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  • 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 seasonís 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 Mauerís 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:



    Mauerís left knee, the one Penaís 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 Ė the one he would pivot and drive off of during his swing Ė 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 Mauerís 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 Mauerís 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 ďbi-lateralĒ injuries were simply an excuse to avoid playing for a terrible team. This season, heís 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. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Every other time I would say, "he's hurt" but this time I think he is in a slump. I guess there is the combination option--he has played a bit too much for a still-majority catcher. A few more days off would have been helpful.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Doumit catching 2 out of every three games for a few weeks is not going to ruin this team any further. Maybe Doumit does that with Mauer at 1B for two weeks. Big deal. No Butera needed.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      There's a frightening third option: that Mauer's numerous physical ailments have fundamentally weakened him as a hitter. I'm hoping this is not the case but the possibility cannot be ignored. His GB/FB ratios over the past couple seasons have been hugely inflated from previous career norms...
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      There's a frightening third option: that Mauer's numerous physical ailments have fundamentally weakened him as a hitter. I'm hoping this is not the case but the possibility cannot be ignored. His GB/FB ratios over the past couple seasons have been hugely inflated from previous career norms...
      But wouldn't the line drive rate be a sign against this? I still think he is going to homer more than most expect this year, but to do so does require some rest!
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      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.

      There is another option.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      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.

      There is another option.
      What? Moving him to 3B?
    1. Grady Kruse's Avatar
      Grady Kruse -
      Thank you for finally pointing this out. He's definitely been hurt and you can see it in his swing. We need to find him a permanent new position. This is getting ridiculous.
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      Maybe he is off the juice? He pulled the greatest power spike outside of Brady Anderson right before his big payday and ever since he is back to being an excellent line drive hitter with no pop. If he were on any other team, we would be laughing and saying said team was screwed by a juicer who pumped up his stats to get the big payay and then quit when the stats were no longer needed.

      With Mauer's contract, if he is a 5-7 hr a year 3B or 1B his contract will be easily the worst in baseball. You could sign a Casey Kotchman for $500k to give you that sort of production at 1B. HE MUST CATCH FULL TIME TO EVEN COME CLOSE TO HAVING ANY VALUE.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Can we stop the ridiculous hall of fame talk now?
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      It's only the 2nd week of May.
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      I don't think he's been over-used at C so far this year. He's started less than 1/2 the games there. I sure hope it's just a slump, if not in a couple years, we could be comparing him to guys like Zito, Wells and Soriano for the worst contract ever. And yes, he has to be a regular catcher for the Twins to get full value from him. If he's not catching his bat doesn't justify the huge payday. I think both he and the Twins know that, too. Anyway, let's hope he starts turning some of those grounders to 2nd into line drives. I wonder if there are any stats that show his batting line with or without Mourneau in the lineup. It seems to me that he hits better with Mourneau in the lineup, but that's just a huge guess based upon my probably shaded memory. I still would like to see him take a hack at some of those first pitch fastballs he always lays off, too!
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      There's a frightening third option: that Mauer's numerous physical ailments have fundamentally weakened him as a hitter. I'm hoping this is not the case but the possibility cannot be ignored. His GB/FB ratios over the past couple seasons have been hugely inflated from previous career norms...
      Yeah, that's my fear, too.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      The correct answer is both - Mauer is hurt, AND he's slumping.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      I've mentioned this elsewhere, but I'm highly concerned that last year the organization's awful communication about his injuries as well as the media's criticism of him last season led to the fanbase turning against him. That monster is now well out of control and has led to unreal expectations for him regarding reasonable playing time and playing while hurt. Additionally, from those same areas there have been expectations about power hitting and leadership that just don't seem to be who Joe Mauer is, but is expected to develop into simply because the Twins gave him a big contract, as if money were wishes.

      This environment, including the the team losing, may likely be leading both the Twins an Mauer Into making poor decisions that aren't going to help him be as effective as he can be.
    1. cr9617's Avatar
      cr9617 -
      Quote Originally Posted by whydidnt View Post
      I don't think he's been over-used at C so far this year. He's started less than 1/2 the games there. I sure hope it's just a slump, if not in a couple years, we could be comparing him to guys like Zito, Wells and Soriano for the worst contract ever. And yes, he has to be a regular catcher for the Twins to get full value from him. If he's not catching his bat doesn't justify the huge payday. I think both he and the Twins know that, too. Anyway, let's hope he starts turning some of those grounders to 2nd into line drives. I wonder if there are any stats that show his batting line with or without Mourneau in the lineup. It seems to me that he hits better with Mourneau in the lineup, but that's just a huge guess based upon my probably shaded memory. I still would like to see him take a hack at some of those first pitch fastballs he always lays off, too!
      We don't have to wait a couple of years to call this one of the worst contracts ever.
    1. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      I'm really hopeing it's just a slump. Would hate to see things get worse for him.
    1. Grady Kruse's Avatar
      Grady Kruse -
      We need to get him back to hitting .330. He has no value catching if he can only hit .270 while doing so. I agree the contract was based on him catching, but he has proven his body cannot handle it.
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      Quote Originally Posted by cr9617 View Post
      We don't have to wait a couple of years to call this one of the worst contracts ever.
      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.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Agreed, if Mauer hits like the best player in baseball, this contract is fair. Given that he's only done that 1 year, that seems unlikely, though, right?
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Agreed, if Mauer hits like the best player in baseball, this contract is fair. Given that he's only done that 1 year, that seems unlikely, though, right?
      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.
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