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  • What has happened to Joe Mauer's defense?

    Concerns over Joe Mauer’s defense has grown exponentially as the number of opposing kleptomaniacs have continued to accumulate more and more bases.

    A one-time Florida State quarterback recruit, earlier in his career Mauer had thwarted over 30% of would-be base-stealers but has seen that number drop to league average as injuries and age have taken a toll on him. This year, however, that rate has dropped to a league-worst six percent – stopping just three runners with his own arm. What’s more is that the opposition’s appetite to motor on the basepaths has increased significantly too.

    Prior to yesterday afternoon’s matinee against the Mariners, Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski relayed on Twitter that manager Ron Gardenhire said that Mauer’s caught stealing decline had nothing to do with his arm, rather the source of his struggles had to do with his slow slidestep when positioning for a throw down to second.

    Meanwhile 1500ESPN.com’s Phil Mackey provided further details of what the manager was seeing in his All Star catcher:


    "(Mauer) is not having any arm problems at all. A lot of it's on the pitchers," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I think mechanically... We were saying he's getting caught kind of back a little bit, rather than going and getting the ball. I think he can do that.

    The problem this late in the season is being able to get him out there, when he's playing every day, and do some (practice). It's something Steve (Liddle) is going to talk to him about, because he's kind of sitting there catching it flat-footed. ... That leads to him having to stand straight up and throw the ball, rather than driving through it."
    Reviewing the limited MLB.com archive video clips available of Mauer throwing down to second, there definitely is evidence of what Ron Gardenhire was speaking towards Mauer’s mechanics.

    The first clip is over Mauer attempting to throw out Maicer Izturis of the Angels. Liriano’s fastball is up in the zone and gives Mauer a good chance at nailing the trailing running in the double steal but the throw skips into center field when Alexi Casilla cannot handle the hop.


    The next clip is Mauer throwing out Detroit’s Brennan Boesch – one of three times he has done so in 2012. Now, Boesch is not much of a base-stealing threat so it is possible that Mauer was caught flat-footed because of that but, just like in the clip above, Mauer is on his heels and stands straight up then pivots his feet.


    Now compare Mauer’s current form against a couple of examples from his past. This first clip is from 2010 in which Mauer nails the Royals’ Chris Getz in his attempted thievery. Note how he starts to slide his backside out before receiving the pitch, getting his body into the throwing position.


    Similarly, in this 2008 matchup between the Twins and Padres, Mauer nabs Jody Gerut at second and slides his backfoot/backside into a position while receiving the ball rather than waiting on the ball to come to him before getting into the throwing position.


    Essentially, Mauer’s footwork is costing him valuable nanoseconds and, quite likely, some mustard on his throws down to two as well. And opposing teams and their stopwatches and scouts are clearly picking up on this – which is why they are averaging nearly a stolen base attempt in each of his games behind the plate. That is a huge increase from his younger days.

    With no clear-cut explanation for why he has been tardy with his footwork, it is hard to determine how this affects this Twins. Obviously, the injury to his knee -- which may have played a role in a slow start at the plate this season -- may still be lingering. In that case, it could be a financial disaster for the Twins who are paying him to be an elite up-the-middle defender in addition to his offensive contributions. Then again, it could simply be the rust of having not played catcher as regularly. Either way, as Gardenhire said, it will be almost impossible to get this repaired in-season.
    This article was originally published in blog: What has happened to Joe Mauer's defense? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 44 Comments
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by Bark's Lounge View Post
      Well... this thread started off well. Now it seems to be directed by an egomaniac and a participant who will not be wrong at all costs. It is... quite a shame.
      Actually I think he is just making his point. Seems Kosher to me... Although I can't be sure. His vocabulary is bigger than mine.

      He might be ripping me or someone else a new one... or agreeing. I'm just not sure.

      I wish I would have taken my English classes more seriously in school.
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Bark's Lounge View Post
      Well... this thread started off well. Now it seems to be directed by an egomaniac and a participant who will not be wrong at all costs. It is... quite a shame.
      Actually I think he is just making his point. Seems Kosher to me... Although I can't be sure. His vocabulary is bigger than mine.

      He might be ripping me or someone else a new one... or agreeing. I'm just not sure.

      I wish I would have taken my English classes more seriously in school.
      That makes two of us - but I do sense a negative overtone... maybe I am misreading it?
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      I think the issue in this thread is that some statheads are slow to adjust their criteria when the game changes. I wouldn't be surprised if they think that SB's are overrated because of a book that came out a decade ago when baseball was in the midst of a steroid enhanced offensive era. At the time it made less sense to steal bases because you were more likely to get hits/HR's. Now the value of scoring ONE run has increased since it's sort of becoming a pitcher dominated time. guys like these give any that uses advanced stats a bad name.

      and to stay relevant to the thread Mauer is awful at throwing out basestealers and everyone is running against him. Making a blanket statement that SB's are overrated doesn't even come close to dismissing the damage that is being done. Almost every game the opposing team is getting a free base with almost 0% chance of being caught.

      FWIW I use stats a lot and I use a lot of advanced stats and I disagree with the above generalization.
    1. BD57's Avatar
      BD57 -
      Good article, good topic.

      IMO, the stats are interesting - how much they're telling us is open to interpretation.

      Butera's numbers are decent - which pitchers? What are Mauer's numbers with those pitchers?

      IMO, to really "get at it," we'd need to study the video of the stolen bases ... how big a jump are opposition base-stealers getting? If we studied enough tape, I bet we could find the "jump" dividing line - for the catcher to have a reasonable chance, the runner can't be more than X feet toward 2nd base when he receives the ball. Find out what the league average is and then compare your guy's number to that average ...

      My sense ... and I hate to say this ... our staff's been lousy the past two years at a lot of things, holding down the running game included. It has to get frustrating, especially during a long season of losing.

      IMO, this is an "off season" project. Get this year over, let Joe rest & recuperate, then - when the aggravation begins to wear off and enthusiasm is renewed, go to work on those fundamentals.

      Oh, and tell Joe "We're busting the pitchers' asses about getting the ball off too."
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