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2017 Twins Player Predictions: Joe Mauer

When Joe Mauer makes a start next Monday for the Twins at Target Field, it will be his 13th Opening Day start for the Twins. That will tie Harmon Killebrew for the most in team history. In 2004, Mauer debuted as a 20-year-old kid in 2004. Late next week, Mauer will turn 34 and that will make many of us feel even older than we are.

Twins fans are all aware of the date August 19, 2013. The Twins played a make up, interleague game against the Mets. Joe Mauer went 2-4 to raise his stat line to .324/.404/.476 (.880), numbers that would rank as one of the best in his career. Unfortunately, that was the day he took a foul tip to the face mask and suffered a concussion that would alter the rest of his career. The last three seasons he has hit .277, .265 and .261.

Obviously there is a large sector of Twins fans that don’t care about any of that. Others will tell you that he was hitting .284/.384/.417 (.801) on August 16th last year. In that game, he strained his quadriceps (both of them) which affected him the rest of the season. Had he just shut it down at that time, that .801 OPS would have been good, something to build some excitement about. Instead, he toughed it out and kept playing through the injury. Over the season’s final six weeks, he barely hit over .100 and his OPS dropped by almost 50 points.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
So what’s in store for Joe Mauer in 2017? Below you will find my predictions (or guesses, if you prefer) for Joe Mauer’s 2017 season. Hopefully you will consider posting your thoughts and your predictions into the comments below. It’s always fun to take a look at the end of the season and see how our predictions look.


KEY NUMBERS

.224 (.610) / .272 (.793) - As you would probably guess, these numbers are Mauer’s lefty-righty splits in 2016. Even with the struggles in the final six weeks, Mauer put up solid numbers against right-handers. However, he really struggled against same-siders. Although he’s always hit better against right-handers, he had always put up solid numbers against lefties. The last couple of years, his performance against lefties has dropped. In the second half, Mauer rarely started against lefties, even before the injury. A platoon at first base for the Twins makes a lot of sense due to his production, but also in an attempt to keep those legs with all those catcher innings on them.

87 - When Joe Mauer plays his 87th game of 2017, he will have passed Rod Carew and Tony Oliva and be in fourth place in games played for the Twins. Also, if Mauer accumulates 100 hits this season, he’ll pass Tony Oliva and move into third place on the Twins list. When Mauer walks for the 17th time this year, he’ll pass Kent Hrbek into second place on the Twins list, trailing only Kent Hrbek. He’s already in the Top 10 in most Twins offensive categories. It should be fun watching him pass some of the greats in the Twins history.


PREDICTIONS

Joe Mauer: 381 at-bats, .281/.350/.404 (.754), 19 doubles, 2 triples, 9 home runs.

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I believe that the Twins and specifically Paul Molitor needs to be strict in making himself give Mauer days off, even two a week. Ideally, he’ll give those days off when left-handers start against the Twins. If they can keep his legs strong and put him into situations to succeed, it should show up in his statistics as well.

My prediction is that Mauer will play in about 115 games. He’ll continue to walk, though at a slightly lesser rate. He has become a very good defensive first baseman, and that will also be a very important piece to the Twins puzzle if he can help keep the errors down for the left side of the Twins infield. I think Byungho Park will get a lot of playing time at first base throughout 2017, particularly against right-handers.

YOUR TURN

Your turn. Share your thoughts on and predictions on Joe Mauer in 2017. We can take a look back at the end of the season and see how we did.


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60 Comments

.750 OPS is pretty lofty, but it's possible if he doesn't play against lefties. Not sure if I trust Molly to sit Mauer as much as we would like this season. 
 

I think he settles in with a .700-.730 OPS for his last full season of starting. 

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LA VIkes Fan
Mar 28 2017 10:15 AM

I think you're absolutely right about limiting Mauer's games played to the 115-120 area, or roughly 75% of the time.I was beating this drum last year.  He will be a substantially more effective player if he plays less and avoids good left handed pitching. The new FO and Molitor seem to get this and their roster construction suggests they're ready. It looks like the team is keeping Park, the better fielding 1B as the DH rather than Vargas, and Grossman - two guys who can hit LH pitching. Assuming the team limits Mauer's starts, I would predict a little better year than you do:

 

400 ABs, .284/.375/.415 (.790), 23 doubles, 2 triples, 9 HRs , 65 RBIs ( i know we don't care about RBIs, but they do keep track). Good defense, solid production.  

    • Seth Stohs, 70charger, sploorp and 3 others like this

I am going to be a little more optimistic about Mauer this year.  I think he plays in the 120-125 games this year.  His facing lefty stats will improve.  

425AB, .295 avg. And i am going for 15 HR's.  Why....i don't know. Optimism.  

    • Seth Stohs, Ryan Atkins, messed up and 4 others like this
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Pardon My Dinger
Mar 28 2017 10:52 AM
He took that shot to the head against the Tigers if I recall correctly. I was there. It was loud.
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Comrade Bork
Mar 28 2017 10:58 AM
Do we have anything like sunglasses this year to help raise our expectations? :P
    • USAFChief, Jerr, Mike Sixel and 7 others like this

I'm going even more optimistic and saying Joe will put up an .820 OPS. More rest, a stronger lineup around him, fewer games against lefties and some better BABIP luck and that number is not out of reach (see August last year).

 

I should admit I've always been a Mauer lover. I'll never change. Don't trust what I say.

    • Mike Sixel, Oldgoat_MN, 70charger and 3 others like this

Kind of makes me wish I'd appreciated Mauer's peak years all the more. I was probably too busy complaining about a lack of playoff wins or something Kevin Slowey-related.

    • Seth Stohs, Jerr, Mike Sixel and 12 others like this
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Willihammer
Mar 28 2017 11:16 AM

 

Obviously there is a large sector of Twins fans that don’t care about any of that. Others will tell you that he was hitting .284/.384/.417 (.801) on August 16th last year. In that game, he strained his quadriceps (both of them) which affected him the rest of the season. Had he just shut it down at that time, that .801 OPS would have been good, something to build some excitement about. Instead, he toughed it out and kept playing through the injury. Over the season’s final six weeks, he barely hit over .100 and his OPS dropped by almost 50 points.

Yeah. If healthy, I still like him to hit .775-.800. But he's gotta stay healthy!

Because of minimal exposure to LHP, BA is up, K's are down.  Leads the team in hitting into double plays.  Continues to hit too many ground balls.  Extra base hits are about the same.  Power is minimal and the opposition plays him to hit the other way - which he does.  His 2 trips to the DL for vague ailments result in a call up of Vargas and increased time at DH by both Vargas and Grossman.  After the season is over, Joe seriously considers retirement as he can no longer perform at the level he was accustomed to in his earlier/younger years.  Quietly, the Twins hope he calls it a career.  

    • Mike Sixel and D.C Twins like this

I think if Mauer has his AB against LHP severely limited and he can retain his lofty BB% he has a good chance at:

400 AB, .275 BA, .375 OBP, .390 SLG (.765).

12 - 18 doubles, 5 - 8 home runs.

And a triple. Mauer should hit a triple.

So much of this depends on where in the world Moliter puts him in the batting order.  1st?  2nd?  5th?  I'd assume he's mostly done batting 3rd?  Regardless of where he hits, I think he can still put up a modest .800 OPS with an average around .270.  Regardless of where he hits, he needs to be a clutch hitter for the Twins.  49 RBI and 1 homerun with runners on base, is not going to cut it.  If only he could hit in every count like it was 3-2 (.359 average, .484 slugging).  Unfortunately I'd say he gets a bit less than 400 at bats, and ends up with 7 homeruns and 45-50 RBI.

 

Do we have anything like sunglasses this year to help raise our expectations? :P

 

LED lights for night games?  They say the visibility overall will be better.

 

2016 Mauer AVG: Daytime (.291) ; Nighttime (.245)

    • Mike Sixel, Oldgoat_MN and d-mac like this

I like the idea of limiting his starts against LHP. I hope that helps to buoy his slash line both by playing to his strength against RHP & by allowing him extra rest as he gets older. Park seems to be hitting well enough to be a great substitute in the lineup against LHP.

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

My expectations are relatively high for him this year.  Why? Because for the first time in 5 years there are no expectations, improved strength, flexibility, eye sight, etc. It seems this year he is just a baseball player coming in after a subpar season.  Everyone gets banged up over the course of the season and then heals up going into spring.  Due to this I expect him bat around .315 going into June.  However, because of his performance Molitor will begin playing him too much and the batting average will decline until Molitor realizes the rest is what got him to the .315 range. .  

 

Final Line:  .291/.397/.409  8 HR

    • 70charger and Dozier's Glorious Hair like this
Man, I hope you all aren't disappointed with the final stat line...

Lots of optimism for a nearly 34 year old.
    • Mike Sixel, Oldgoat_MN, Pius Jefferson and 1 other like this

I say he does what he did last year, rate wise. Counting wise? Adjust for 120 games.

 

So, about the 18-20th best 1B in the league.

 

As for Park staying, they got lucky no one claimed him, I guess. Because if they thought he was going to be here, they never would have cut* him.

 

*or whatever fancy word MLB uses for what the transaction was.

    • Oldgoat_MN and Sconnie like this

I knew Hrbek was big, but he's so big he occupies third and first place in walks? I am guessing first is Harmon? total guess.

    • Oldgoat_MN and d-mac like this

Fangraphs projection:

 

Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Joe Mauer 455 .268 .355 .390 .322 -0.5 -0.5 1.3 0.8

 

They project the Twins to be 18th in 1B WAR this year, give or take. 

    • D.C Twins likes this
Mauer will still get enouhh at bats to qualify for the batting title. But they will sit him more against lefties and he will swap with park at DH 30 to 40 games. I see mauer playing in 140 games with 25 to 30 as DH. So 520AB and approx .280 ave/ .350 obp/ .420 slg. Im rooting for 35 2bs and 10 -15Hrs (a little optimistic on power i know).

 

Mauer will still get enouhh at bats to qualify for the batting title. But they will sit him more against lefties and he will swap with park at DH 30 to 40 games. I see mauer playing in 140 games with 25 to 30 as DH. So 520AB and approx .280 ave/ .350 obp/ .420 slg. Im rooting for 35 2bs and 10 -15Hrs (a little optimistic on power i know).

 

that would make him 10-15% more productive than last year on a rate basis! That seems optimistic, but I hope you are right.

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

Honestly, while I don't think they're impossible numbers for him to reach, I think the only one he even comes close to is doubles.

 

Given his age, injury history and recent track record due to both, I think .281 is unlikely, as are the HRs and the OPS.

 

I think .265, with 6 and .715 are more likely.

 

Not saying he won't reach Seth's predictions, but I just don't see it.

    • Vanimal46 likes this

I am not able to project Mauer's hitting for 2017.  I do not think he will improve except as Molitor removes him from games where he is destined to fail.  So I went crazy trying to see how players decline and learned a lot.

 

http://www.fangraphs...k-only-decline/ has a key statement - In the past few seasons, hitters no longer improve once they arrive in the majors. Instead, their performance is constant until they begin to decline, which, on average, is at 26 years old. (This is an reminder of why players like Vargas need to play now if we want to maximize their potential.)

 

Since Mauer strained his body by being a catcher I looked at the aging curve for catchers - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/catcher-aging-is-a-curve-not-a-cliff/ which has an interesting insight - As we can see, peak offensive levels are from 25 to 28, as is pretty commonly accepted, and then there’s a gradual decline as a player gets beyond those years. But notice the trend of the blue line (catchers) compared to all position players (the red line); they move basically in lock-step from 27 to 32, after which point catchers actually age better than the norms for non-catchers.  

 

And - Good 34 year olds don’t regularly become bad 35 year olds. In general, you should expect players to decline at something like +0.5 per season. If they’re especially injury prone and their bodies are breaking down, limiting future playing time, maybe you knock off +0.75 WAR per season. 

The next site I looked at said - hough he's not part of the study, it's worth pointing out that the decline outlined in the above graphs applies to Pujols. His 9.4 WAR in his age-29 season in 2009 was the highest of his career, but since then, his WAR totals have been trending in the wrong direction. He had a 7.3 WAR at age 30, a 5.1 WAR at age 31 and a 4.6 WAR this past season at age 32. http://bleacherrepor...on-star-players

 

This next piece seems to indicate that players decline, but flatten for a period in the thirties http://www.fangraphs...the-mainstream/  the relative production from 32-35 is pretty stable, and as others have shown, framing skills seem mostly immune to aging. So, while the downturn in aging curves might be bad news for a 32 year old catcher. Of course Mauer is not a catcher so his pitch framing and other catching skills cannot overcome his physical decline (but give hope for Castro).

 

But Mauer also had a concussion - "Recent work, however, has called into question the assertion that full recovery after sport concussion without persistent adverse effects is the norm."   https://www.ncbi.nlm...les/PMC3685434/

 

And lastly another site may apply to Joe - ""Although players who sustain a concussion may be symptom-free and cleared by MLB [Major League Baseball] protocol to return to play, the residual effects of concussion on the complex motor skills required for batting may still be a problem," said principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Rochester in New York."  http://www.webmd.com...ger-study-finds

 

With that in mind I think we cannot expect upswings from Joe at this stage, but we should understand that this great players has many factors leading to his current production. 

    • Oldgoat_MN, bizaff, Eris and 2 others like this
Mauer will lead the league in fastballs taken down the middle for 0-1 counts, 3 hoppers to second, soft flares to left, excuses offered on TD, LH batters box smoothing out, and aggravating Chief.

He'll put up less than 60 RBI, a lower SLG than every regular first baseman in MLB, and spend time on the DL with some non specific ailment or another.

Sorry....the guy just annoys me.
    • Blake, Mike Sixel, zenser and 8 others like this

 

Mauer will lead the league in fastballs taken down the middle for 0-1 counts, 3 hoppers to second, soft flares to left, excuses offered on TD, LH batters box smoothing out, and aggravating Chief.

He'll put up less than 60 RBI, a lower SLG than every regular first baseman in MLB, and spend time on the DL with some non specific ailment or another.

Sorry....the guy just annoys me.

Yeah, I have to agree with you. It has seemed to me that Mr. Mauer has not adjusted his approach as pitchers adjust to him. It looks to me like opposing pitchers are taking advantage of the free strike they are given.

I'm cautiously optimistic about Mauer. in 2016 his K% was down and BB% was up vs 2015. Also, he improved his batted ball profile in literally every category last year. More hard hit balls, fewer softly hit balls, fewer ground balls, more flies and liners, higher HR/FB%, and fewer infield flies. Yet his BABIP went down. That screams bad luck. 

    • ThejacKmp, Oldgoat_MN and Original Whizzinator like this

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