christie
    Comments 70 Comments
    1. SockNet's Avatar
      SockNet -
      Interesting to think of. I think Mauer will be one of the first players to loose votes because he didn't live up to the expectations of his contract in the era of the mega deals, even if his numbers alone still suggest he should be in.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      I think he's pretty close. He needs 10 years, of course, but that comes after this season. He's still in his prime but his peak has been pretty darn good. I don't think he needs another 2009 season (although I hope he has several), just a few more solid Mauer years.

      It'll be interesting to see how the voters look at him, long term. It's stereotyping but traditional voters won't like his low power numbers but will probably like his avg/batting titles. New voters will look at WAR which, b/c of it's defensive problems, probably underrates Mauer. He compares pretty well at this point of his career with other HOF catchers. Durability will be key but I think he rather easily makes it in.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Based on the history he's already made, the stuff he's already done that no one else at his position has, I'd be shocked beyond belief if he didn't make it
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      As long as injuries don't derail his career and he can stick at catcher at least half time over the next couple years he should be a first ballot guy. He is already one of the best 3 or 4 catchers of all time.
    1. SmokedEyelids's Avatar
      SmokedEyelids -
      I think he needs to remain at catcher as long as possible to have a chance at making it in. As a catcher, his numbers and his value are astronomical. As a first baseman, or even third basemen, they'd merely be very good. If he's able to catch half of the season for the next 4-6 seasons, while still maintaining a high average, OBP, etc., I think he gets in.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      As long as injuries don't derail his career and he can stick at catcher at least half time over the next couple years he should be a first ballot guy. He is already one of the best 3 or 4 catchers of all time.
      I think he's still out of the top 5 - Bench, Berra, Cochrane, Rodriguez, Piazza and Carter are all still above him. And don't underrate a guy like Campanella. Because of segregation, he didn't get to the majors until he was 26 and a fulltimer at 27. He played 10 years and won 3 MVPs. Fisk, Torre, Simmons and Mauer would all be in the discussion to round out the top 10.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      As has been mentioned, he does need one more season, although even DL seasons count. so, he's a lock already. Yes, it'd be great for him to catch around half of the time for the next few years, but everything at this point is just bonus for HOF voters.
    1. lee_the_twins_fan's Avatar
      lee_the_twins_fan -
      Quote Originally Posted by SockNet View Post
      Interesting to think of. I think Mauer will be one of the first players to loose votes because he didn't live up to the expectations of his contract in the era of the mega deals, even if his numbers alone still suggest he should be in.
      Didn't live up to the expectations of his contract? You're joking, right?

      In this day of moving players around to different positions, and the expectation to protect Mauer foKevin h of the rest of his contract will weigh on HOF voters, but he remains one of the best hitters in the game – average-wise, if not power-wise. His on-base percentage has been great, and I consider him to be a strong leader off the field as well. I fully expect Mauer – several years from now – to become a major league manager, perhaps even with the Twins.

      Some people expect too much when a player signs a big contract. But I'd rather have Mauer than four Kevin Correias. He works hard and he's a great player.

      It's premature to think about if Mauer could make the HOF. He's (hopefully) got another 10 years or so of baseball left in him. Let's ask this question again in five more years.
    1. East Coast Twin's Avatar
      East Coast Twin -
      Quote Originally Posted by gunnarthor View Post
      . . .Fisk, Torre, Simmons and Mauer would all be in the discussion to round out the top 10.
      . . as would Bill Dickey.
    1. nick5253's Avatar
      nick5253 -
      Quote Originally Posted by SockNet View Post
      Interesting to think of. I think Mauer will be one of the first players to loose votes because he didn't live up to the expectations of his contract in the era of the mega deals, even if his numbers alone still suggest he should be in.
      I highly disagree. I don't think voters ever consider the salary of a player when voting for HOF. And since salaries continue to rise, 5 years after Mauer has retired, 23 mil per year will seem like a small sum for a potential HOFer.

      I have never understood why fans care about salaries and whether or not the player is 'earning' the salary. If you look at WAR and a simplified 5 mil per win, Mauer has greatly exceeded his salary and 'earned' quite a bit of that contract:
      Career to Date Earnings: $85 Mil
      Career to Date WAR: 40.1

      Career to Date Value: $200.5 Mil
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Well he has a MVP which should be good for at least 50% of the BBWAA votes automatically.
    1. Sssuperdave's Avatar
      Sssuperdave -
      I can think of three scenarios, and in 2 of the 3 he makes the hall of fame.

      Scenario #1 (most likely in my opinion): Mauer has another productive 5-10 years, no more MVPs or 1000+ OPS's like 2009, but quite a few years over .300, and maybe another batting title, evenutally changes positions. I think he's a hall-of-fame lock under this scenario.

      Scenario #2: The wheels fall off.. for some reason or other, perhaps injury, his number revert to 2011 levels permanently. He makes it another 5 - 8 years, but isn't very good. I don't think he has quite enough to make the hall under this scenario, and fans are incensed at his contract.

      Scenario #3: He has a tragic career ending injury ala Puckett. Like Puckett, I think he makes the hall of fame under this scenario. Yes, he doesn't quite have Puckett's slugging/power numbers, but he has a stretch of 9 years that is arguably the best 9-year offensive stretch for any catcher in history. I think voters would give him the benefit of the doubt that scenario #1 would have happened, and he gets in.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Well he has a MVP which should be good for at least 50% of the BBWAA votes automatically.
      Tell that to Dale Murphy :-)
    1. jwestbrock's Avatar
      jwestbrock -
      I would say he has a very strong chance. It comes down to how much he catches the rest of the way. If he catches 80-110 games a year for at least 3-4 more years, which I think he would do if they were contending and needing to put the best lineup on the field most days, that would keep him considered a catcher to most people, which will help his chances.

      He is sitting at 40.1 Fangraphs WAR (38.0 Baseball-Reference). That averages out to about 4.5 WAR/year. If he declines relatively steadily (by say 0.5 WAR/year) he would end up around 56 WAR, good for the back end of the top ten all-time for catchers and top 150 overall. Whether you believe in WAR or not, that is pretty good company. If he maintains a 4-5 WAR/year for a couple more years and then declines steadily, then we are talking about borderline top 5 for catchers and borderline top-100. Pretty good case then.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Barring career-ending injury in the next three years, yes, Joe Mauer is a lock for the HoF.
    1. bmantfan's Avatar
      bmantfan -
      Joe Mauer well be in the hall of fame because numbers are the only thing they look at. He's a great guy off the field and on the field. Also he plays the game right without using drugs.
    1. Gardy32's Avatar
      Gardy32 -
      Quote Originally Posted by nick5253 View Post
      I highly disagree. I don't think voters ever consider the salary of a player when voting for HOF. And since salaries continue to rise, 5 years after Mauer has retired, 23 mil per year will seem like a small sum for a potential HOFer.

      I have never understood why fans care about salaries and whether or not the player is 'earning' the salary. If you look at WAR and a simplified 5 mil per win, Mauer has greatly exceeded his salary and 'earned' quite a bit of that contract:
      Career to Date Earnings: $85 Mil
      Career to Date WAR: 40.1

      Career to Date Value: $200.5 Mil

      I can't speak for other people, but the main reason I care about players' salaries is that the team only has so much money to spend. We can argue about self-imposed caps by the Twins all day long, but when it comes down to it, they only spend so much on the players.

      It's all about value. A team built around players earning less than they're "worth" should have money to go out and get that slugger on the free agent market. They can go get that SP that puts them over the edge. I want to have a team that's being paid $100M but WAR says should be paid $200M or $300M based on production. This year has basically been punted on, but rebuilding should mean shedding contracts that overpay (think Vernon Wells and Soriano) based on past production. Which is good for the long-term health of the organization. Then you build your nucleus by locking down consistent players for under market value, leading to an excess of money to fill out the roster with whatever you couldn't develop on the farm.

      Basically I care about players' salaries because i think that getting better value out of current contracts leads to more wins and the potential to fill holes.

      Sorry this was so basic and maybe even patronizing. I just think it's something that should be cared about and understood for everyone hoping for their team to get W's.
    1. mbgopher's Avatar
      mbgopher -
      First, the player's contract shouldn't set the context of whether or not he was an elite player in his time. Salary has no impact on whether or not a candidate deserves entry.

      Second, you say the "era of mega deals" as if this is a temporary phase that the game is seeing. I guess in theory it could be, but in all likelihood, contracts will become more and more ridiculous as teams lock up young talent early on (ex: Joey Votto, Andrew McCutchen, etc.), straining the free agent market and driving up the market price of elite (ex: Zach Greinke) and mediocre players.
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      Mauer will walk into the HOF on the first ballot, even if he finishes his career as a DH. What is this "nearly a lock" B.S.
      Now, I think you can argue he is overpaid, considering the decline in his innings as a catcher. But with the ridiculous contracts being handed out to free agents these days, that argument is over as well. There's more money than talent in baseball these days.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      He was underpaid every year he was healthy before 2011. In 2012 he was back right on the value of his contract.
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