• Is Joe Mauer hurt or just slumping?

    On April 29th, while catching Joe Mauer took a Brayan Pena sharp foul ball off the inside part of his left knee. Up to that point, the seemingly healthy Mauer was hitting a robust .325/.419/.438. He had hit a home run, triple and four doubles in those 93 plate appearances. Since then, he has gone to hitting safely in just four of his last 31 at-bats (.129), including a gentle double and a ground ball that Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan likely should have converted.

    Now, many wonks will argue comparing 93 plate appearances to the outcome of another 36 plate appearances is the ultimate exercise in small sample size analysis. Additionally, the fact that he has faced a regiment of Jered Weaver (twice) and Felix Hernandez may lend credence to the notion that he is just slumping in May. However, because this performance drop-off started with the foul ball incident, it is hard to ignore the influence a shot to a load bearing limb may have on his swing. You have to wonder if Mauer is currently hurting more than he wants everyone to believe.

    At the start of the season, Mauer was a line drive machine. In the season’s first month, nearly 30% of all balls off of his bat were hit on a line. So far this month, he has managed to hit just one line drive in 36 plate appearances since absorbing the Pena foul ball. The majority of his balls in play have been grounders.


    Without the assistance of the high percentage of line drives and the huge increase in ground balls, it is easy to see why Mauer’s numbers have taken a tumble.

    Visually, through the monthly spray charts found at TexasLeaguers.com, we find that he has struggled to pull the ball in May as effectively as he did in April:



    Mauer’s left knee, the one Pena’s foul ball ricocheted off of, has been a source of pain for him in the past. In 2010, he had arthroscopic surgery after tissue inflammation experienced throughout the season. Last year, his bi-lateral leg weakness was concocted from what Mauer described as leg soreness from not properly working out his lower half following the 2010 arthroscopic surgery. If it was indeed re-aggravated, the left knee – the one he would pivot and drive off of during his swing – would keep him from pulling the ball with authority.

    While the shot to the knee may be downplayed in the media, it would seem that the Twins have taken precautionary measures that would suggest that they are a bit more concerned about him. This month, manager Ron Gardenhire clearly recognized the need to alleviate the pressure on Mauer’s knees as since sitting out post-foul tip he has played nine games and only two behind the plate. Meanwhile, the front office, perhaps concerned over his resiliency, recalled Drew Butera from Rochester to serve as the third catcher in spite of a thin bench.

    To Mauer’s credit, the majority of the ribbing last year appeared to be focused on his inability to work his way into the lineup and that his “bi-lateral” injuries were simply an excuse to avoid playing for a terrible team. This season, he’s played 30 of the 31 total contests, perhaps proving to his critics that he can play through the pain. Unfortunately, if he is in pain stemming from the foul ball, his performance has obviously taken a downturn.

    Understandably, with Justin Morneau unable to play, the Twins are counting on their $23 Million Dollar Man to get out there and play. At the same time, if the team wants to ensure that he is available throughout the duration of the season, they may need to sit him a little more regularly than they have been doing up to this point.
    This article was originally published in blog: Is Joe Mauer hurt or just slumping? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 37 Comments
    1. cr9617's Avatar
      cr9617 -
      You gotta love that Hometown Premium!
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Sorry, was off by a year, it's been a long week.....I do agree, we can't judge the contract yet with certainty. But, I think it is reasonable to assume it's not good....
    1. cr9617's Avatar
      cr9617 -
      Quote Originally Posted by whydidnt View Post
      Well, I have to disagree. If he starts hitting like he did in 2010 while catching 70% of the games, it will be a fair contract for both sides. I think a lot of people underestimate how valuable it is to have a catcher that can both hit and play decent defense. It's a rare breed and allows you to have a no-hit good field guy somewhere else in the lineup without taking an hit compared to other teams.
      You need to get your mind around just how overpaid he really is. He's transitioning away from playing catcher. A high average, no power first baseman or DH isn't worth 23 mil per year. Not even close. His numbers in 2010 were good, but not elite. He's being paid like an elite player, but he doesn't produce like one. If the Yanks or Boston or one of the other big market clubs makes this deal, it's easier for them to absorb the contract if it doesn't work out. The fact that it's the Twins that signed this deal(24% of their payroll), compounds just how bad this contract really is.

      He's untradeable
      He playing less and less catcher
      His power isn't developing, it's diminishing
      To a lesser degree, he has practically zero leadership qualities.

      There is only 1 way for the Twins to get value from this contract...and that's for Mauer to produce like 09, and continue to play catcher as long as possible. Does anyone really think that's going to happen?
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      Quote Originally Posted by cr9617 View Post
      You need to get your mind around just how overpaid he really is. He's transitioning away from playing catcher. A high average, no power first baseman or DH isn't worth 23 mil per year. Not even close. His numbers in 2010 were good, but not elite. He's being paid like an elite player, but he doesn't produce like one. If the Yanks or Boston or one of the other big market clubs makes this deal, it's easier for them to absorb the contract if it doesn't work out. The fact that it's the Twins that signed this deal(24% of their payroll), compounds just how bad this contract really is.

      He's untradeable
      He playing less and less catcher
      His power isn't developing, it's diminishing
      To a lesser degree, he has practically zero leadership qualities.

      There is only 1 way for the Twins to get value from this contract...and that's for Mauer to produce like 09, and continue to play catcher as long as possible. Does anyone really think that's going to happen?
      Well most of your points have flavor or accuracy, but I don't think we really know about the leadership, since none of us are in the locker room, and really what difference does it make? Where I disagree is that I don't think he has to hit like 2009, but more like 08 or 10 to make the contract viable IF he catches. It's too early to tell if that will happen, if it doesn't, then you're right, but I don't think that's a guaranty. I tend to think the 5+ years we saw of him hitting well are a better indicator of his talent than the last 1+ year. AND I do complain about his performance from time to time and do think he could some things differently to improve. He needs to start adjusting or it's more likely you'll be right. I just hope you're not.

      I don't know if you're among the crowd, but most of the state would have been in a huge uproar if the Twins hadn't re-signed him and let him go the year they were opening a new stadium. Twins were in a hard spot and Mauer's agent did what he was supposed to do and got a great contract for his player.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Sorry, was off by a year, it's been a long week.....I do agree, we can't judge the contract yet with certainty. But, I think it is reasonable to assume it's not good....
      Most multi-year 20 million plus contracts aren't going to be good, especially for their entire duration. Some of the best players in baseball have signed contracts like Mauer's (A Rod, Pujols) and no one really thought they were good contracts to start, but it's what the demand was for that player.

      Interestingly, according to Fangraphs player value, Mauer has been worth 22.2M or more in 4 seasons 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010. For comparison, only Morneau's 2010 reached even 20M in value while a hitter like Pujols, ie the best in baseball, had several seasons in the 30M range.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by whydidnt View Post
      Well most of your points have flavor or accuracy, but I don't think we really know about the leadership, since none of us are in the locker room, and really what difference does it make? Where I disagree is that I don't think he has to hit like 2009, but more like 08 or 10 to make the contract viable IF he catches. It's too early to tell if that will happen, if it doesn't, then you're right, but I don't think that's a guaranty..
      This is exactly correct. Mauer was worth 35M in 2009 while in 2008 and 2010 were in the mid 20s. If he plays less catcher that would change, obviously.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      But WAR and player value do not occur in a vacuum....right? Each player is part of a portfolio of assets, not an isolated thing. Also, what would that value be if he was DH/1B, and not catcher?

      And, agreed, most long term contracts don't return value every year. I don't think people are asking for that. I think they are asking to never look at Fangraphs, and to see three AL Central catchers with more WAR, one forth (give or take) of the way through the year. Rightly or wrongly.....no one wants to see that.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by cr9617 View Post
      To a lesser degree, he has practically zero leadership qualities.
      Proof please? You know Joe Mauer? Wow, where did you meet him? Do you guys like , hang out and stuff?

      Someone was going to pay Mauer that money, if the Twins didn't everyone would have cried how cheap the Twins are, kind of like this year when they dropped payroll. Get over it, crying about it now is sour grapes and just the way it rolls sometimes, spilled milk as they say (two food analogies in one sentence).
    1. cr9617's Avatar
      cr9617 -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsnorth49 View Post
      Proof please? You know Joe Mauer? Wow, where did you meet him? Do you guys like , hang out and stuff?

      Someone was going to pay Mauer that money, if the Twins didn't everyone would have cried how cheap the Twins are, kind of like this year when they dropped payroll. Get over it, crying about it now is sour grapes and just the way it rolls sometimes, spilled milk as they say (two food analogies in one sentence).
      He's the anti-Kirby Pucket, and you know it. There's a reason he's called Clueless Joe. It's been pretty well documented, in the papers, on the radio, etc... that those qualities are not part of his offering.

      He's the quiet, nice boy next door.

      Lesser players were left to explain the teams struggles last year. Joe was nowhere to be found, and couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about.

      Yep, someone else would have paid Mauer, and the Twins(in hindsight) would be better off. The thing is, knowing how he is, and how he handles the press...there is no way he could hack it NY, or Boston, or Chicago, or Philly. Think what they would have done to him if he was in NY last year....
    1. NorthwestTwinsFan's Avatar
      NorthwestTwinsFan -
      Quote Originally Posted by whydidnt View Post
      Well, I have to disagree. If he starts hitting like he did in 2010 while catching 70% of the games, it will be a fair contract for both sides. I think a lot of people underestimate how valuable it is to have a catcher that can both hit and play decent defense. It's a rare breed and allows you to have a no-hit good field guy somewhere else in the lineup without taking an hit compared to other teams.
      Sure, in theory that sounds nice. But in reality the guy hasn't been a full time catcher for several years now, and might not be again anytime soon. Plus, he's not hitting either. So until either one of those things starts happening, it looks like the Twins are paying a lot of money for a DH who is pretty good at drawing walks.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsnorth49 View Post
      Proof please? You know Joe Mauer? Wow, where did you meet him? Do you guys like , hang out and stuff?

      Someone was going to pay Mauer that money, if the Twins didn't everyone would have cried how cheap the Twins are, kind of like this year when they dropped payroll. Get over it, crying about it now is sour grapes and just the way it rolls sometimes, spilled milk as they say (two food analogies in one sentence).
      Please. I could go with the cheap shot route and simply point out "8-23". I think that argument has more merit in other sports where individual players have more of an impact, such as basketball. Then again, you could use that same point to ask why you would ever pay an individual baseball player 23 million dollars a year unless he was so clearly exceptional and dangerous that he DID have that type of impact on a lineup. Mauer clearly does not.

      Leadership means a lot of things. And while it's totally possible that Joe Mauer is a terrific, vocal leader behind the scenes (and the exact opposite at all other times), I doubt it. Here are some characteristics that have been traditionally held by "great leaders" over the years. While few leaders possess all of them, ask yourself, how strongly does Mauer possess any of these above someone who is merely a "pretty good" player?

      - Leader by example/Wills his team to victory by exemplary performance
      - Vocal leadership/A verbal clubhouse presence who praises teammates and will criticize them when they get out of line
      - Dedication & Perseverance/A player who sets the tone for the entire team by working harder than anyone else at his craft and inspiring them to do the same
      - Team "Spokesman"/A player willing to put himself in front of the media and and shoulder the blame for the collective failure of the team
      - Durability & Dependability/A player who inspires teammates by staying in the lineup when other players would have looked for an excuse to take time off
      - Visible presence in the community/Spokesperson for the team

      ...And I can go on and on. I will say, however, the last one in that list may be something more important to fans than other players, but it is important. Mauer is a Florida resident and rather than being upfront and honest about what was going on, he was virtually invisible from the media and the team for two months while his team struggled badly. I understand that he may be trying to "right" the ship this year by playing 30 out of 31 when the team is even worse. Kudos for that. But he is a ballplayer and this is his JOB. And I'm not going to forget 2007 or 2011, or any of the other lingering "issues" about his value to the club.

      As for his physical condition, it's tough not to wonder or think about someone like Rocco Baldelli. Hopefully, Mauer's issues are only musculoskeletal, and can be corrected. But it did look earlier in the season like he was thinking about pulling and driving the ball, and that's already gone. You can talk about bad luck (BABIP) or defensive shifts, or whatever...but if Mauer's entire game becomes simply trying to hit groundballs through holes in the infield, he's going to hit into a TON of double plays and ultimately not be incredibly valuable to this team...even if he's batting close to .300.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Back to the original question. I'm not astute enough to see a change in his swing but I did comment previously that it seemed like there was a hesitation (not quite a limp) as he was running to 1st Base. It appeared that he was favoring his left knee as he ran.

      Doesn't mean he's not slumping, too.

      And, yes, after last year, I'm sure that he and the organization are trying to prove something by having him in the line-up almost every day. And that will probably be detrimental to his health and performance.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by whydidnt View Post
      Actually, he didn't hit like the best player in baseball in 2010. He was good, but had similar seasons in 2006 and 2008 and was pretty good in 2007 too. In 2009 he it like the best player in baseball. He's been very good every year he's been healthy, about 5 or 6 years by my count. That's what they are paying for and I'm hoping that's what they get. It's way too early to judge the contract as one of the worst ever based upon just 1+ season of play.
      Mauer was paid based on his 2009 performance, with a little bit of hometown discount and "new stadium pressure" sprinkled in. Hardly anyone realistically expected Mauer to live up to the on-field performance of a $20+ million player, and we accepted that fact.

      But that being said, how much further do we lower the bar for this guy? Forget the 2009 "Brady Anderson" year, what about 2010 Joe Mauer? I think the fanbase would eventually have warmed to the idea of a .320 hitter who has about 10 HR power (especially with the evergreens in the batter's eye, c'mon you guys...), but was still a line drive hitter who would get some doubles and, of course, be very selective at the plate and set the table for the hitters behind him. Crap, I'd almost be happy to have even THAT guy back right now, and we ripped him them too!
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      Mauer was paid based on his 2009 performance, with a little bit of hometown discount and "new stadium pressure" sprinkled in. Hardly anyone realistically expected Mauer to live up to the on-field performance of a $20+ million player, and we accepted that fact.

      But that being said, how much further do we lower the bar for this guy? Forget the 2009 "Brady Anderson" year, what about 2010 Joe Mauer? I think the fanbase would eventually have warmed to the idea of a .320 hitter who has about 10 HR power (especially with the evergreens in the batter's eye, c'mon you guys...), but was still a line drivehitter who would get some doubles and, of course, be very selective at the plate and set the table for the hitters behind him. Crap, I'd almost be happy to have even THAT guy back right now, and we ripped him them too!
      Part of my point was "that guy" you'd like to have back was actually worth the new contract. If he were actually paid for the 2009 year, they would have had to pay him a lot more. I don't think anyone wants to set the bar low, but that it's unrealistic to think that because he's being paid 23M/year he's magically going to develop into vocal leader and a guy who hits 30HR a season. He was never the former and had one great season where he was the latter, but that season was just that -- one season.

      But WAR and player value do not occur in a vacuum....right? Each player is part of a portfolio of assets, not an isolated thing. Also, what would that value be if he was DH/1B, and not catcher?

      And, agreed, most long term contracts don't return value every year. I don't think people are asking for that. I think they are asking to never look at Fangraphs, and to see three AL Central catchers with more WAR, one forth (give or take) of the way through the year. Rightly or wrongly.....no one wants to see that.
      Yeah, WAR and Value are contingent on position played. I think that some people feel that Mauer ripped them off, which I think is a bit unfair and the reason I posted the value numbers. He was easily worth the amount of his contract at the time the deal was made.

      In hindsight, obviously, he certainly hasn't been worth $23M since signing. However, he wasn't healthy last year and this year he hasn't been the same since taking the ball off the knee. He was hitting pretty well until that point. As Parker laid out, there are pretty clear indicators he's hurt or that they're at least trying to give him some rest.

      Thanks to the problems last year he's now pretty much damned if he doesn't play (hurt or not) and damned if he plays while injured and his numbers suffer because of it.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I don't think it is ridiculous to ask that someone that is paid that much be one of the best players in the game. He wasn't last year, and he isn't so far this year. If he didn't want all the pressure and expectations and fame, then he should have taken a real hometown discount, like a certain pitcher on the West Coast did....
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      Leadership means a lot of things. And while it's totally possible that Joe Mauer is a terrific, vocal leader behind the scenes (and the exact opposite at all other times), I doubt it. Here are some characteristics that have been traditionally held by "great leaders" over the years. While few leaders possess all of them, ask yourself, how strongly does Mauer possess any of these above someone who is merely a "pretty good" player?
      Please is right, I don't know whether Joe Mauer is a good leader any more than you know he's not. All you do is make a bunch of broad stroke stereotypical assumptions. Fans who think they can make character assessments on players and what their intangibles are based on what they see in T.V. or read in the newspaper is ridiculous.

      Why does Joe have to say something in the press to prove he's a good leader? Who's he proving to, the fans? I'm pretty sure his team mates know what he's all about withnout having to read it in the newspaper.

      I don't recall a lot being said about Joe's leadership abilities when he was winning the MVP award, but that had nothing to do with the fact he wasn't making 23 million at that point did it? You're basing his leadership abilities on how the team is playing now. Puckett played on some pretty bad teams, where was his leadership then? How come he couldn't will his team to win more games? That notion is farcical.

      I really don't know, I know he's a good baseball player (or was if you prefer), Puckett was a great baseball player, that's all any of us know about them. You make it sound like you know, you've clearly read some books on leadership and know some fancy buzzwords and phrases, but you don't know, you assume. I don't assume to know anything.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      I don't think it is ridiculous to ask that someone that is paid that much be one of the best players in the game. He wasn't last year, and he isn't so far this year. If he didn't want all the pressure and expectations and fame, then he should have taken a real hometown discount, like a certain pitcher on the West Coast did....
      I agree. He has been one of the best players in baseball, especially in terms of value, in a couple of different seasons. I'd like us to give him at least one season (or most of one) where he isn't hurt, though, too, before we start judging the contract and it's actual value.
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