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Joe Mauer’s Cooperstown Case: The Batting Titles

Joe Mauer will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2024. Many Twins fans were critical of Mauer during his Twins tenure, but national baseball writers might think more highly of Mauer and his Cooperstown Case. He might have been the best catcher of his generation and the only thing that stopped that from becoming a reality were concussions that forced him to move to first base. Mauer’s time behind the plate certainly outweighs his move to first and that only strengthens his Cooperstown Case.
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
I sat in the stands back in 2006 as the Twins were locking up the AL Central and Mauer beat out multiple Yankees for his first batting title. At the time, I certainly thought it was great for a catcher to win a batting title, but I didn’t fully appreciate what it meant for a backstop to be able to not only play a physically demanding position, but to also hit at an ungodly level.

He would go on to win batting titles in 2008 and 2009 before being named the American League’s Most Valuable Player for the 2009 campaign. He is the only catcher to win three batting titles. I don’t appreciate that enough and Twins fans don’t appreciate that enough. He was one of the best hitting catchers in baseball history and that’s why the Twins signed him to a franchise-altering contract.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame collects information on possible future inductee and Mauer has some unique qualifications for the Hall of Fame. He topped the .400 mark in on-base percentage in six of his seasons at catcher, a total exceeded by only four other catchers. None of those catchers started their careers after 1930. Let that sink in for a minute. Mauer was a once-in-a-generation catcher… No, that’s not enough. He was more than once-in-a-generation and not enough praise is put on what he was able to do behind the plate.

There were other very good catchers during the Mauer era, but none of them were able to match his offensive output. Yadier Molina, Jorge Posada, and Buster Posey all played in the same era as Mauer, but none were able to match his combination of offensive output and defensive capability. He was truly a once in a generation player.

Batting titles alone certainly don’t qualify a player for baseball’s highest honor. That being said, Mauer’s circumstances are clearly unique. He won multiple batting titles while playing the most physically, and likely mentally, demanding position in the sport and he did so while being one of the best players in the game.

He saw the ball. He hit the ball. And he did that better than any player to put on catching gear. No other American League catcher has won a single batting title. Not to mention, Mauer was able to pull off the trifecta.

How much do Mauer’s batting titles help his Cooperstown Case?

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14 Comments

I agree, totally. And I hope he gets in on the first ballot. I fear, though, it will be a struggle. If, like Puckett, and had no choice but to leave the game because of the freakish injury, and he would have retired with concussions that forced him out of the game early, I think he would have been a lock. Absolute lock. But the relatively mediocre seasons at first....... didn't do him any favors for the HOF. They also count, now. Instead of being forced out as one of the best catchers to ever play the game, he added seasons that were not HOF material. Bilateral Voting Syndrome. He has my vote, though.

 

 

    • Dantes929, mikelink45, DocBauer and 3 others like this

I like to compare Mauer to another great hitting catcher, Mike Piazza. He's probably the best hitting catcher to play before Mauer and is in the HOF.

Seasons: Mauer - 15, Piazza - 16

Hits: Mauer - 2123, Piazza - 2127

HR: Mauer - 143, Piazza - 427

RBI: Mauer - 923, Piazza - 1335

Seasons with 200 or more Hits: Mauer - 0, Piazza - 1

Seasons with 100 or more runs: Mauer - 0, Piazza - 2

Seasons with 100 or more RBI: Mauer - 0, Piazza - 6

Seasons with .400 OBP or more: Mauer - 6, Piazza - 4

MVP: Mauer - 1, Piazza - 0. Considered for MVP vote: Mauer - 5, Piazza - 9

All-Star: Mauer - 6, Piazza - 12

ROY: Mauer - no, Piazza - yes

Silver Slugger: Mauer - 5, Piazza - 10

Errors: Mauer - 30, Piazza - 124

Passed Balls; Mauer - 40, Piazza - 102

Caught Stealing PCT: Mauer - 33%, Piazza - 23%

 

IMO, Offensively Piazza was superior to Mauer. Defensively Mauer was superior. Both played about the same number of seasons and had the same number of hits. 

Obviously Piazza made the HOF due to his bat and run producing skill. While Mauer was never the run producing machine that Piazza was, if Mauer makes it, it will be because of his defense and ability to get on base. 

 

    • Dantes929, h2oface, mikelink45 and 4 others like this

Correct me if I am wrong, Cody, but isn't Mauer the only catcher to ever win a batting title? Or was there one other back whenever in the National League?

 

If he had one batting title as a catcher while doing well the rest of the time, I would say no. But he was a great hitter for a very long time with three titles.That puts him into the Hall, at least for me.

    • DocBauer likes this

 

Correct me if I am wrong, Cody, but isn't Mauer the only catcher to ever win a batting title? Or was there one other back whenever in the National League?

 

If he had one batting title as a catcher while doing well the rest of the time, I would say no. But he was a great hitter for a very long time with three titles.That puts him into the Hall, at least for me.

"In baseball history, only three full-time catchers have won batting titles. In the National League, Cincinnati's Eugene "Bubbles" Hargrave won it in 1926. The Reds' Ernie Lombardi won it in 1938 and 1942. Mauer is the only American League backstop to win a batting title, coming out on top in 2006, 2008 and 2009." https://bringmethene...e-batting-title

 

If the voters concentrate on his catcher years he is in.The extra years got him past 2000 hits which is an important consideration for the voters.  

 

Jaws has him #7 all time among catchers.  https://www.baseball...rs/jaws_C.shtmlright behind Yogi Berra - that is really high praise.The next three on the list and everyone above him is in the HOF.  

 

For all the fuss over Yadier Molina he is 24 on the list and Buster Posey is 16.The highest rated catcher not in the hall is Thurman Munson and, by-the-way, AJ is number 69 on the list. 

    • h2oface, woolywoolhouse and rdehring like this

 

I agree, totally. And I hope he gets in on the first ballot. I fear, though, it will be a struggle. If, like Puckett, and had no choice but to leave the game because of the freakish injury, and he would have retired with concussions that forced him out of the game early, I think he would have been a lock. Absolute lock. But the relatively mediocre seasons at first....... didn't do him any favors for the HOF. They also count, now. Instead of being forced out as one of the best catchers to ever play the game, he added seasons that were not HOF material. Bilateral Voting Syndrome. He has my vote, though.

After the 2010 season his career average was .327. His career average was .306.That's a big deal.I agree with your conclusion of BVS. I also really like that you coined the phrase.I think Tony O should have been in because of his 3 batting titles. Again, do you want the Hall to be the Hall of Great or the Hall of Very Good for a Long Time? 

    • h2oface and Doctor Gast like this

"How much do Mauer’s batting titles help his Cooperstown Case?" Shorter answer.Without the batting titles = no shot.With the batting titles = 50/50

    • h2oface likes this

You should also consider other metrics like WAR where the normal standard is 60 for a career and Mauer is at 55.3.

 

There are lots of players ahead of him in WAR that haven't gotten in.

 

Then you consider the Twins lack of postseason success during Joe's career and I personally don't see him making it.

I think he should be such a shoo-in that I'm hardly even interested in constructing the case for his election, until he doesn't make it on first ballot and then some work on his behalf becomes needed. But yes, in answer to the question, the batting titles as a catcher would be central to making such a case.

    • DocBauer likes this

My expectation is he will not get in by normal vote, but has a chance via veteran committee.He numbers as a catcher are HOF, but when you include the injury seasons late in career he will lose votes.Also, his personality will hurt him, it should not be a factor but will be.Also the expectations of him and what people wanted him to be was never in line with what he was.What he was was great, and could be HOF, that is where vets come in. 

 

"In baseball history, only three full-time catchers have won batting titles. In the National League, Cincinnati's Eugene "Bubbles" Hargrave won it in 1926. The Reds' Ernie Lombardi won it in 1938 and 1942. Mauer is the only American League backstop to win a batting title, coming out on top in 2006, 2008 and 2009." https://bringmethene...e-batting-title
 

Due to that link being from 2006 it does not include Buster Posey having won the batting title and MVP in 2012. I believe that's it though.

    • h2oface likes this

I know this article was about batting titles, but I think the other great thing that Mauer has going for him is his impact on the community/popularizing baseball in greater MN. He was a fan favorite (especially during his catching years). He is also a very good man who continues to impact the community, even after retirement. 

 

I know this article was about batting titles, but I think the other great thing that Mauer has going for him is his impact on the community/popularizing baseball in greater MN. He was a fan favorite (especially during his catching years). He is also a very good man who continues to impact the community, even after retirement. 

I agree and this is why if he's not voted in, I think he'll eventually make it in via the Veterans Committee.

 

I know this article was about batting titles, but I think the other great thing that Mauer has going for him is his impact on the community/popularizing baseball in greater MN. He was a fan favorite (especially during his catching years). He is also a very good man who continues to impact the community, even after retirement. 

Even more so, that should be the tipping point for Oliva. Who's a better ambassador for the game and the Twins than he has been for the last 50 years?

 

    • KGB likes this

 

You should also consider other metrics like WAR where the normal standard is 60 for a career and Mauer is at 55.3.

 

There are lots of players ahead of him in WAR that haven't gotten in.

 

Then you consider the Twins lack of postseason success during Joe's career and I personally don't see him making it.

He could easily have gotten over 60 by playing 3 more years but just like playing post concussion has already diminished his chances. I think playing more to get to that standard diminishes his chances more.............. Also, not true by the way. There are 102 players with higher WAR in the Hall many because they played more seasons than Joe.About 60 had fewer WAR including Puckett and many of them also with more seasons than Mauer. Harold Baines only had a WAR of 38 in 22 seasons for Pete's sake.I'm not going to lose any sleep if he doesn't get in but he is a solid candidate.But for a concussion I think Morneau might have ended up and even stronger candidate.

    • h2oface and DocBauer like this

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