• For Better Or Worse: Joe Mauer

    You only have two choices: will he be better or worse in 2013?

    2012 Recap
    Given the clustermess that was 2011, most Minnesota Twins fans would have been happy just to see Joe Mauer on the field last year. They did - kinda.

    Mauer not only stayed healthy, but set a career high with 647 plate appearances and 147 games played. However, exactly half of his starts were at catcher (72 games), with the rest happening at designated hitter (42 games) and first base (30 games). I'll leave you to debate how that impacts his value.

    What is not debatable is the he returned to being elite offensively. He was in the AL batting race until the last weekend. His .416 on-base percentage led the league. He hit double-digit home runs (albeit barely) for the first time since his MVP campaign. And he posted an 861 OPS, tops for AL catchers.

    Why He'll Be Worse
    Don't look now, but like a certain blogger, our boy Joe turns 30 this year. That's even more ominous because he was also remarkably healthy last year. Furthermore, so was Ryan Doumit, which meant Mauer's body had the luxury of rarely being forced into multiple consecutive starts. Finally, there is the whole regression to the mean thing - how long can we expect him to stay at this level?

    Why He'll Be Better
    Believe it or not, that 861 OPS he posted is below his career 873 average. So was his .319 batting average. He'll also be a year further away from the injury problems that torpedoed 2011. Finally, both he and the Twins seem to have found (and accepted) a recipe for keeping him healthy by moving him around the diamond a little.

    So which is it? Click on this link to see our official thread AND take the survey. Then leave us a comment saying why.


    This article was originally published in blog: For Better Or Worse: Joe Mauer started by John Bonnes
    Comments 35 Comments
    1. Fire Dan Gladden's Avatar
      Fire Dan Gladden -
      If the numbers last year were worse than his career averages, how can he "regress to the mean"?

      I know you meant league averages, but there really is no reason to believe he will do that. His game is based on smart hitting and is not one demensional. He will be an elite hitter for a few years yet. The Doumit/Mauer platoon behind the plate will help to keep both players healthier in the long run.

      Mauer will be better in 2013.
    1. TiberTwins's Avatar
      TiberTwins -
      Mauer will be better this year because getting him out from behind the plate more keeps him healthier. The numbers show that and he does not have to worry about the offensive drop with Doumit behind the plate.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Mauer was right around his career averages last year. I imagine he'll be about the same this year, maybe a touch better.

      And, while he was slightly below his career averages in BA/SLG% and OPS, he was over his career averages in OBP and OPS+. And, as usual, his numbers w/RISP were very, very good. I'd be very happy if he could do what he did last year every year for the rest of his career
    1. twinzgrl's Avatar
      twinzgrl -
      The fact that Joe rebounded from his disastrous 2011 season so well didn't surprise me. I think it did shut up a number of Mauer bashers. He is getting older, but also wiser, and he knows how much time he can spend behind the plate and maintain his excellence as a hitter. Too bad the Twins had no foresight when they traded Ramos for Capps. It doesn't take a genius to know that a 6'5" catcher can't squat forever. But, I think he will continue to dominate at the plate, and win another batting title this year. I look forward to watching him hit, and hope by some miracle that this weird mix of pitchers that TR has assembled will do better than last year's patchwork mess.
    1. Chance's Avatar
      Chance -
      Hopefully with some fresh blood in the coaching pool will help the whole lineup prove a bit. I'm happy with a repeat of last season (minus all the darn double plays he hit into).
    1. mgraves's Avatar
      mgraves -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fire Dan Gladden View Post
      If the numbers last year were worse than his career averages, how can he "regress to the mean"?...
      "Regress to the mean" does not mean "get worse" or "become more like the average ballplayer". It is any return to his average, provided the initial sample size is large enough. So Mauer can regress from an .861 OPS to an .873 OPS. Granted, Mauer's epic 2009 campaign skews his career averages, but so does his injury plagued 2011, which means his mean [with the rest of his career taken into account] is ".873". The problem, referenced by his age 30 season, is that ballplayer become less effective the older they get [exceptions due to "the clear" and "the clear" notwithstanding]. Age also makes coming back from injuries more labor intensive and longer [again, exceptions due to "the clear" and "the clear" notwithstanding].

      In sum, after the last two years, if Mauer were to "regress" to his mean, he would improve, but the effect of age may make what he is typically capable of may decrease his mean.

      Sidenote--considering his position, I don't like his batted ball profile as he ages.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Positional flexibility or not, Mauer was unusually healthy last year and I don't think that will hold up. I predict he'll land on the DL at least once.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      From '05-'10, only one player whose primary position is catcher had more games played (whether that player did it at catcher or elsewhere) than Mauer and none had more plate appearances.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Mauer will be statistically worse this year simply because the Twins lost their best two options to hit in front of him in the lineup. Parker had a terrific breakdown of how well Mauer utilized the positioning of the infielders when a runner was on base, those oppotunities will likely be decreased without Span and Revere batting in front of him. His OBP/OPS likely would also take a hit as he had a high percentage of intentional walks last year with Span standing on 2B, those will likely decrease considering the internal options for the top of the order likely will not reach 2B as often.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      From '05-'10, only one player whose primary position is catcher had more games played (whether that player did it at catcher or elsewhere) than Mauer and none had more plate appearances.
      Not many catchers are good enough hitters to DH when they're not catching.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Boom Boom View Post
      Not many catchers are good enough hitters to DH when they're not catching.
      That's true, but he was still playing...and if we had some bad arse DH (like Ortiz, for example), he wouldn't have DH'd as much and he'd have played more catcher. DHing Mauer is a luxury Gardy has (and thank goodness Joe hits as well as he does so it's not a hinderence when he does DH), but if Gardy couldn't DH him, he'd be catching more to keep his bat in the lineup. Additionally, if Gardy didn't have an overwhelming desire to play backups as much as he does (day games after night games, games where we took the 1st two games of a three game series, Sundays) or carry three catchers, he'd have more games played and more games behind the plate for his career as well.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      His OBP/OPS likely would also take a hit as he had a high percentage of intentional walks last year with Span standing on 2B, those will likely decrease considering the internal options for the top of the order likely will not reach 2B as often.
      I don't think the intentional walks are as big a part of his arsenal as you're implying there. If you eliminated every single one from last year, his OBP drops like six points.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      'His OBP/OPS likely would also take a hit as he had a high percentage of intentional walks last year with Span standing on 2B, those will likely decrease considering the internal options for the top of the order likely will not reach 2B as often.'

      And you just assume all of those IBB would have been outs? Besides he only had 10 IBB for the whole season, and only 5 had Span at 2B. Either way, his OBP would take a very, very slight hit even if all those IBBs in that scenario turned into outs (which is a big assumption). 5 IBBs in 641 plate appearance.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      That's true, but he was still playing...and if we had some bad arse DH (like Ortiz, for example), he wouldn't have DH'd as much and he'd have played more catcher. DHing Mauer is a luxury Gardy has (and thank goodness Joe hits as well as he does so it's not a hinderence when he does DH), but if Gardy couldn't DH him, he'd be catching more to keep his bat in the lineup. Additionally, if Gardy didn't have an overwhelming desire to play backups as much as he does (day games after night games, games where we took the 1st two games of a three game series, Sundays) or carry three catchers, he'd have more games played and more games behind the plate for his career as well.
      Huh? Gardenhire could have used Mauer more behind the plate, but simply decided not to?

      I'm...skeptical, to put it mildly.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Huh? Gardenhire could have used Mauer more behind the plate, but simply decided not to?

      I'm...skeptical, to put it mildly.
      Not sure why you would be skeptical, but okay. You think every time over his career he benched Mauer or moved him to DH cause he HAD to?
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      'His OBP/OPS likely would also take a hit as he had a high percentage of intentional walks last year with Span standing on 2B, those will likely decrease considering the internal options for the top of the order likely will not reach 2B as often.'

      And you just assume all of those IBB would have been outs? Besides he only had 10 IBB for the whole season, and only 5 had Span at 2B. Either way, his OBP would take a very, very slight hit even if all those IBBs in that scenario turned into outs (which is a big assumption). 5 IBBs in 641 plate appearance.
      Ok forget about the throwaway IBB statement and focus on the first part of the post. (Re)read Parker's article:

      Joe Mauer pulled through in 2012 - Blogs - Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum

      or check his career splits

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...ear=Career&t=b

      Mauer hits well under any scenario, but in every possible way runners can occupy bases, he hits much, much better compared to when the bases are empty.

      Unless we are expecting whoever is now going to be atop the lineup to occupy the bases as well as Span and Revere did last year Mauer's numbers are bound to decrease.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I personally think that he'll remain in that same BA/OPS range... Naturally, I think that the OBP comes down a little because it was just so high last year, but I think he can add a few more doubles. I personally really like the idea of him catching no more than half of the games. I think that's more than enough. That way, he's able to play in 145-155 games (assuming health) rather than 120-130.

      And yes, I also think that Gardy is wise to give guys days off throughout the season. Catchers should not catch the day after a night game more than a handful of times in a season, at least until the last two months of the season if they're in contention. I think that his ability to play 1B 20-30 games will help him and help Morneau and help the team by keeping them healthy.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      Ok forget about the throwaway IBB statement and focus on the first part of the post. (Re)read Parker's article:

      Joe Mauer pulled through in 2012 - Blogs - Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum

      or check his career splits

      Joe Mauer Career Batting Splits - Baseball-Reference.com

      Mauer hits well under any scenario, but in every possible way runners can occupy bases, he hits much, much better compared to when the bases are empty.

      Unless we are expecting whoever is now going to be atop the lineup to occupy the bases as well as Span and Revere did last year Mauer's numbers are bound to decrease.
      That is a fair argument...and it could happen, Though, in case of last year (just last year), Span was in the .340s and Revere in the .330s. Not bad, but those are attainable numbers if/when Hicks comes up occupying the leadoff spot and Carroll is in the 2 hole. Additionally, he's had some horrendous #2 hitters over the years since Mauer has been with the team and he maintained his numbers anyway. We'll see.

      Thanks for the interesting viewpoint, something to monitor this year
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Catchers should not catch the day after a night game more than a handful of times in a season, at least until the last two months of the season if they're in contention. I think that his ability to play 1B 20-30 games will help him and help Morneau and help the team by keeping them healthy.
      And that's true, but that's more of a guideline throughout the game (just have to look at games played at catcher in the majors). It's not an absolute necessity that he just couldn't go out there and catch. It's a manager's choice, not because he COULDN'T go catch more. I guess what I'm saying is this. Does anyone really think Mauer would have only played 74 games last year if catcher was his only option? Even earlier in his career. Do we really believe he'd only have played 110 games in 2006?
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      I just don't know. Was the knee "as good as it gets" last year or could his work over this winter further strengthen it? If he could further strengthen his base, that might off-set wear & tear from the extra year on his age.

      My guess is that there will be a slight decline in his overall numbers but that it won't be a significant decline. I would still hope that he can maintain and OBP of .400 or more but a drop in OBP would not bother me as much if his extra-base hits would increase back to 2010 levels or better.
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