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  • The Mauer Formula: Finding Time to Catch


    One of the biggest topics of conversation at TwinsFest this weekend surrounded Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer and how much he should be catching in the coming season. Mauer came out in multiple interviews and said that he wants to catch more next year. There are always positives and negatives to getting his 6-foot-5 frame crouched down behind the plate and it is up to the Twins to find the balanced formula for their All-Star player.

    One year ago, there were plenty of questions surrounding Mauer's health. The 2011 season was a nightmare for the catcher and the team was looking for ways to keep him productive and on the field. With all of the guaranteed money the club had invested in Mauer, the team went back to the drawing board.

    It worked. Mauer finished back near the top of the AL in batting average (4th) and on-base percentage (1st). It took some creativity to get him to those numbers. He played in 147 contests, the most games of his career, but he caught less than 100 games for only the second time. He played 74 games at catcher, 42 as designated hitter, and 30 at first base. This formula seemed to keep Mauer on the field.

    Last year in the American League, the leader board for games played at catcher looked like this:

    Defensive Games as C (AL)
    1. Wieters (BAL): 134
    2. Martin (NYY): 128
    3. Pierzynski (CHW): 126
    4. Avila (DET): 113
    5. Saltalamacchia (BOS): 104

    Mauer's game totals at catcher from 2005-2010 would have put him on this list. In fact, he finished second in the AL in games played in 2008 and he finished fifth back in 2010. Only 12 active players have caught more games than Mauer. Of those 12 other players, Brian McCann and Russell Martin are the only players with less years of experience and more time at catcher.

    The earliest Mauer can reach free agency is 2019 so he will most likely be in a Twins uniform for most of (if not all of) his career. It will certainly be important to get the most value out of him over those next six seasons. During that time, the debate will continue to rage over how much to use the hometown hero behind the plate.

    For the Twins to get the most value out of Mauer, he needs to play catcher as much as possible. His top four seasons for WAR have all been when he has been behind the plate for over 105 games. Terry Ryan said he would like to get Mauer back where he is close to the top of the leader board listed above and that will mean seeing Mauer behind the plate for close to 120 games.

    One idea brought up over the weekend was the thought of having Mauer catch as much as possible over the beginning portion of his current contract. His ticket to the Hall of Fame centers on his ability to continue to perform at a high level while still playing catcher. The problem with this method could be his knees holding up for the long haul. Twins fans will remember that Tony Oliva looked like he was bound for Cooperstown before injuries slowed down his career.

    The real value for Mauer comes from his ability to stay behind the plate especially with the type of player he has become. There were always hopes of Mauer developing more power as he was starting his professional career but that's not the Mauer fans are accustomed to seeing. He is going to hit for a high average and get on base with a sprinkle of power mixed in.

    At his other major positions (first base and DH), those skills are fine, but power is a prerequisite. He is also such a good athlete that it seems his skills get wasted when he is forced to DH for a game. He started more games at DH last season than in any other year. Look for that number to come down a little in 2013 and for his catching totals to increase.

    Finding the perfect formula for Mauer isn't any easy task but the Twins need to find some way to balance his health with getting him behind the plate for more games. To put it simply, Minnesota is a better team when Mauer is the catcher. His value is highest when he can control the pitching staff and put up consistent numbers at the plate.

    No matter what the Twins do to get to that point..... That is the solution to the Mauer Formula.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Mauer Formula: Finding Time to Catch started by Cody Christie
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      I think there is a fallacy here.

      Hitting catchers are considered more valuable if they catch because the drop off is so huge to their replacements. But in this case, Mauer not catching just means Ryan Doumit is. The only difference between Doumit catching and Mauer at DH or vice versa is the difference in defense - and Mauer wasn't all that great defensively last year.

      In general, I agree with the point that Mauer will be more valuable when he catches. But for this year and next, so long as Doumit is healthy, I'd like to see the Twins take it easy on both.

      (Now, when one is hurt, and the option is Butera, then I'm all for driving them into the ground....)
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      I would like to see 100 games at C, 50 games @ 1B/DH and 12 days off.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Mauer spending more time behind the plate is likely the only way that Morneau finishes his career in MN (short of an epic Parmalee implosion)
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Time between pitches is another factor affecting Joe Mauer's longevity at catcher. I hope Twins pitchers re-dedicate themselves this season to spending less time wandering around the mound between deliveries. Everybody in the whole wide world will appreciate it, including Mauer's knees.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      Forget that he calls a terrible game! Mauer should not catch at all anymore. He's terrible at throwing out runners. He calls way too many fastballs away. He's paid a ton and keeping him healthy at any position is more valuable than having to basically eat the last couple years of his contract because he's perennially hurt or under performing offensively. Keeping him at catcher more than half time like last year is a big mistake. Way too much money for way too many years they have to protect that investment.
    1. lee_the_twins_fan's Avatar
      lee_the_twins_fan -
      I suspect Mauer does not call a bad game, but that he's called a lot of fastballs away because of the caliber of pitching the Twins have had in recent years.
      I still think Mauer is the best overall Twins catcher. I agree with John Bonnes about Butera – we need someone who can play other positions.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I think if Mauer or Doumit were hurt and put on the DL, we'd see Chris Herrmann up due to his ability to play pretty much everywhere.

      Gardy said that he plans on doing about he same thing they did in 2012. When one of the media guys asked, "What if Mauer wants to catch more?"

      Gardy said, "Oh, I’ll send him out to the bullpen and he can work out there. No, if Joe wants to catch more, he’s going to tell me. That’s the great thing about it, we talk. I talk to him every day about, “Hey, this is my plan. This is what I’d like to do. You catch two of these games here, the third day you’re going to play first base, then you’re going to DH one.” "
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by SweetOne69 View Post
      I would like to see 100 games at C, 50 games @ 1B/DH and 12 days off.
      That sounds like a good plan for next year, and a very good baseline for a generic 'Joe's early 30's' ratio.

      But since they're very likely going nowhere in 2013, it might be good for JM to catch somewhere around 85 games. Less wear and tear, more games to keep Doumit sharp behind the plate to enhance possible deadline value, and more chances to either expose Butera as an utter fraud of a major leaguer or showcase him for a GM with an all-glove/no-bat fetish.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by fairweather View Post
      Forget that he calls a terrible game! Mauer should not catch at all anymore. He's terrible at throwing out runners. He calls way too many fastballs away. He's paid a ton and keeping him healthy at any position is more valuable than having to basically eat the last couple years of his contract because he's perennially hurt or under performing offensively. Keeping him at catcher more than half time like last year is a big mistake. Way too much money for way too many years they have to protect that investment.
      If I had a choice between calling 911 to get EMS help for either the person who posted this or the guy in a bathrobe wandering around my mostly-ok neighborhood sniffing garbage cans and occasionally clenching his fists together and screaming "Khaaaaaan!!!", you would have heard sirens before I read the 4th sentence.
    1. singlesoverwalks's Avatar
      singlesoverwalks -
      Is the whole Mauer-at-third thing utter fantasy?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by fairweather View Post
      Forget that he calls a terrible game! Mauer should not catch at all anymore. He's terrible at throwing out runners. He calls way too many fastballs away. He's paid a ton and keeping him healthy at any position is more valuable than having to basically eat the last couple years of his contract because he's perennially hurt or under performing offensively. Keeping him at catcher more than half time like last year is a big mistake. Way too much money for way too many years they have to protect that investment.
      1. I'd like to see statistical evidence that he calls more fastballs away than other Twins catchers.

      2. When the average Twins pitcher throws 86 MPH with little life on that fastball, your only option is to call that fastball low and away unless you want it parked in the outfield seats. It's not as if Scott Diamond is going to blow it by Prince Fielder by throwing it inside. Fielder will just turn on the pitch and leisurely plod around the bases.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Catch more. He is paid to catch. He will be declining by the time they even try to put a good team on the field, so they may as well catch him while he is healthy.
    1. pajavorski's Avatar
      pajavorski -
      Great point Bonnes, the twins bench is exactly deep with Jim Thome like bats. So when switching between Mauer and Doumit the only real loss is Mauer's superior defensive skills. Priority one should be keeping mauers bat in the lineup as much as possible. If that means 6 days per month at DH/1B so be it. That man is an on base machine and Willingham's RBI numbers are visible proof of that value.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by singlesoverwalks View Post
      Is the whole Mauer-at-third thing utter fantasy?

      Unfortunately, I think so.
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