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For Better Or Worse: Joe Mauer

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You only have two choices: will he be better or worse in 2013....

2012 Recap
Given the clustermess that was 2011, most Twins fans would have been happy just to see Joe Mauer on the field last year. They did - kinda.

Mauer not only stayed healthy, but set a career high with 647 plate appearances and 147 games played. However, exactly half of his starts were at catcher (72 games), with the rest happening at designated hitter (42 games) and first base (30 games). I'll leave you to debate how that impacts his value.

What is not debatable is the he returned to being elite offensively. He was in the AL batting race until the last weekend. His .416 on-base percentage led the league. He hit double-digit home runs (albeit barely) for the first time since his MVP campaign. And he posted an 861 OPS, tops for AL catchers.

Why He'll Be Worse
Don't look now, but like a certain blogger, our boy Joe turns 30 this year. That's even more ominous because he was also remarkably healthy last year. Furthermore, so was Ryan Doumit, which meant Mauer's body had the luxury of rarely being forced into multiple consecutive starts. Finally, there is the whole regression to the mean thing - how long can we expect him to stay at this level?

Why He'll Be Better
Believe it or not, that 861 OPS he posted is below his career 873 average. So was his .319 batting average. He'll also be a year further away from the injury problems that torpedoed 2011. Finally, both he and the Twins seem to have found (and accepted) a recipe for keeping him healthy by moving him around the diamond a little.

So which is it? Take your pick in the survey below and leave us a comment saying why.
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