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  • Catching Up on Mauer's Catching

    After an injury-plagued 2011 season, the Twins had to take an alternative approach with Joe Mauer and his time on the defensive side of the ball. In 2012,he started 72 games at catcher, 42 games at DH, and 30 games at first base. It was the first time in Mauer's career where he started more than 100 games and didn't play at least 90 games behind the plate.

    In spring training, Mauer made it be known that he wanted more time at catcher. Ron Gardenhire and the Twins front office have met his request. Mauer has started 81 of the Twins 86 games this season. He has started 54 at catcher, 22 at DH, and five games at first base. He's up to 484.2 innings; that puts him on pace to get over 900 innings for the sixth time in his career.

    Innings at Catcher
    2005: 999.2
    2006: 1059.1
    2007: 777.2
    2008: 1203.0
    2009: 939.0
    2010: 951.2
    2011: 408. 2
    2012: 628.1

    Mauer has also been more effective at his natural position. According to the defensive runs saved statistic, Mauer is having his best season. The highest mark he has posted in any season is three runs above average. In 2013, he has already posted his best defensive runs saved mark with five runs above average. Only Royals catcher Salvador Perez has a higher mark among American League catchers.

    Another area where Mauer has shown improvement is rSB or "Stolen Base Runs Saved." This stat measures how many "runs" a catcher contributes to their team by throwing out runners and preventing runners from attempting steals in the first place. Mauer is tied with Matt Wieters for first place in the AL with two runs saved. In 2007, Mauer posted his highest rSB with three runs saved, so he could be on pace to break that mark.

    This year runners have found it harder to steal bases on Mauer. For his career, Mauer has thrown out 33% of potential base stealers. This season he has been able to raise his percentage to 46%; the league average is 25%. His caught stealing percentage currently ranks second in the AL behind Yan Gomes of the Indians.

    A catcher's ability to frame pitches continues to be something that interests fans. Ryan Doumit is one of the worst catchers at framing pitches and this can be tough on Twins pitchers. Joe Mauer does better behind the plate and umpires are more willing to give him some close calls. Over the course of his career, Mauer has compiled some of the best catcher framing seasons in history.

    To think about where the Twins were a season ago with the 2012 version of Mauer, it is hard to believe the team has gotten to this low point with the 2013 Mauer. There were plenty of questions about how much time Mauer should spend behind the plate. It seems that Mauer has put many of those concerns to rest. He is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball and the Twins are a better team when he is behind the dish.

    He's also not too bad with a bat in his hand and Twins fans are lucky to watch him on a daily basis.
    This article was originally published in blog: Catching Up on Mauer's Catching started by Cody Christie
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Mauer is, in fact, a fine catcher. However, the question also has to be asked, is catching this much good for Mauer? The Twins have invested in him heavily and for a long time. If catching at 30 saps him of his power and also makes him more slump prone, is it worth it? I think that Joe needs to transition (slowly) to first base. This dovetails with my belief that the Twins would be better off with the current Justin Morneau playing somewhere else. Having someone with positional flexibility at first base works better with making Mauer a part-time or half-time first baseman.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Quote Originally Posted by stringer bell View Post
      Mauer is, in fact, a fine catcher. However, the question also has to be asked, is catching this much good for Mauer? The Twins have invested in him heavily and for a long time. If catching at 30 saps him of his power and also makes him more slump prone, is it worth it? I think that Joe needs to transition (slowly) to first base. This dovetails with my belief that the Twins would be better off with the current Justin Morneau playing somewhere else. Having someone with positional flexibility at first base works better with making Mauer a part-time or half-time first baseman.
      I agree Mauer can't catch forever, the only argument I'd make is that it's harder to find a good catcher who can handle a bat than it is*a 1B who can and that's why they're at their best with Mauer behind the plate
    1. Thegrin's Avatar
      Thegrin -
      Lets keep our eye on the ball. Let Mauer and Morneau play out the season and let 2014 take care of itself.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      He may not be a catcher forever, but I think it's in the Twins best interest, both now and for the next wave, to have him catching as long as possible. I could see giving him some breaks down the stretch to let Pinto get some reps (assuming he's ready), but beyond that, Mauer should be catching until he cannot catch anymore.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      If I'm looking at the stats you gave correctly, he has caught 54 of 86 of the Twins games or about 62%-63%. If he maintains the same pace, that would mean he would catch about 101-102 games on the season. My guess is it will be somewhere around 100 games although they may curtail him a bit more later in the season.

      That seems reasonable to me. It is basically 5/8 games --- allows a decent amount of non-catching days as long as the team has an off-day in there although they may want to cut it back a little when there aren't any off days.

      It also seems like it should be reasonably sustainable for at least a couple of years barring a major injury.

      But I also think that we need to see what impact it has on his batting -- especially as the summer heat wears on. He's in a bit of a slump right now -- seems like he always has a slump around the all-star break. Will be interesting to see if he gears up again as July goes on.
    1. Boone's Avatar
      Boone -
      My question is this: once the trade deadline passes, what do the Twins gain by having Mauer catch?
      If playing him at catcher is the only way to get our young guys (Hicks, Arcia, Parm, Dozier, etc.) plus Willingham-- once he returns-- into the lineup, I'm fine with it. But in a lost season, I would argue that the Twins should give Mauer as little time as possible at catcher going forward so that he is fresher for future seasons when the Twins have a chance to compete.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Don't (or shouldn't) some of the young pitchers gain something (or a lot) from having Mauer catch?

      That would seem to me to be the big benefit.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Unexpectedly, the Twins now have a first baseman that hits for little power in a power position. If Mauer plays first, and doesn't learn to hit the ball 10 feet further with that perfect stroke and large body in the prime of his career, the Twins would still have a first baseman with little power. Mauer's value is behind the plate, and even if he plays with some pain, he is paid well to play with pain. Isn't that kind of part of the deal?
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      Mauer's value is behind the plate, and even if he plays with some pain, he is paid well to play with pain. Isn't that kind of part of the deal?
      As long as that pain doesn't derail him from catching permanently.

      The question seems to be how to maximize Mauer's long-term value at catcher. Is that using him up now or rationing him now in order to keep him catching for as long as possible.

      Looks like the Twins have hit a pretty good medium for now.
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      OK - I'll bite. This whole thread is trolling, right? We have an elite defensive catcher by whatever means you measure it (eye, traditional stats, sabr stats) and likely the best hitting catcher in the history of this league and we are worried about moving him to a position where he is substantially less valuable. Let him catch until he falls apart - in the meantime save your TD time worrying about starting pitchingl
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      Unexpectedly, the Twins now have a first baseman that hits for little power in a power position. If Mauer plays first, and doesn't learn to hit the ball 10 feet further with that perfect stroke and large body in the prime of his career, the Twins would still have a first baseman with little power. Mauer's value is behind the plate, and even if he plays with some pain, he is paid well to play with pain. Isn't that kind of part of the deal?
      So Gardy takes lots of abuse from the peanut gallery for (granted) stupid assumptions like "play second, bat second." But this kind of thing gets a pass? Why does a first baseman have to be a power hitter if the alternative is a hitter like Joe? Just because he's a first baseman?

      Besides, it's not like he can't hit for power, even if his totals in the particular home run statistic are somewhat low. His slugging percentage would be roughly average for first basemen in the majors this year, and his OPS would put him in the top 6 or 7. His OBP, which is the real strength of his game, would only trail Joey Votto this year, and just because he plays first base doesn't mean OBP is unimportant.

      Hell, I'd take Joe as a full-time first baseman over lots of first basemen in this league and not fret for one second about his home run total. To do otherwise is just lazy thinking.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      So Gardy takes lots of abuse from the peanut gallery for (granted) stupid assumptions like "play second, bat second." But this kind of thing gets a pass? Why does a first baseman have to be a power hitter if the alternative is a hitter like Joe? Just because he's a first baseman?

      Besides, it's not like he can't hit for power, even if his totals in the particular home run statistic are somewhat low. His slugging percentage would be roughly average for first basemen in the majors this year, and his OPS would put him in the top 6 or 7. His OBP, which is the real strength of his game, would only trail Joey Votto this year, and just because he plays first base doesn't mean OBP is unimportant.

      Hell, I'd take Joe as a full-time first baseman over lots of first basemen in this league and not fret for one second about his home run total. To do otherwise is just lazy thinking.
      I agree with all of that, but I'd still rather have him catch. I think it's where we get the most value for him, but if they moved him to 1B, I think he'd excel there defensively and continue hitting well.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      I agree with all of that, but I'd still rather have him catch. I think it's where we get the most value for him, but if they moved him to 1B, I think he'd excel there defensively and continue hitting well.
      I'd sure rather have him catch, too. But let's not pretend he'd be a liability at first base.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      I agree that keeping Mauer behind the plate would be optimal, but I think he might be a more effective hitter longer if he got relief from catching. That might include more power and I am sure that he would be a fine fielder at first. There really is no way to know if my assumption is correct.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      So Gardy takes lots of abuse from the peanut gallery for (granted) stupid assumptions like "play second, bat second." But this kind of thing gets a pass? Why does a first baseman have to be a power hitter if the alternative is a hitter like Joe? Just because he's a first baseman?

      Hell, I'd take Joe as a full-time first baseman over lots of first basemen in this league and not fret for one second about his home run total. To do otherwise is just lazy thinking.
      Thanks for the energetic thinking? I don't even know what lazy thinking is, but maybe that makes it even more lazy? I don't know why it needs to get personal, and i will not go there. It is usually much easier to replace a first baseman with power than many, and even most positions. I like Mauer behind the plate anyway. I think I said that. Wherever he plays, he will be in the lineup minus his days of rest (and I didn't say, nor mean, that he would be a liability at first). That is a given and I have no doubt it will happen with the new manager next year, too. It is pretty apparent that Gardenhire is resigned to playing people that don't hit (the hand he is dealt?) everywhere (no, I don't mean Mauer), and batting them in an order that assumes they will. Man typing makes me tired. Time to take a nap.
    1. SpantheMan's Avatar
      SpantheMan -
      I'd like to point out that Mauer is one of the best players the Twins have ever had. He is the face of the franchise and they should take his wants into consideration. Catching more makes it more likely that will get into the Hall of Fame.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      As long as that pain doesn't derail him from catching permanently.

      The question seems to be how to maximize Mauer's long-term value at catcher. Is that using him up now or rationing him now in order to keep him catching for as long as possible.

      Looks like the Twins have hit a pretty good medium for now.
      That's a fair point. We've seen Gardy be careful with Mauer in the past (2007) when the season was already lost.

      But the thing with that is that you have an elite all-around catcher in the prime of his career and to me, Mauer was paid to be Joe Mauer and suit up for the Twins, as opposed to being valued for his specific contribution to a World Series team. These past 3 seasons have basically become "lost" by June, so are we supposed to just stop using one of the best catchers of all-time for huge portions of the season because the team sucks?

      At some point, it needs to be remembered that this is still a product for the fans, and those fans by tickets in large numbers whether the team wins 90 or loses 90. I think we're already getting beyond the point in Mauer's career where he could be featured as a full-time catcher on World Series team. That ain't happening in the next few years unless some dramatic changes occur. By then, I think Mauer will still be a productive hitter, but he'll be a "catcher" in the sense that V-Mart or Mike Napoli is a "catcher" now.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      That's a fair point. We've seen Gardy be careful with Mauer in the past (2007) when the season was already lost.

      But the thing with that is that you have an elite all-around catcher in the prime of his career and to me, Mauer was paid to be Joe Mauer and suit up for the Twins, as opposed to being valued for his specific contribution to a World Series team. These past 3 seasons have basically become "lost" by June, so are we supposed to just stop using one of the best catchers of all-time for huge portions of the season because the team sucks?

      At some point, it needs to be remembered that this is still a product for the fans, and those fans by tickets in large numbers whether the team wins 90 or loses 90. I think we're already getting beyond the point in Mauer's career where he could be featured as a full-time catcher on World Series team. That ain't happening in the next few years unless some dramatic changes occur. By then, I think Mauer will still be a productive hitter, but he'll be a "catcher" in the sense that V-Mart or Mike Napoli is a "catcher" now.
      I'm a little dull right now but I'm not really getting how many games you think he should be catching currently.

      I said in my post from 5:58 p.m., 7-9-13 that he was on track to catch about 100 games this season.

      That's the "happy medium" to which I was referring in the post you quote.

      Admittedly, my hope in the 2011-2012 off-season was that Mauer would catch about 110-115 games so the 100 is below that. But I guess its not so far below that it is offensive to me. He's catching in about 5 out of every 8 games and has played in 84 out of 88.

      I'm pretty good with that. The issue, I guess, is whether they keep up this pace through the end of the year or shut him down on the catching side. We'll just have to wait and see how that plays out.
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