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Mauer Appears to Have Found it Again

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 10 April 2018 · 1,960 views

minnesota twins joe mauer
Through eight games in the 2018 Major League Baseball season the Minnesota Twins have played to a .500 record. Having had to deal with blistering cold, and even some snow, it's hardly felt like a true baseball season. If there's one thing that has felt warm and fuzzy however, it's been the look and output of first basemen Joe Mauer.
In 2017, Mauer returned to the land of .300 batting averages for the first time since 2013. He posted an .801 OPS bolstered by a .384 OBP all while looking the part of a guy that has a trio of batting titles under his belt. Having already transformed himself into a Gold Glove caliber first basemen, getting back to his old ways at the dish was a nice sigh to see. What's encouraging is that early returns in 2018 suggest that there may be more to come.

To understand where we are, we should probably take a look back at where we've been. The last time Mauer was considered "himself" in 2013, he was putting balls in play with a 37.4% hard hit rating. His chase rates (O-Swing %) and swinging strike percentages have really never gotten out of line, which indicates that his going well has always been a reflection of barreling the baseball. Fast forward to when things took a turn for the worst, and we find ourselves at the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Mauer's .732 and .718 OPS in those two seasons respectively are a career worst. It's no coincidence that those numbers were posted in conjunction with 28% and 29.8% hard hit rates.

Now let's jump back to the present. A year ago, Mauer looked like a revitalized and rejuvenated player. His 2.2 fWAR last year was a high water mark since the last time he was an All Star (2013), and it was backed by a 36.4% hard hit rate. What's great is that the early returns in 2018 don't make that look like an anomaly, and if anything, suggest that things may be trending even a bit better.

Sure it's early, so let's pump the breaks on another MVP type season, but Mauer's start is pretty eye-popping. Thus far the Twins first basemen has a career best 47.6% hard hit rate, and he's already put 11 balls in play with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher. A season ago his total was 204 and right now he's on pace to slightly eclipse that with a total of 223. Diving in even a bit further to those barreled balls, 10 of the 11 have been hit 100 mph or harder. In 2018 Mauer generated exit velocities of 100+ mph on 105 different occasions. With his current pace, he'd nearly double that in 2018 as he tracking towards 203 occurrences.

What we're seeing in the early going from Mauer is a batter that's not only locked in, but one that isn't being cheated either. His 13.4% chase rate is more than 3% better than at any other point in his career. Having always had a very good idea of where the strike zone is, Joe is currently dictating at bats, than walloping the baseball when it comes into his hitting zone. Last season, Mauer's 13.9 K% was 26th among qualified MLB hitters. At just 10% out of the gate in 2018, only 15 qualified hitters have posted better numbers.

There's no denying that there's a level of regression awaiting its turn to set in. After all, Mauer has a current seven game hitting streak and owns a .375/.500/.542 slash line out of the gate. The .429 BABIP is incredibly high, but also reflective of the quality contact he's continued to generate. Even with regression though, the process has yielded results that should display a level of sustainability with the assumption that the blueprint is stuck to over the course of the season.

At the end of the day, Minnesota isn't going to watch Joe Mauer win another batting title by the end of his career (Jose Altuve exists in the American League). What is becoming more clear however, is that there's some serious ability left in the tank for a guy trending towards a Hall of Fame career. On the final year of his deal with the Twins, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine would be well served to bring this guy back for another couple of years. If Joe wants to keep trotting out to the diamond, it doesn't seem like his skills have told him that's a bad idea.

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  • Mike Frasier Law, D. Hocking, Platoon and 4 others like this



Mauer has become a very good #2 hitter. OBP is amazing, as is his defense. He has already saved about 7-8 throwing errors with nice scoops at first. Hopefully his good start will continue into a good season.

 

Unfortunately with Joe there will always be the "what if" and that is his lack of HR power and RBIs which you must have from a 1B. If the run production is picked up by the rest of the lineup, Joe will continue to be valuable. If, however, on days like last night against Verlander when no one is delivering the clutch hits, we need one of our veterans to produce. We love Joe's OBP, but cringe when he takes pitches the team needs him to be turning on.

 

 

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Ted Schwerzler
Apr 10 2018 11:15 AM

 

If, however, on days like last night against Verlander when no one is delivering the clutch hits, we need one of our veterans to produce. We love Joe's OBP, but cringe when he takes pitches the team needs him to be turning on.

It's somewhat shortsighted to put the onus of production on a singular player in a singular game however. The one limited commodity in baseball is outs, you have 27 of them. If you're avoiding them, you've done your job. It's hardly passing the buck if you get on base but don't deliver a run. The reality is you're always one swing away.

    • SwainZag, Platoon, SF Twins Fan and 3 others like this
I hope that someday in the future, more fans will appreciate what they had in Mauer. One of the best catchers to play the game, and most likely the best hitting catcher to play, period. And that is understating his overall offense ability. It's a shame he was concussed, and it's likely we will never have a handle on how damaging those concussions were. Mauer never was a power threat, regardless of the 29? he hit in the dome. He is a batsman, more in the Carew model than for example a Dozier. And given the choice, I imagine that with the winning run on base, almost to a man MLB pitchers would much rather face Dozier than Mauer. Lastly, while not mentioned here, many hold Mauers contract against him. But, given the chance for that kind of payday, I wonder how many of those same fans would turn it down? :)
    • brvama, blindeke, SF Twins Fan and 3 others like this
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RegularJoe62
Apr 10 2018 11:36 PM

 

If, however, on days like last night against Verlander when no one is delivering the clutch hits, we need one of our veterans to produce. We love Joe's OBP, but cringe when he takes pitches the team needs him to be turning on.

Mauer reached first in 3 out of 4 trips to the plate, but it's somehow his fault we lost? I honestly don't get how he's somehow held to superhuman standards that nobody else is.

    • ThejacKmp, big dog, Ted Schwerzler and 2 others like this
The annual April forum that Mauer has turned it around.

Soon to be followed by the annual April forum to send Buxton down because he can't hit. Then the August forum that we need to sign him to a 10 year contract.

The classic never grow old.
    • adorduan and jud6312 like this

Did someone say RBIs? Please don't.

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Ted Schwerzler
Apr 11 2018 08:05 AM

 

The annual April forum that Mauer has turned it around.

Soon to be followed by the annual April forum to send Buxton down because he can't hit. Then the August forum that we need to sign him to a 10 year contract.

The classic never grow old.

This is silly...

 

Annual?

 

You must have missed out on Mauer's 2017 as a whole, and the point of it looking like there's reason to believe in the substantiation of it.

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Ted Schwerzler
Apr 11 2018 08:06 AM

 

I honestly don't get how he's somehow held to superhuman standards that nobody else is.

A fanbase that universally praises a great player that turned out to be a deplorable human being, yet finds every reason to chastise a living legend will never make sense to me.

    • Kevin, SF Twins Fan and TwinsFanGreg like this

Living legend? I think that's pushing it just a smidge.

 

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Last year Joe improved to the point where his wRC+ (116) was only slightly below league median for first-basemen (about 123).If this year Joe can get that to league median or slightly higher...across 600 PA, like last year...that could be very significant for the club.I agree that this type of output now seems realistic for Joe...or at least way more realistic than it would have seemed 12 months ago.

Three words.He.Is.Healthy.Carew, Pucket and now Mauer.Pretty good company for the local kid!

5% of the season.I wouldn't be jumping to any conclusions based on 5% of the season.

    • jud6312 likes this