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  • Joe Mauer finishes shy of batting title quest

    Joe Mauer’s noble effort to obtain his fourth batting title was thwarted when those cyborgs known as Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout were unrelenting at the season's end.

    That notwithstanding, this has been an outstanding rebound season for the Twins catcher.

    Considering the slow start by his standards, his .320 average heading into the last day of the season is impressive nonetheless. At the beginning of May, his average was down to .270 before he checked into the Rip City Motel and hit .336 over his last 115 games.

    A closer inspection of his numbers reveals something very interesting that you might want to sit down for.

    For the first time in his major league career Joe Mauer pulled the ball more often than he went the other away with the pitch.

    I’ll let you digest that for a moment because it seems so improbable compared to what we have become accustom to.

    Between 2004 and 2011, Mauer accumulated 447 hits going to left field. That was the fifth highest total in that time behind preeminent going-the-other-way hitters in Ichiro, Derek Jeter, Michael Young and Juan Pierre. Still, no one had a higher average when going oppo than Mauer’s .436.

    His ability to inside-out a pitch or drive a fastball on the outer half the other way has had its rewards for the Twins catcher. It was that methodology that helped him obtain three batting titles while having five seasons with an average over .300.

    Although he still went to left field with a high percentage of his balls in play and had plenty of success on them (a .432 average when going oppo in 2012), it was his improvement when pulling the ball that helped him raise his average from the career-low .287 average he possessed in 2011.

    Starting in late 2010, according to Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra, Mauer’s knee ailments were keeping him from “getting off his backside” on his swing. This led to him being “unable to turn on the ball.”

    With his health returning, Mauer seemed much better at turning on pitches. At BaseballProspectus.com, this Pitch F/X chart shows just how much better he was when swinging at pitches down-and-in and middle-down:

    A year ago, he was 6-for-21 (.286) on pitches in the down-and-in quadrant. This year he has been 21-for-43 (.488).

    In 2011, Mauer pulled the ball 25.3% of the time – down from his career average closer to 30% - and he hit just .242 when going to the right side of the field. This year, he turned on the ball 32% of the time and posted a .310 average. Now, he still beat the ball into the ground over 80% of the time in both season but this year, he was having a higher success rate of sneaking those through the infield – likely a direct result of better struck balls because of a strong base.
    This article was originally published in blog: Joe Mauer finishes shy of batting title quest started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 25 Comments
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by one_eyed_jack View Post
      It was before my time, but did Twins fans in the 70's whine about Rod Carew because he didn't hit for power?

      Well it was pre-internet so whining couldn't take on the same intensity. And frankly, I just remember being awed by Carew's consistency at the plate. But he was also a totally different body type than Mauer and he was a table setter plus speedy on the basepaths.

      The puzzle for me is why Mauer doesn't hit with more power (not just HR but extra base hits).
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      i don't remember any expectations from rod carew for power. carew was not a big guy. about 6 foot but only weighed about 170 during his playing career. (killebrew same height, but about 195-200 lbs) .........no where near 6'5" and 230-240 lbs. i never see discussions and the exchange of ideas as whining myself, so i don't see any here either.
    1. Pius Jefferson's Avatar
      Pius Jefferson -
      What happened to the doubles this season? I thought with less time behind the plate he'd hit around 40 and he only ended up with 31.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pius Jefferson View Post
      What happened to the doubles this season? I thought with less time behind the plate he'd hit around 40 and he only ended up with 31.
      Too many balls on the ground was part of it.
    1. Fire Dan Gladden's Avatar
      Fire Dan Gladden -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Fire Dan Gladden View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      mauer's percentage of catching runners stealing has really plummeted this year. because of his lack of enough games played at catcher - if you go to the stats from the mlb homepage and isolate catchers, you won't find him included, as he doesn't qualify............. i found it on his individual stats ...... he is only 9-65 this year .............. 13.8%. not very scary anymore to runners. they are really taking advantage, too. they did the damage this year in only 76 games! (2007 24-45 53.3%, 2008 29-80 36.3%, 2009 19-73 26%, 2010 19-72 26.4%, 2011 (with the mysterious bi-lateral leg weakness) 12-40 30%, 2012 (healthy?) 9-65 13.8%).
      How does this translate to the pitcher's he caught. I think you have to factor in how the pitcher's hold runners to get a truer picture his CS % (and all catchers for that matter). For instance, catching for Mark Buerhle every fifth day would could make a poor catcher look capable.
      certainly a pitcher with a bad move can be a part of this. i just presented the stat. it is what it is. "lies, damn lies, and statistics". you can truly spin stats however you like. maybe it is nothing to note at all.
      I'm not knocking you for that. I would seriously be interested to know if there has been a study done to see how CS% can be effected by a pitcher's ability to hold a runner on. Their average pitch time to the plate, RH vs LH pitchers. I'm not sure what metrics you could use, but it would be interesting to see a comparison of true CS%.
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