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
2011: 408. 2
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.