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  • What is the matter with Joe Mauer?

    After a slow start in the season’s opening week, Joe Mauer was once again cracking line drives – right on schedule – but has more recently found himself in one of the worst stretches of offensive baseball of his career and quite possibly the worst since he was a fetus.

    Pardon the arbitrary endpoints, but from April 6 to April 20, Mauer had collected 18 hits in 35 at bats (a whopping .514 batting average). In that time, the Twins catcher was blistering the baseball to the opposite field, accumulating five of his seven extra base hits in that direction, including both of his home runs (per the Mauer norm). Then, as quick as the flick of his wrists for an outer-half offering, his production disappeared. Since April 21, he has he has gotten just three hits (including Tuesday night’s single off of Verlander) in his last 33 at bats, making this nine-game span’s batting average a puny .090.

    According to Fangraphs.com’s Splits Leaderboard, over the last seven days Mauer’s .077 batting average is the fourth-worst in baseball, besting only Drew Stubbs, Ryan Raburn and Adam LaRoche. While it may be easy to dismiss this output as a product of the baseball gods correcting his absurd balls in play average over the previous stretch, Mauer’s drought may be structurally based.

    Far be it from me to deconstruct one of the smoothest, most mechanically sound swings the game has ever seen. That would be like a St Cloud State art major trying to criticize the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Ron Coomer, on the other hand, presented his thoughts on what has suddenly happened to this beautiful motion. During last night’s broadcast on Fox Sports North, Coomer observed that Mauer is opening up slightly, thereby elongating his swing. This, he said, altered the contact point to some extent and has been causing him to not square up on the ball.

    It is hard to see clear evidence of this in available video clips yet there is no denying Mauer has recently taken some of his most un-Mauerian cuts ever at pitches and those have resulted in very few line drives over his last 33 at bats. In fact, last night’s line drive single was just the second line drive he has hit since April 21. Hell, over the weekend we nearly witnessed him pop out to the infield – an event that has occurred just once in the last three seasons.

    Consider this awkward swing in this screen grab from his strike out last night:


    Notice how far Mauer’s head moved offline in order to track Verlander’s curveball. Full disclosure, Justin Verlander makes a lot of great hitters look stupid. That said, Joe Mauer - with his career 1.072 OPS against Verlander - is typically not one of them.

    To Coomer’s point, Mauer has taken more swings at pitches middle and in during this cold streak compared to his hot streak in which he had swung at more pitches middle and away – the kinds he was driving to left field. Part of the reason for the increase on the swings on the inner-half of the plate could be due to pulling off the ball a bit.


    Teams have also changed their approach with him. Perhaps the reports from the advanced scouts indicated that there was less concern with Mauer at this point because, beginning in the Rangers series, opponents simply stopped missing the strike zone. In his 14 games leading up to April 26, pitchers had landed 59% of their pitches for strikes against him. Since then, that rate has shot up to 76%. So, he has been seeing tons of potentially hittable pitches.

    What is going on with Minnesota’s $184 Million Dollar Hit Man?

    The simplest answer is that it is a short time frame and everyone is susceptible to these statistical anomalies in a small sample size, which in this case, is 38 plate appearances. Within that regression lie a handful of drivers that are pulling his numbers down – a subtle mechanical flaw here, poor swing decisions there and strike zone aggressiveness of the opposition. Success in baseball is fluid. Those like Mauer who have been able to hit consistently over .300 in their careers are able to do so because they can make changes and corrections relatively quickly. If we all just take a deep breath, at some point in the near future he will snap out of this dry spell.
    This article was originally published in blog: What is the matter with Joe Mauer? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 21 Comments
    1. Pius Jefferson's Avatar
      Pius Jefferson -
      It might be time to give him a day off if only to clear his head. Twins are off Thursday so he'd get two full days off before the Cleveland series.
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      Or he may go 10 for his next 16.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      the one thing I noticed about Mauer this season (even from 4/6-4/20) is that he has been taking some hacks out there of the type that Morneau and Willingham take resulting in some bad swinging strikes. Not sure whether he has been listening to the detractors and want to prove that he can hit home runs or something, but that's got to stop...

      I am really not worried about him. Everyone is entitled to a bad week of games (esp. if played every other day, like the Twins' were because of weather...) Sitting down when you are in a groove does not help.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Mauer's mechanics are about as simple and efficient as you can get. Step in, pivot the hips, shove hands forward like you're going to slice an apple in half with a katana, follow through over shoulder. About the only thing that goes wrong with a swing like that is when you try to hit the ball too hard. Maybe Mauer should back off the throttle for awhile and just stroke some easy singles. He can do that anytime he wants.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      Maybe he's secretly bothered by being moved from the 3rd spot in the batting order? Maybe he thinks that if he shows more power he'll be moved back to the 3 spot? From the start of the season he's been striking out at an un-mauer like rate. Age could be starting to affect his vision or he could be beat up from catching more. Most likely it's just a slump.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      I'm not going to worry about Mauer. He knows how to hit and he'll be fine.
    1. biscuit's Avatar
      biscuit -
      Hey, now. Don't be dissing on St. Cloud State arts majors. Unless you happen to be one.
    1. chuchadoro's Avatar
      chuchadoro -
      Quote Originally Posted by gunnarthor View Post
      I'm not going to worry about Mauer. He knows how to hit and he'll be fine.
      I'm also not concerned about Baby J. On the other hand, that guy that used to be Justin Morneau looks hopeless. He flies open so early that he's going to get beaned in the junk one of these days.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      On the other hand, that guy that used to be Justin Morneau looks hopeless. He flies open so early that he's going to get beaned in the junk one of these days.
      It's basically the same thing that has plagued him since 2011. I had a post on my old site that showed this in action. It's two years later and he still has the exact same issue. Might revisit that for Friday.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Mauer's approach does seem more aggressive this year. Maybe he resents the move to no. 2? Maybe the new batting coach is pushing him? Maybe he is just in a bad rut. I would be curious to get Bruno's take.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      It's basically the same thing that has plagued him since 2011. I had a post on my old site that showed this in action. It's two years later and he still has the exact same issue. Might revisit that for Friday.
      And now Parker has admitted that he's completely phoning it in by copying and pasting an article from 2011.

      I find it incredibly odd that Morneau is still having this same problem. This should be something that is identified and fixed within days.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Mauer's approach does seem more aggressive this year. Maybe he resents the move to no. 2? Maybe the new batting coach is pushing him? Maybe he is just in a bad rut. I would be curious to get Bruno's take.
      Maybe he's just tired of receiving notes slipped under his door every night that read:

      "You swing like a girl.
      -Scotty"
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      I believe Mauer is best suited at #3. Of course, the Twins have NO #1 and #2. But let's still experiment with Dozier, maybe give Escobar more time. If I have a complaint of Gardenhire, it is usually line-up construction. Bat Hicks 9th. Have Morneau followed by Willingham (or vice versa). Okay, Gardy also leaves pitchers in a batter or two too long. And I get mad when he fields a totally unwinnable line-up some days giving everyone rest (why have Plouffe, Willingham and Morneau on the bench for a game).
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      What's amazing to me is how minute the difference is between success and failure in this game. Aaron Hicks offered lesson #1. But Mauer is an even more instructive case.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Also, I don't think this is mechanical as much as pure fatigue. He hasn't caught this much, this soon since his mid 20s. It's taking a toll on his hands, which are a little slow to the ball. I used to count his pop ups in a season on one hand. I have needed to use my second hand just in the last week. When he tries to speed up his bat to compensate, he pulls off the ball, rolling over to second.

      It should also be noted that he has hit the ball hard several times during this slump. But they position him well (in and toward the line in left), catching all the line drives.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Also, I don't think this is mechanical as much as pure fatigue.
      I tend to agree. If you watched the broadcast last night, Coomer made it sound as if there was some mechanical issues (i.e. pulling open) but reviewing film from the past two weeks, there hasn't been anything that jumps out. At least not as obvious as say Morneau. There are some terrible swings such as the one induced by Verlander above, but that may be pressing while fatigued. Two days off should give him some time off to recoup and collect himself.

      It should also be noted that he has hit the ball hard several times during this slump. But they position him well (in and toward the line in left), catching all the line drives.
      "All the line drives"? He's hit three line drives during the slump. He knocked into a smashed grounder double-play in the Texas series that was a well-hit ball but it was right at Andrus who was playing up the middle for two. Outside of that, not recalling too many other instances where he's squared up well. It's just not there.
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      Of all the things that I think / worry / obsess about the Twins, I can honestly say that Joe Mauer and hitting is not one of them. The idea that Ron Coomer is breaking down the mechanics of his swing is basically laughable - a product of too much air time to fill. I also think all the notions of him being out of sorts due to the lineup change etc. are ridiculous - the guy doesn't get riled up about anything. When asked about the slump, he didn't even know the number of at hitless at bats - "I know they aren't falling right now...." Before we get done pontificating about this, he will cracking line drives.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      I
      "All the line drives"? He's hit three line drives during the slump. He knocked into a smashed grounder double-play in the Texas series that was a well-hit ball but it was right at Andrus who was playing up the middle for two. Outside of that, not recalling too many other instances where he's squared up well. It's just not there.
      Well, I haven't looked at all the film. Some of it is just listening to the game, 'cause, you know, work an' stuff. Perhaps what Provus describes as a line drive is actually more of a fly ball.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      1. He's 30, man, that is old
      2. His hair style is stuck in his HS days look, really, it's time to move on now, right?
      3. he's married, so now he's all pre-occupied with non-baseball stuff. If Chris Kluwe proved anything, it's that having a life oustide sports is BAD, very BAD.
      4. He's kind of boring, so it's hard to be funny about him, actually*

      *or maybe, just maybe, I'm not that funny today.....nothing is wrong with Joe Mauer the baseball player.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      I came to this site today looking for this specific post/article. Crazy slump in Mauer terms.

      Good article by the way.
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