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Game Thread: Twins vs Red Sox, 6/20 @ 7:10 PM CT

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But that's not how he earned the nickname. In his earlier days, and even all the way up until his tenure at catcher ended in 2013, it was a nod to his extraordinary, elite ability to hit for average. Mauer led the American League in that category three times in four years from 2006 through 2009, and his lifetime batting average (.313) ranks third among active players, trailing only surefire Hall of Famers Miguel Cabrera and Ichiro Suzuki.

Obviously, that aspect of his game has been amiss these last two seasons, in which Mauer has batted .277 and .265 respectively. But this year we're seeing early signs that Average Joe might be back, and the positive implications of that would stretch well beyond the nostalgic charm of seeing his BA start with a three.">

Has Average Joe Returned?

Referring to Joe Mauer as "Average Joe" during the past two years has been a disparagement – a reference to his utterly pedestrian performance, which could only generously be described as mediocre in comparison to his peers at first base.

But that's not how he earned the nickname. In his earlier days, and even all the way up until his tenure at catcher ended in 2013, it was a nod to his extraordinary, elite ability to hit for average. Mauer led the American League in that category three times in four years from 2006 through 2009, and his lifetime batting average (.313) ranks third among active players, trailing only surefire Hall of Famers Miguel Cabrera and Ichiro Suzuki.

Obviously, that aspect of his game has been amiss these last two seasons, in which Mauer has batted .277 and .265 respectively. But this year we're seeing early signs that Average Joe might be back, and the positive implications of that would stretch well beyond the nostalgic charm of seeing his BA start with a three.
Image courtesy of John Rieger. USA Today
Through the first two weeks of the season, Mauer ranks third in the AL with a .372 average. He already has his first home run – a feat he didn't accomplish last year until May 20th. Through 53 plate appearances, he has drawn eight walks with only four strikeouts.

That last piece is the most encouraging. Batting averages can be fluky over short stretches and homers come at random times with him. But Mauer's control of the strike zone suggests that he is seeing the ball better than he has in years. Since his last full strong season in 2012, his walk rate has dropped (from 12.0 percent to 11.6 percent to 10.1 percent) while he has struck out at rates of 17.5 percent, 18.5 percent and 16.8 percent – his previous career rate was 10.4 percent.

Over the first half of April, Mauer has been controlling the strike zone masterfully, signaling a return to his bread and butter. The result has been a phenomenal .472 on-base percentage, and to say that his skills in that department are sorely needed would be a tremendous understatement. The rest of the offense entered play Sunday with a .270 OBP, and all seven of Minnesota's home runs have been solo shots.

The Twins need base-runners. Even when some of the other hitters get on track more, that will continue to be the case. It's an area that Average Joe specializes in, so if these early indicators prove legitimate, it will bode extremely well for the team's chances of continuing to win and dig out of this early hole.

Heck, Mauer might even be on his way to earning a label that many have been reluctant to bestow upon him: Leader. How else can you frame his consistent quality at-bats and outstanding production while the youth-infused lineup has almost roundly struggled?

Mauer factored heavily into Sunday's sweep-clinching victory, reaching base in four of six plate appearances. While Oswaldo Arcia gets the headlines – and Gatorade shower – for his walk-off hit, it was Mauer who sparked the 12th-inning rally with a leadoff walk. Two nights earlier, he made Byung Ho Park's go-ahead double in the eighth possible with a clutch two-out RBI single in the seventh.

Average Joe is back to being the subtle, underrated, beating heart of the Twins offense, at least so far. It's a good look.

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40 Comments

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SF Twins Fan
Apr 17 2016 09:03 PM

Seems all the uproar in the offseason about the Twins management playing Mauer and having him hit at the top of the lineup might have been overblown.

    • hybridbear likes this
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Old Twins Cap
Apr 17 2016 09:05 PM

Hard to see and appreciate the positives of an 0 and 9 start, but Mauer has to be one of them.Escobar another one, except for defense.And then, there's the starting pitching and runs allowed overall.

 

It didn't help that the Twins started on the road at, arguably, the two best AL teams.Or that Chicago started hot.

 

It is what it is, but a OBP machine in the middle of the lineup is exactly what is needed to produce scoring opportunities.

    • hybridbear and gagu like this
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twinsnorth49
Apr 17 2016 09:44 PM
I think Mauer playing to similar levels we've seen in the past has the potential for a huge trickle down effect on this roster.

He's been tremendous.
    • James, nicksaviking, hybridbear and 6 others like this

He also had the hit that could just as easily scored Nunez for the game winner.  He looks good up there.

    • woolywoolhouse and gagu like this

Maybe more than in any other year of his career Joe Mauer can show a bunch of young ballplayers how to win games by playing smart and doing things the right way. Coaches can harp on correct form all day long, but Joe Mauer does things every game that prove you can win by doing it by the book. 

 

Is it rubbing off? We can't know for sure, but when I see Oswaldo Arcia reach out and stroke an oppo hit for the win, that's an encouraging sign. Hit 'em where they ain't, and then play smart, solid defense. Get your feet right, so you can throw the ball on target. Understand the game situation so you know the right play before it happens. Study pitchers so you know their tendencies. 

 

Baseball is easy. Just play like Joe Mauer. ;-)

    • stringer bell, Oldgoat_MN, HitInAPinch and 4 others like this

It is fun to see nice comments about Joe again.  Of course many of the comments will be from the same people who wrote him off.  Baseball is so difficult, it really is hard to predict the rise of young players, the declines of old players, and the sudden one year surges of unknowns.  Thats why we love it. 

    • ScrapTheNickname, PseudoSABR, Danchat and 3 others like this

It's great to see him controlling the strike zone and striking out again around 10% instead of 18%.The additional 8% of balls in play will add about .025 to his batting average pushing him back to a .300 hitter.

I was resigned to Joe being the hitter we've seen the last couple of years. It is great to see him hitting like this again. Maybe the weight training in the offseason and another year away from the concussions did the trick? The best part is seeing that Joe is coming up to bat and being happy about it. Just like old times. Not to mention it's a huge boon to the team. I just hope we're not jinxing it ;) 

He is the second prominent Twin to return to a semblance of himself in the third year after a concussion. And I am sure that around MLB there are others. Maybe it just takes that long to do intricate hand eye coordination things. I don't think you can "train" yourself out of a concussion. He really does look his old self!
    • d-mac likes this
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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 18 2016 06:49 AM

We haven't seen a Joe Mauer with these peripherals since... 2010, maybe?

 

It's promising, to say the least. Joe's K rate is down to 7.5% and his BB rate is up to 15.1%. He hasn't had a season with more walks than strikeouts since his 90/88 split in 2012 and hasn't dominated the strike zone since his 65/53 split in 2010.

    • glunn, nicksaviking, spycake and 2 others like this

 

Seems all the uproar in the offseason about the Twins management playing Mauer and having him hit at the top of the lineup might have been overblown.

 

? What uproar? Most people wanted him at the top of the order?

    • Dantes929 and d-mac like this

He is playing at a .385 BABIP.  He finished 2013 with a .383 BABIP and 2009 with a .373, but his average has been around .340, so he will likely regress to this.  Still, regression and all, he is on the pace for a high .800s low .900s OPS.

 

A bright point for this team that without him would had been 6 games under .500 now or something ;)

 

Bruno should be handing out Mauer sunglasses left and right...

    • Oldgoat_MN, KGB, HitInAPinch and 2 others like this
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HitInAPinch
Apr 18 2016 07:29 AM

Another year removed from the concussion and VOILA !

    • d-mac likes this

 

He is playing at a .385 BABIP.  He finished 2013 with a .383 BABIP and 2009 with a .373, but his average has been around .340, so he will likely regress to this.  Still, regression and all, he is on the pace for a high .800s low .900s OPS.

 

A bright point for this team that without him would had been 6 games under .500 now or something ;)

 

Bruno should be handing out Mauer sunglasses left and right...

Agree, that's why his strike out rate is so important.Not being a power hitter, he's got to get put the ball in play.His K% had been increasing since 2011 and if he's got that back under control, he should be back as a .300+ hitter.

 

This is even before the sunglasses effect, I don't think he broken them out yet this year. 

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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 18 2016 08:01 AM

 

This is even before the sunglasses effect, I don't think he broken them out yet this year. 

I'm positive he has worn the glasses at least once this season and pretty sure he has worn them more than once.

Getting above average production out of 1B is a huge boon to the lineup.Really nice to see.

    • d-mac likes this

I am on of those that thought Joe might still have a batting title left in him but no, I don't expect him to hit .372 with a .472 OBP. I don't think his career averages are unattainable though.  Of course it is SSS and people forget he had a nice stretch last year fairly early in the season also.  I don't recall him looking this solid though. I lhave always wanted him in the 2nd spot (his whole career) and a huge side benefit of not striking out as much is walking more.  OBP is still king in my book

I liked this article, and MAN do I like this development! I've missed this Joe Mauer and the team has sorely hurt from his inability to be this guy the past couple seasons. 

 

I have refused to rip him like so much of the fanbase has because it has felt to me the whole time like his ineffectiveness really was just due to recovering from a brain injury. Sadly, he probably had to struggle his way through it in hopes of a renaissance. It hurt the team in the short-term, but the hope was to get this guy back for the long-term. I sure hope this hot spell is as legit and lasting as they need it to be.

 

 

    • glunn, James, 70charger and 3 others like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 18 2016 10:24 AM

 

Of course it is SSS and people forget he had a nice stretch last year fairly early in the season also.

It's definitely SSS but Joe didn't really have solid, consistent performance last year... He had three *really* nice games in late April last season but other than that, he was treading water around what ended up being his season mark.

 

He was also striking out a lot more often than he has this season. He ended April with 14 Ks, or about .67 per game. This season, he's striking out about .33 times per game.

 

The BABIP is about the same as it was in April of 2015 but Joe is walking more and striking out a lot less. That's a good indication this performance trend can continue and isn't entirely luck-based (though that BABIP is certainly due to regress a bit).

    • glunn and d-mac like this
Learning about concisions in the past 20 has been bigger than- I don't know. PEDs? I mean the humbling nature of the whole concision education. What we don't know.
Imagine, in the history of the game, how many catchers- catchers alone- who may have had undetected concision syndrome. How many of them would have benefitted, like Joe, to switch positions before it was too late. Not many would have had the clout, or have received more than one season's worth of patient tolerance.
    • PopRiveter, SwainZag, kab21 and 1 other like this

 

Another year removed from the concussion and VOILA !

 

Sometimes it's just that simple. I read on TD (not sure who posted about it) about how Span and Morneau returned to productive hitters in the 3rd full season after their concussions. That led me to take a late-round flyer on Joe in my fantasy league this year. I'm glad I did!

 

I'm happy for Joe, brain injuries are tough. 

    • James and gagu like this

 

Seems all the uproar in the offseason about the Twins management playing Mauer and having him hit at the top of the lineup might have been overblown.

Been saying it for years.The reason Mauer has spent most of his career in the 3 hole is because he is the best pure hitter they have.That has not changed.Mauer should bat 3rd, Sano 4th and Plouffe 5th.Part of the problem with this lineup is that Rosario, Park and Dozier should all be # 6 hitters.There.I've said it. Dozier is not, never has been, and never will be a leadoff hitter.Unless or until either Buxton or Kepler wins a job and proves to be a leadoff hitter one of those three should be traded for a leadoff hitter.It won't be Park. 

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EddieMatthews
Apr 18 2016 11:55 AM

Joe's best position in the line-up is batting second.  He will see better pitches when there are runners on base, and when there is a solid threat batting behind him.  Those were missing last year and there's promise that he will have that help this year.  I'm hoping that he will be in the chase for a fourth batting title.  

    • Mike Sixel, jokin and d-mac like this
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LA VIkes Fan
Apr 18 2016 12:44 PM

 

Been saying it for years.The reason Mauer has spent most of his career in the 3 hole is because he is the best pure hitter they have.That has not changed.Mauer should bat 3rd, Sano 4th and Plouffe 5th.Part of the problem with this lineup is that Rosario, Park and Dozier should all be # 6 hitters.There.I've said it. Dozier is not, never has been, and never will be a leadoff hitter.Unless or until either Buxton or Kepler wins a job and proves to be a leadoff hitter one of those three should be traded for a leadoff hitter.It won't be Park. 

 Agreed, although moving Mauer to 2nd in the order helps because you can have Sano 3, Plouffe 4, and Park/Dozier/Arcia/Rosario bat 5-7. That means someone among Escobar, Nunez and Buxton has to lead off. That's probably the best move and right now Nunez is the best option. It will be interesting to see how they play it with Plouffe out.  

I'm a firm believer in the idea that your best hitter should bat 2nd.  Mauer batting there gives our best OBP guy more PAs meaning more opportunity for the power guys.  

    • James, jokin, SwainZag and 2 others like this

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