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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. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gardy32 View Post
      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.
      What players are paid is important on a year-to-year level, and I agree that it's important to how the team accumulates wins. On the other hand, how often have you heard about the contract terms of a player who has been retired long enough to be eligible for hall consideration, much less whether those contract terms were reasonable under the circumstances? Never? Heck, given salary inflation, the "exorbitant" amounts paid to some of the top free agents of even 15 to 20 years ago look pretty quaint. I doubt it becomes a consideration for hall voters.

      But perhaps more importantly, let's consider what would happen if it were a consideration. Not only would the Yankees' free publicity put many more Yankees in the hall of fame than is warranted, but that fact that enormous contracts burden the Yankees less than the Twins would mean that any Twin with an enormous contract would be hobbled while any Yankee with the same contract would receive fair consideration. And God forbid you spent your career with the Rays (I'm looking at you, Mr. Longoria). It wouldn't be the Hall of Fame, it would be the Hall of Yankees (and now maybe Sox and Dodgers).

      Contract terms should not be a consideration. Thankfully, I don't think they really are.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I would say he is close right now, but needs 2-3 more good years, and not to have 5 bad years that leave a bad memory in voters' minds. The recency effect has played havoc on a few candidates.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      I think Mauer is almost a lock at this point. Two more very good seasons and he's in unless he's caught in a dog-fighting ring or something along those lines. Writers will be falling over themselves to vote in a guy who exudes professionalism, is quiet and humble, and played for his hometown team his entire career. New age SABR guys will love his WAR and OBP while traditionalists will vote him in for his batting championships and Silver Slugger awards.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      The hair, don't forget the hair. Silky smooth....
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      His value is as a catcher. He HAS to catcher a greater percentage of games. He can be another Yogi if he keeps his average up, wins another title or two...but he has to be recognized as one of the greater catchers. Right now, any play at DH at this stage (and the next 4-5 years) diminishes his chances. He can go in as a Twins icon if he plays beyond his current contract and gets those 20-years of same team service under his belt. Sorta the Ripken factor. But he could also fall into the Mattingly category. But it is always hard to ignore a lifetime .325 hitter with 15+ years of play.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rosterman View Post
      His value is as a catcher. He HAS to catcher a greater percentage of games. He can be another Yogi if he keeps his average up, wins another title or two...but he has to be recognized as one of the greater catchers. Right now, any play at DH at this stage (and the next 4-5 years) diminishes his chances. He can go in as a Twins icon if he plays beyond his current contract and gets those 20-years of same team service under his belt. Sorta the Ripken factor. But he could also fall into the Mattingly category. But it is always hard to ignore a lifetime .325 hitter with 15+ years of play.
      The Mattingly comp makes sense on the surface but it's not a good comp when you drill down on the players. Mattingly had a career WAR of 45. Mauer isn't even 30 yet and his WAR is 40. Mattingly had one batting title and one MVP as a first baseman (the most power-laden position on the diamond). Mauer has three batting titles and one MVP as a catcher (the least power-laden position on the diamond).

      If Mauer has two more seasons with a .320 average, .400 OBP, and plays 80 games behind the plate, he's in. He'll be close to a 50 WAR player at that point. If he catches more than 80 games (and I think he will, even JR has said as much), that WAR is even higher.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      For a lock? Mauer needs a few more All-Star seasons, and needs significant MVP votes in a few more seasons, and needs to rack up healthy career totals. Five more healthy years with three of them at an All-Star level, and we're talking lock. Something below that, but still decent longevity, and his chances remain good.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      Looks like he'll end up catching 10k to 12k innings which if he can return too his gold glove defense that won't loose him votes. I do think a 4th batting title will really help his cause and because he is a catcher he won't be held to the same offensive standards as OF and 1B but he will be held to higher offensive standards. I think Posey would keep Mauer from getting some votes as when Mauer is eligible they will compare to Posey as well. I also think Higher WAR totals and batting average totals will be what gets him in. (hense the comment about an extra batting title).
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brandon View Post
      I think Posey would keep Mauer from getting some votes as when Mauer is eligible they will compare to Posey as well.
      By the time Mauer is eligible for votes, Posey's career will already be in much clearer focus - who's to say Posey isn't a first-baseman by that time? A lot can happen.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Quote Originally Posted by Sssuperdave View Post
      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.
      Great reply--the third scenario describes Campy to a "T"--I was a kid when Dodgers moved from Brooklyn and then Campy had his serious auto crash--and yes got in after a fairly short career (in comparison to other HOFers).

      I do think that Mauer needs to have another 2 or 3 seasons at least at his 2012 level--with most of his ABs coming as catcher to make the HOF. If he doesnt produce another 300BA or a year with power numbers he will come up a little short...
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brandon View Post
      I think Posey would keep Mauer from getting some votes as when Mauer is eligible they will compare to Posey as well.
      Three years ago, you could have said the same thing about Brian McCann. Let's see if Posey can post more than one 4+ WAR season before suggesting that he's HoF-bound.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      I think Mauer needs to get over 10K innings at catcher and still be seen as at least a decent defensive catcher, along with at least 2000 hits. Another 4 seasons at 2010/2012 levels should get him in even if he has several additional years in decline and/or playing mostly 1B/DH/3B.

      Hard to call him the best hitting catcher with Piazza out there, but a couple of additional seasons at Mauer's current pace and he's clearly at least #2, passing guys like Bench and Berra.

      Joe's definitely on a HoF trajectory. I can't call him a lock; a lot of voters would probably have problems putting him in if his career ended at 9 seasons or so. But he's started getting close and I expect he'll make it. He'll get the high BA guys, the more modern OBP guys, he should have the WAR, the hardware (gold gloves, silver sluggers, the MVP, the batting titles) to make him a fairly easy choice the way he's going. If he leads the Twins back to the playoffs in the next 3-4 seasons while playing at a high level, he's got to be in, don't you think?

      We are watching greatness. Occasionally frustrating greatness (razzin-frazzin' double plays!) but true greatness nonetheless.
    1. savvyspy's Avatar
      savvyspy -
      Come on!! Mauer won't have 200 HRs, 1,000 RBIs, or 100 SBs in his career. He has had ONE season where he hit more than 13 HRs or had more than 85 RBIs.

      He's never won a playoff series and has exactly ONE postseason RBI. He's a great singles hitter that had ONE great season.

      I mean if there was a 2009 Hall of Fame Mauer would be a lock but there are literally dozen and dozens of guys that are more deserving of the HOF than Mauer.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Mauer is a lock now. 3 batting titles, as a catcher, when no other catcher has more than 1. He's got an MVP, gold gloves, and silver sluggers. He's in. Period.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by savvyspy View Post
      Come on!! Mauer won't have 200 HRs, 1,000 RBIs, or 100 SBs in his career. He has had ONE season where he hit more than 13 HRs or had more than 85 RBIs.

      He's never won a playoff series and has exactly ONE postseason RBI. He's a great singles hitter that had ONE great season.

      I mean if there was a 2009 Hall of Fame Mauer would be a lock but there are literally dozen and dozens of guys that are more deserving of the HOF than Mauer.
      Wow.
    1. Pius Jefferson's Avatar
      Pius Jefferson -
      One thing to keep in mind is when Mauer becomes eligible there's going to be more voters who don't just look a at the baseball card numbers. They are going to look at WAR and on-base to fully judge a players worth.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by savvyspy View Post
      Come on!! Mauer won't have 200 HRs, 1,000 RBIs, or 100 SBs in his career. He has had ONE season where he hit more than 13 HRs or had more than 85 RBIs.

      He's never won a playoff series and has exactly ONE postseason RBI. He's a great singles hitter that had ONE great season.

      I mean if there was a 2009 Hall of Fame Mauer would be a lock but there are literally dozen and dozens of guys that are more deserving of the HOF than Mauer.
      It's nice to know that I'm safe from posting the most ridiculous thing of the day.
    1. Jerr's Avatar
      Jerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I think Mauer is almost a lock at this point. Two more very good seasons and he's in unless he's caught in a dog-fighting ring or something along those lines. Writers will be falling over themselves to vote in a guy who exudes professionalism, is quiet and humble, and played for his hometown team his entire career. New age SABR guys will love his WAR and OBP while traditionalists will vote him in for his batting championships and Silver Slugger awards.
      Agree and someone mentioned seeing him as a future Twins manager.... that would be sweeeet!!!
    1. Jerr's Avatar
      Jerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post
      It's nice to know that I'm safe from posting the most ridiculous thing of the day.
      Way safe
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Quote Originally Posted by savvyspy View Post
      Come on!! Mauer won't have 200 HRs, 1,000 RBIs, or 100 SBs in his career. He has had ONE season where he hit more than 13 HRs or had more than 85 RBIs.

      He's never won a playoff series and has exactly ONE postseason RBI. He's a great singles hitter that had ONE great season.

      .
      Those aren't the best things to look at. Mauer's OPS is very impressive. Without adjusting for ballparks, it's above guys like Dunn, Tulu, Cano, Beltran, HanRam, Rolen, Willingham and Morneau. When you take ballparks into account, his 135 OPS+ is the same as Ryan Howard, Josh Hamilton, David Wright and Todd Helton and above guys like Teixeira and Kemp. That's just his bat. No extra credit for doing it as a catcher.
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