Joe Mauer’s Cooperstown Case: Assessing Value
Image courtesy of © Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY SportsWas Mauer Clutch?
There are many ways to look at the value a player brings to a team. One that has gained popularity in more recent years is Win Probability Added (WPA), a stat that has been kept since 1974. Among catchers during that time, Joe Mauer ranks second and he only trails current HOF member Mike Piazza. It took Piazza four trips through the BBWAA voting process to be elected, but this has been the case with multiple power hitters from the steroid era.
Another FanGraphs statistic that uses WPA is Clutch, which measures how well a player performed in high leverage situations. Piazza does great when it comes to WPA because he had an extended career, but his Clutch score is actually negative. Joe Mauer ranks seventh all-time in Clutch due in large part to having a .943 OPS in nearly 850 plate appearances with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Clutch as a statistic does have flaws because it compares a player to himself. Mauer hit .306/.388/.439 for his career so to have a positive Clutch, he has to hit better than those numbers in high leverage situations. Good hitters hit no matter the situation, so Clutch is something that is almost impossible to quantify.
Going to WAR
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) has become the common measuring stick for the value players accrue for their team. Currently, there are 16 catchers who have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Mauer ranks ninth all-time in WAR and his total is also higher than current catchers like Buster Posey and Yadier Molina that might be on the path to Cooperstown. Also, his WAR total is higher than the average of those already elected to the Hall.
The players ahead of him on the WAR catching leaderboard are a who’s who of all-time catching greats. Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, Mike Piazza, and Yogi Berra are among the greatest players of all-time and Mauer is right there with them. Mauer is also within 4.3 WAR of passing Berra and Piazza to place him fifth all-time. He’d have been able to reach that total with one more good season behind the plate.
Show Me the Money
Mauer signed the largest contract in Twins history following his MVP performance in 2009. For many fans, Mauer’s contract became a point of contention later in his career. His overall value and performance on the field were worth every penny out of the Pohlad’s pocketbooks.
Prior to signing the contract, Mauer had provided the Twins with $160.8 million in value while his salaries had totaled $21.53 million. For his career, he provided the Twins with $329.5 million in value and he was paid just over $218 million. Obviously, his years after concussions forced him to move to first base weren’t worth $23 million per year. The Twins signed him to be a Hall of Fame catcher and he could wind up being the second Hall of Fame player to play his entire career in a Twins uniform.
Was Mauer’s value enough to help his Cooperstown case?
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