• Booing Mauer? While Asinine, Not Hard To See Why...

    Much has been made recently about the boo birds in Target Field singling out Joe Mauer while he’s up to bat. It is somewhat hard to understand this early in the season while he’s actually performing pretty well from a grand scheme perspective, batting .319 with a .410 On-Base Percentage.

    He’s played in every game, has knocked in some runners, and has even hit a HR over the limestone wall in right field.

    But people’s eyes (including mine) are seeing something different, and that’s a lack of production in big moments and late in games. Hence the boo’s.

    You can point to statistics like his .400 batting average with runners in scoring position, or his 1.125 OPS while the Twins have a lead in a game, and think to yourself, “Joe is back!”

    That’s fine. But here are some other (admittedly small sample size, just like all these statistics, good or bad) stats that demonstrate clearly why many fans are frustrated with him thus far.
    • The Twins have not lead many games this year, and while they’ve been behind on the scoreboard, Mauer’s tri-slash line is .256/.304/.326, good for a .630 OPS. Not exactly bringing his team back into any games…
    • In the 7th, 8th, and 9th inning of all games, that tri-slash line is .200/.360/.200, a paltry .560 OPS. In those same innings, he has just 1 RBI and no extra-base hits. Not exactly producing in crunch time…
    • Baseball-Reference.com has a statistic that tracks situational hitting called “late and close” (admittedly, I’m not sure on the exact specifics of it), in those situations, his OPS is .397. You’re not reading that incorrectly.
    • Here’s some season tri-slash lines for Player X:
    2001: .327/.378/.415
    2004: .326/.374/.407
    2009: .308/.365/.392
    Mauer in 2012: .319/.410/.403. Pretty similar, right?

    So, any guesses as to who Player X is? I’ll give you the answer in the form of another question: Would you pay Juan Pierre $23 million dollars?!

    Personally, you won’t find me joining the boo-birds in getting on Joe’s case, as the title of this post states, it’s asinine.



    He’s a once-in-a-lifetime hitter, playing the games most physically demanding position a vast majority of the time.

    He’s won 3 batting titles.

    He’s won an MVP.

    He’s Joe freakin’ Mauer, a born and raised Minnesotan.

    But I also think you’re a little off on your analysis if you feel this is the same Joe Mauer that won those batting titles and an MVP award. When it has mattered this year, when the Twins and their fans have needed him to come through up to this point, he simply put, hasn’t. It’s a “what have you done for me lately” situation.

    In New York that would get you run out of town. In Minnesota, I guess you just have to deal with some boo’s until everything regresses (or progresses) back to the mean (which it will).

    You can follow me on Twitter: @MNTwinsGUFS, send any thoughts or questions to: [email protected], or leave your comments below! (Also available at: http://Twins.GearUpForSports.com/blog/ )
    This article was originally published in blog: Booing Mauer? While Asinine, Not Hard To See Why... started by Steve Lein
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Good post, and I think you're right in that it isn't just about the RISP slash line. In my opinion, there are a lot of times that not getting a hit is OK in those crucial situations. Hits are always good, like the one that he had (literall) off of Atchinson last night... Sometime, a fly out to deep enough in the outfield to score a runner from 3B with less than two outs is all that you need. Does nothing for the slash line (in face, reduces the SLG), but vital to a team's win. Sometimes the weak GB to second base gets a run in and that can be important. I definitely get frustration when there are less than two outs, a runner on third and we get a pop up to SS or short LF, or a GB to 1B.

      That said, I never will understand people booing or being upset when someone doesn't get a hit with two outs. In those scenarios, a hitter literally has to get a hit to drive in the run. With less than two outs, the run can be driven in without the luxory of a hit, but with two outs, even if he hits .333 in that situation, he'll get out 2 out of 3 times.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I don't know they are booing Mauer, or that particular outcome achieved by Mauer. Those are two very different things.....As for the GB that produces a run, Mauer (or any hitter) did nothing other than not strike out in that situation. The other person(s) created the run. It was just luck for him that a runner was at third. Sorry, it is. People can argue all they want that SLG does not matter, but it does.

      Speaking of things I'm tired of, Mauer moved out of MN the very first chance he had. He had as much control over the fact he was born here as the desk I'm sitting at had in determining where it is right now. I have never understood why people care that he was born here, but ignore the fact he moved the first moment he could.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      I've probably been about 20 games or so since his epic 2009 season in the Dome - I don't think I've ever really booed Mauer (or any Twins player) for that matter. I think it's different to boo in baseball because it's such an individual sport...it feels less cruel and ad hominem to boo something like a hockey team when they fail to get a shot in a 2-minute power play.

      The specific stats you cited in that article don't concern me. I think his performance this year is similar to how he played in 2010, when he played 137 games and batted .327. And if he maintained that through 2011, I don't think the backlash would have surfaced to the extent it did. Most of us knew that 2009 was somewhat of a mirage, and that we were overpaying for Mauer to some degree. I think 2011 brought back some feelings about Mauer that people hadn't talked about openly since the '07 seasons, which included his propensity to drag out nagging injuries and apparent unwillingness to play through pain. Throw on top of that the perception that he basically insignificant as a clubhouse leader and became more and more secretive with the organization and the fans just as people were desperate to get more answers.

      So I think a lot of the booing you hear this year is residual from that, even though there's plenty to be happy about regarding Mauer in 2012 this year. It's kind of like the Brandon Jennings "55-point night" effect, people got a taste from 2009 that Mauer could be deadly impact power bat in the middle of the lineup that he was subsequently paid to be. The fact that people want him to be that guy (or that he's paid to be) doesn't mean that he is. But in my book, openly booing him when he comes to the plate won't make him into that guy either, so why do it?
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Booing Mauer is pointless and unproductive. He is not coming through in the clutch but really, who is? I think one can call into question his priorities sometimes however. It does seem like he is very concerned with sustaining his reputation as an elite hitter at the expense of taking cuts at the best pitches. I was happy to see Joe take a swing at a first pitch strike last night, but he needs to do more of that. He takes pride in working the count, and he should, but if pitchers are grooving fastballs on pitch one because they know he won't swing, he's doing the team a disservice by passing up what often turns out to be the most crushable pitch.

      The one other point of contention has been brought up by TK during the broadcasts the last couple nights. Joe is not pulling the ball to the outfield, which also does the team a diservice when when runners are on base. No one goes first to third and no one is going to tag from second when the ball is hit to left field. I can't say he hasn't been trying to take the ball to right, he just seems to be grounding out weakly to first when he does.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      As for the GB that produces a run, Mauer (or any hitter) did nothing other than not strike out in that situation. The other person(s) created the run. It was just luck for him that a runner was at third. Sorry, it is. People can argue all they want that SLG does not matter, but it does.
      Obviously we all prefer a hit, but at some point, scoring runs becomes more important than worrying about Batting Average. I get that RBI is a by product of what others do... but at the end of the day, someone needs to drive in that run, and that's what situational hitting is all about.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Booing anyone is probably pointless, but so is fandom in general. It is only that irrational caring that allows these guys to do what they do for a living anyway.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      I don't know they are booing Mauer, or that particular outcome achieved by Mauer. Those are two very different things.....As for the GB that produces a run, Mauer (or any hitter) did nothing other than not strike out in that situation. The other person(s) created the run. It was just luck for him that a runner was at third. Sorry, it is. People can argue all they want that SLG does not matter, but it does.

      Speaking of things I'm tired of, Mauer moved out of MN the very first chance he had. He had as much control over the fact he was born here as the desk I'm sitting at had in determining where it is right now. I have never understood why people care that he was born here, but ignore the fact he moved the first moment he could.
      On the first point - That would make sense except that I (think) the article referenced people booing as soon as he's announced. So, yes, they could be referring to what happened in a previous at-bat (GIDP, weak groundout, etc.), but there's definitely a "cool-to-hate" phenomenon with him.

      On your second point - THANK YOU. This has never made sense to me as an "outsider" who moved here 10 years ago (and is now a loyal, diehard Twins fan). I was born in Detroit. I left that place and my family to come and live in Minnesota (and work and pay taxes here). But being "Minnesotan" isn't about that...it's a "birthright". People like Mauer are celebrated Minnesotans because they were born here and are associated as "coming from here". In other words, he's not being celebrated for what he represents, he's being celebrated because the narcissism of other people who live here wants things that come out of Minnesota to be perceived as great, including 1st overall MLB draft picks.

      Mauer lives in Florida, he doesn't just "winter" there. He's a professional baseball player, which means he spends virtually February through October travelling wherever his job requires. You can't be a "hometown hero" and be virtually invisible to the locals. He doesn't have any significant presence in the community or with charity, even compared to other players on the Twins who've been given a fraction of what he has. in part because he doesn't LIVE here. The local media (see: Rosen, Mark, et al.) treats him with kid gloves. You never see pictures of this "celebrity" out in public, and nobody knows virtually anything about his personal life. If Lindsay Guentzel didn't happen to come across a rumor from her St. Paul connections and throw it up on a blog, would we even know he's engaged yet? This is guy who wouldn't even explain to the media for two months why he couldn't play. Mauer doesn't want you to know these things. He "cares" about his performance and the success of the team a great deal, but only on his terms. And he's enabled to be that way because (a) he's pretty good; and (b) he was born in Minnesota and went to Cretin.

      I'm not saying Mauer's a bad guy or that I wouldn't even strive for the same degree of privacy if I were a $184 million baseball player. I'm just saying...when the Minnesotans ask why Mauer seems to operate under his own set of rules, they should look in the mirror occasionally for the answer.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      It does seem like he is very concerned with sustaining his reputation as an elite hitter at the expense of taking cuts at the best pitches. I was happy to see Joe take a swing at a first pitch strike last night, but he needs to do more of that. He takes pride in working the count, and he should, but if pitchers are grooving fastballs on pitch one because they know he won't swing, he's doing the team a disservice by passing up what often turns out to be the most crushable pitch.
      If I have any problem with Mauer, it is this. Yes, it's great to work a count and draw walks, but as a hitter, don't you want to hit?! Like you, it discourages me that often times the best pitch Mauer is going to see in an at-bat, is this first-pitch grooved fastball, and 95% (or more) of the time, he lets it go by. Boo worthy? No. But irritating nonetheless because we know what he can do with those pitches.

      I'm not going to rag on Mauer for not living in Minnesota in his time off from baseball. Seems petty. If I had the means he does, I'd do the same things. (Plus, the taxes in MN are high )
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Lein View Post
      If I have any problem with Mauer, it is this. Yes, it's great to work a count and draw walks, but as a hitter, don't you want to hit?!
      I'm going to basically repeat what I said in a different thread, and mostly agree with you. It's situational, and sometimes you need baserunners, and sometimes you need some power. Right now, if you look at the team stats, they're doing OK with on-base percentage, despite some absolute dead weight. But they're near the very bottom of the league in slugging. Most of the table setters are not the kind of hitter you can ask to change. The one guy in the daily lineup who could change his approach is singles-hitting Joe Mauer. I'm fine with his approach with the bases loaded, or in one-run situations. But when it's man-on-first, I'd love to see some evidence that his approach is to pick the first hittable pitch and try to give it a ride. 70% failure is a part of baseball but in those situations I'd like to see the outs in the outfield rather than to second base, and the successes be in the gap.

      Getting back to the subject line, it's somewhat of a subtlety that I wouldn't boo a guy at the park for, of course.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      When fans boo the best overall player on the team, you know there are problems.
    1. spartysam1's Avatar
      spartysam1 -
      You moved to Minnesota 10 years ago and you write like an adult so I doubt you were a baby when you left Detroit. You seem to have picked the Twins because they were winning and the Tigers were garbage. You are writing about hometown identity without being credible. Try being a Tigers fan in 2003.

      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      On the first point - That would make sense except that I (think) the article referenced people booing as soon as he's announced. So, yes, they could be referring to what happened in a previous at-bat (GIDP, weak groundout, etc.), but there's definitely a "cool-to-hate" phenomenon with him.

      On your second point - THANK YOU. This has never made sense to me as an "outsider" who moved here 10 years ago (and is now a loyal, diehard Twins fan). I was born in Detroit. I left that place and my family to come and live in Minnesota (and work and pay taxes here). But being "Minnesotan" isn't about that...it's a "birthright". People like Mauer are celebrated Minnesotans because they were born here and are associated as "coming from here". In other words, he's not being celebrated for what he represents, he's being celebrated because the narcissism of other people who live here wants things that come out of Minnesota to be perceived as great, including 1st overall MLB draft picks.

      Mauer lives in Florida, he doesn't just "winter" there. He's a professional baseball player, which means he spends virtually February through October travelling wherever his job requires. You can't be a "hometown hero" and be virtually invisible to the locals. He doesn't have any significant presence in the community or with charity, even compared to other players on the Twins who've been given a fraction of what he has. in part because he doesn't LIVE here. The local media (see: Rosen, Mark, et al.) treats him with kid gloves. You never see pictures of this "celebrity" out in public, and nobody knows virtually anything about his personal life. If Lindsay Guentzel didn't happen to come across a rumor from her St. Paul connections and throw it up on a blog, would we even know he's engaged yet? This is guy who wouldn't even explain to the media for two months why he couldn't play. Mauer doesn't want you to know these things. He "cares" about his performance and the success of the team a great deal, but only on his terms. And he's enabled to be that way because (a) he's pretty good; and (b) he was born in Minnesota and went to Cretin.

      I'm not saying Mauer's a bad guy or that I wouldn't even strive for the same degree of privacy if I were a $184 million baseball player. I'm just saying...when the Minnesotans ask why Mauer seems to operate under his own set of rules, they should look in the mirror occasionally for the answer.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      To start, I think the "complaints" or confusion about why we would care if he's a hometown guy are rather strange. Isn't picking the team close to you the same thing? Isn't that why nearly everyone across the country cheers for the USA in the Olympics? Isn't that why people from Wisconsin are the "border rivals"...but then if they come play four "our team" they become "local" guys? I don't think this is a phenomenon at all unique to Minnesota, although there may be differening degrees in various regions (and if there are, I'd guess the midwest ranks high on that list...wait, did I just...?).

      As for booing...Mauer or anyone else on "your own" team...well, it's a subject that gets me pretty riled up. Maybe I should just move on to the next topic. But here I go... I'd say with some exceptions, if you're booing someone on your team for failing, it pretty much makes you something that rhymes with brass bowl (apologies to Simmons for stealing that). The first rebuttal to that is usually, "I/they pay their money, they have the right to boo anyone they want." I agree. Just because something is your "right," doesn't mean you're not a brass bowl for exercising that right. As I said, I think there are exceptions: clear lack of effort (and probably repeated) might be one, something like that. I could go on and on, but I'll just end up ranting...
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by spartysam1 View Post
      You moved to Minnesota 10 years ago and you write like an adult so I doubt you were a baby when you left Detroit. You seem to have picked the Twins because they were winning and the Tigers were garbage. You are writing about hometown identity without being credible. Try being a Tigers fan in 2003.
      I was 22 when I left Detroit, so I'm a "Detroiter" by birth, but compared to the people who chose to stay there and work there, no, I'm absolutely not a Detroiter by identity. That was exactly my point about Mauer - he left.

      It's an argument about semantics obviously, but it is relevant - you can't deny that Mauer's perceived "Minnesota-ness" has been incredibly valuable to his popularity and earnings here. Crap, Hrbek has a retired number and a statute for crying out loud and he didn't even sniff the Hall of Fame. Do those accolades happen if he wasn't from Bloomington?

      Part of me thinks it's cool that Minnesotans are so proud of their own, but I refuse to factor in birthplace when evaluating the merits of a player or the quality of a human being. I think other people do factor it in. That's all I'm saying.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      I'm going to basically repeat what I said in a different thread, and mostly agree with you. It's situational, and sometimes you need baserunners, and sometimes you need some power. Right now, if you look at the team stats, they're doing OK with on-base percentage, despite some absolute dead weight. But they're near the very bottom of the league in slugging. Most of the table setters are not the kind of hitter you can ask to change. The one guy in the daily lineup who could change his approach is singles-hitting Joe Mauer. I'm fine with his approach with the bases loaded, or in one-run situations. But when it's man-on-first, I'd love to see some evidence that his approach is to pick the first hittable pitch and try to give it a ride. 70% failure is a part of baseball but in those situations I'd like to see the outs in the outfield rather than to second base, and the successes be in the gap.

      Getting back to the subject line, it's somewhat of a subtlety that I wouldn't boo a guy at the park for, of course.
      The highest level of baseball I ever played was 12-year old Little League, so this comparison is NOT about me in any way...but I was an average-to-good player who never hit a homerun, though I hit for a good average and took walks whenever I could. But I had kind of a fragile pscyhe as a 12-year old, so I remember being almost relieved that I drew a walk because if there were two outs and I got on base, it meant I was essentially passing the buck onto the next guy to get a big hit. I was "helping" the team by avoiding being the one to let everyone down.

      When I watch Mauer play, I'm reminded of that element of myself, and I don't like it. I was a run-of-the-mill player for my level, Joe Mauer is supposed to be a SUPERSTAR. He's supposed to WANT to be the guy who delivers the big hit. But that's not what I see when I watch him. He's a "team player" in a sport that is really about individuals, especially when hitting. He's a guy that batted in front of one of his best friends (Morneau) for years and seemed to have the attitude that by drawing a free pass (or slapping the ball harmlessly into the infield instead of striking out), he was letting other people finish the job for him. That's a great approach for OBP and impressing sabermetricians...I'm not convinced it makes him a "great" hitter. He's may be one of the all-time greats at avoiding outs, which would make him extremely valuable in an elite lineup. But as 1/9 of the offense of the Twins, I still contend that Morneau at his best, or any number of the power hitters around the AL would have been more valuable hitting in his spot

      And the "positional scarcity" argument doesn't work for me, either. It makes sense on fantasy baseball teams or loaded offenses like NYY, BOS, DET, or LAA, because you may have 7 or 8 dangerous hitters in those lineups, and they need somewhere to play. But on the Twins, when they're playing such below-average offensive players at 3B, SS, 2B, corner outfield, etc...why does it matter that Joe Mauer, as only ONE guy, happens to be the catcher? It doesn't. In fact, Mauer's contract is part of the reason that we have holes at some of those other positions (though certainly not the only reason).
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Post deleted.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      Mr. Twin Joe sells more product and seats than any Twin ever. So why boo, he will probably end up being the greatest Twins hitter too!
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      The highest level of baseball I ever played was 12-year old Little League, so this comparison is NOT about me in any way...

      When I watch Mauer play, I'm reminded of that element of myself, and I don't like it.
      See...those two bits are just it. It IS about you. The "why doesn't he swing when I want/expect him to?" mentality is about the frustration and impatience of the observer. Thinking he "doesn't want to hit" (and this was expressed not just by you in this specific way in this thread, and in addition the sentiment is rampant...I used your post to quote because it had both elements rather explicitly) because that's how YOU felt is a jump I just can't get behind. He's better at hitting baseballs than 99.99999999% of all humans ever created (and that's probably conservative).

      If people can't enjoy watching that, whether it's because he's from here and moved away, because he gets paid too much money (which I also think is part of the "local" backlash...you DON'T take too much when you're from Minnesota!), because he doesn't pull as much as you want, because he takes the first pitch more often than you'd like, because he doesn't throw his bat or beat up a cooler when he strikes out, or because your girlfriend likes his sideburns and you get jealous, or whatever other reason it is...well I jut can't understand what makes you a baseball fan. And if it makes you boo for nothing other than he makes outs 60% of the time (less often than, you know, almost everyone), I can't understand that either.
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