Mauer's Renaissance Season
Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsThe Dark Ages
Mauer moved to first base but his offense didn't follow him to his new position. His poor play corresponded with some of the worst seasons in Twins history. This made him an easy target for fans looking for someone to blame for the team's poor results on the field. While many would consider this unfair, he was considered the face of the franchise and the hometown star. His large contract also made it hard to ignore his performance.
First baseman has typically been a position for power hitting batters and Mauer didn't fit this mold. From 2014-2016, he hit .267/.353/.380 while averaging eight home runs and 28 doubles. This was a far cry from his .323/.405/.468 line from his first 10 seasons. Mauer just wasn't the same Mauer and there might have been more than concussions to blame.
As the 2016 season approached, Mauer told the Pioneer Press "bright sunshine sometimes triggered blurred vision" that he linked to the concussion with which he was diagnosed in August 2013. Picking up the spin of pitches is one of the toughest things for a hitter. Blurred vision might have been one of the reasons Mauer has averaged 100 strikeouts over the last three seasons.
Mauer didn't exactly light the world on fire to start the 2017 campaign. He had a .546 OPS in April while only managing a .225 batting average. All four of his extra-base hits were doubles and he had more strikeouts (six) than walks (five). The Twins were only one game over .500 but something would soon click for both Mauer and the Twins.
Since the calendar turned to May, Mauer morphed back into the Mauer of old. Since May, he has hit .319/.405/.447 with 34 extra-base hits and a 61/50 strikeout to walk ratio. Those numbers are nearly identical to his totals from his first ten seasons in the league. Minnesota has also found a way to continue to win games as the club finds itself in the middle of the hunt for the final wild card spot.
Along with Mauer's offensive turnaround, he has also developed into one of the best defensive first basement in the American League. Mauer is one of a group of Twins players who could be in line for a Gold Glove. In SABR's most recent SDI rankings, Mauer has fallen further back in the rankings but Twins fans know how valuable his glove has been this season especially with a young left side of the infield.
Mauer is signed through the 2018 season and he has been one of the best players in team history. His renaissance this season has been something to appreciate. His days as the punching bag of fans' jokes might be over and one can only hope that a return to the Dark Ages isn't in store for the Twins franchise.
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