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  • What has happened to Joe Mauer's defense?

    Concerns over Joe Mauerís 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 Ė stopping just three runners with his own arm. Whatís more is that the oppositionís appetite to motor on the basepaths has increased significantly too.

    Prior to yesterday afternoonís matinee against the Mariners, Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski relayed on Twitter that manager Ron Gardenhire said that Mauerís 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.comís 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 Mauerís mechanics.

    The first clip is over Mauer attempting to throw out Maicer Izturis of the Angels. Lirianoís 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 Detroitís Brennan Boesch Ė 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 Mauerís current form against a couple of examples from his past. This first clip is from 2010 in which Mauer nails the Royalsí 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, Mauerís 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 Ė 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. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Stolen bases' value are based entirely on their success rate. On the other hand, there are also things that cannot be statistically recorded. A fastball thrown in a breaking ball count because the pitcher is afraid of the steal. Broken rhythm from too many pick-off attempts at first during an at-bat. The break-up of a double play ball because the runner is now on second base.

      A lot goes into a good running game and a lot of it is hard to track statistically.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Quote Originally Posted by powrwrap View Post
      I really want to comment on this because I love analysis like this, but really, the relevant thing here is how long does it take from the time the ball is in Joe's mitt to the time he throws the ball. The footwork analysis is interesting but ultimately what matters is how long the exchange takes.
      While that would be good supplemental information, what Gardenhire was referring to when he was saying Mauer is not getting behind the ball is that it is costing him some zip. It could be that he's getting a quick release in both cases however in his current form he's slightly slower at getting to ball to second overall.
    1. powrwrap's Avatar
      powrwrap -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      What exactly is a "true stat-head?" Or should it simply be construed as a form of insult?
      Stat-heads are people get their baseball knowledge almost exclusively from statistical analysis, box scores, and spreadsheets. They probably have never played or coached.

      It's not an insult, it's a description.
    1. powrwrap's Avatar
      powrwrap -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      While that would be good supplemental information, what Gardenhire was referring to when he was saying Mauer is not getting behind the ball is that it is costing him some zip. It could be that he's getting a quick release in both cases however in his current form he's slightly slower at getting to ball to second overall.
      Ahh, OK, I see that now. Also, notice that his stride is not as pronounced nowadays compared to the earlier years and his follow through is not as complete as before.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by powrwrap View Post
      Stat-heads are people get their baseball knowledge almost exclusively from statistical analysis, box scores, and spreadsheets. They probably have never played or coached.

      It's not an insult, it's a description.
      I would call it an uninformed generalization, but either way.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      Complacency is the #1 enemy of the ball player. Pitch after Pitch... Inning after Inning... Game After Game... Year after Year. It's a slow game... Mental focus comes and goes.
      I suspect the same. Its as Posnanski said about the pressure of losing:

      A losing clubhouse? Exactly the opposite. The downward pressure is enormous and overwhelming -- after all, who cares? The town has moved on. A Hawaiian vacation awaits. Teammates are fighting to keep their jobs or fighting to impress someone on another team or just plain fighting. The manager might be worried about his job. The reporters are few, and they're negative. Smaller crowds make it easier to hear the drunken critics. Support is much harder to come by, and there is constant, intense force demanding that you just stop trying so hard. After all: Why take that extra BP? You've got the swing down. Why study a few extra minutes of film? You've faced that hitter before. Why take that extra base? Why challenge him on that 3-1 pitch? Why? You're down 9-3 anyway.
      Why make that extra throwover to first base? There's 2 outs and your starting pitcher has already put you into a 5 run hole.

      Why hop into that throw down to second? Your pitcher has already given him the bag.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by powrwrap View Post
      Stat-heads are people get their baseball knowledge almost exclusively from statistical analysis, box scores, and spreadsheets. They probably have never played or coached.

      It's not an insult, it's a description.
      I would call it an uninformed generalization, but either way.
      Stereotypes exist because of the abstract halo of truth around the concrete reality, ofttimes the abstract shoes fit perfectly- at the other end is Billy Beane- I'd suggest you're somewhere inbetween.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      What exactly is a "true stat-head?" Or should it simply be construed as a form of insult?
      good question.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Stereotypes exist because of the abstract halo of truth around the concrete reality, ofttimes the abstract shoes fit perfectly- at the other end is Billy Beane- I'd suggest you're somewhere inbetween.
      I don't really consider myself a "stat-head" by any definition of the term. I use stats to support my opinions, not as the basis for them. (I mean, come on, I was railing against WAR on another thread just yesterday.)

      I simply take exception to the whole "looks at box scores, doesn't watch the games, has never played baseball" mantra. I know plenty of fellow analysts who would be deemed "stat-heads" and the majority of them have played baseball before, watch tons of games and understand the intangible nuances of the sport. It's a vastly inaccurate stereotype.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      If you know what PERA is ... OPS+... DIPS... You are a stat head...

      My question is why anyone would be insulted by stat head.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      My question is why anyone would be insulted by stat head.
      Because of the widely held definition provided on this very thread?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      the use did not add value to the comments, but was used to generalize a group of people. If the author was not implying anything by the use of the term, then that was not the message received. An expression in the communications field is " message sent is not always message received". So if the word was not uses to imply something negative, why was it used at all?
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Stereotypes exist because of the abstract halo of truth around the concrete reality, ofttimes the abstract shoes fit perfectly- at the other end is Billy Beane- I'd suggest you're somewhere inbetween.
      I don't really consider myself a "stat-head" by any definition of the term. I use stats to support my opinions, not as the basis for them. (I mean, come on, I was railing against WAR on another thread just yesterday.)

      I simply take exception to the whole "looks at box scores, doesn't watch the games, has never played baseball" mantra. I know plenty of fellow analysts who would be deemed "stat-heads" and the majority of them have played baseball before, watch tons of games and understand the intangible nuances of the sport. It's a vastly inaccurate stereotype.
      Very well said... I would add that not only are there "stat-heads" who have played or coached, there are also some passionate baseball fans who don't follow stat sheets very closely AND have never coached or played.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      If you get Metrics... Put it on your sleeve... It's a Badge. No reason to be insulted. I know what the stats mean... I'm a stat head.

      My only concern with some use of metrics is the gospel like use of them by some. A good stat head should be able to recognize the fluctuations and realize that the stats don't provide an answer for the fluctuations and therefore can only be used as information of what has happened and not what will be with complete certainty.

      The stat heads that should be insulted are the ones who take the numbers and say case closed!!! If that's not you... Don't be insulted.

      There are baseball people who don't get metrics at all. That's a hole in their game.
    1. powrwrap's Avatar
      powrwrap -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      If you get Metrics... Put it on your sleeve... It's a Badge. No reason to be insulted. I know what the stats mean... I'm a stat head.

      My only concern with some use of metrics is the gospel like use of them by some. A good stat head should be able to recognize the fluctuations and realize that the stats don't provide an answer for the fluctuations and therefore can only be used as information of what has happened and not what will be with complete certainty.

      The stat heads that should be insulted are the ones who take the numbers and say case closed!!! If that's not you... Don't be insulted.

      There are baseball people who don't get metrics at all. That's a hole in their game.
      Excellent post. BTW, I use stats all the time. I enjoy stats. What I object to is what Riverbrian pointed out--when people use stats as the gospel and don't take into account the nuances of the actual game play. That's what I was getting at (rather clumsily) in my post when I said that if you've got a good base stealer you almost always send them.

      Since I'm the guy that used the term 'stat-head' let me explain a bit further. And I can't believe everybody on this board that love the numbers of baseball didn't see it.

      The primary commodity in offensive baseball is the out. You get 3 of them per inning and just like it makes little sense to bunt early in a game and trade one of those three outs out to advance a single runner one base, it's usually not a good idea to send a risk a 25 to 40% chance of being thrown out in exchange for one out.
      OK, what's wrong with this statement? Anyone?

      The problem is that no decent base stealer gets thrown out 25% of the time, much less 40% of the time. That's why I said if you have a good base runner you should almost always send them, if the situation warrants it. If you've got a guy with a success rate of 80% as a base stealer and you need to get that guy into scoring position, you send him. I'm sure someone can find the stats that show the likelihood of a base runner scoring from first base with 'x' number of outs vs. the chances of the runner scoring from second base. Heaven's sake, Ryan Braun is a career 79.5% success rate at SB's and we don't even think of him as being a base stealer. Furthermore the league average on CS% is around 27% FOR ALL BASERUNNERS.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Boom Boom View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Stereotypes exist because of the abstract halo of truth around the concrete reality, ofttimes the abstract shoes fit perfectly- at the other end is Billy Beane- I'd suggest you're somewhere inbetween.
      I don't really consider myself a "stat-head" by any definition of the term. I use stats to support my opinions, not as the basis for them. (I mean, come on, I was railing against WAR on another thread just yesterday.)

      I simply take exception to the whole "looks at box scores, doesn't watch the games, has never played baseball" mantra. I know plenty of fellow analysts who would be deemed "stat-heads" and the majority of them have played baseball before, watch tons of games and understand the intangible nuances of the sport. It's a vastly inaccurate stereotype.
      Very well said... I would add that not only are there "stat-heads" who have played or coached, there are also some passionate baseball fans who don't follow stat sheets very closely AND have never coached or played.


      I hereby nominate the http://twinsdaily.com/member.php?182-The-Dread-Pirate to develop a Venn Diagram to put proper quantification and illustration of the intersection of the various subsets- with respect to 'stat-respect'- of the Twins fans in aggregation. Perhaps Pirate (who himself, said he occasionally has some available down-time) can go so far as to develop a questionnaire for each willing poster on Twins Daily so they can be identified and labeled by levels of stat-headedness, so the various camps and factions can determine if said poster is friend, foe or part-time intersecting ally.
    1. bfd13's Avatar
      bfd13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by powrwrap View Post
      I really want to comment on this because I love analysis like this, but really, the relevant thing here is how long does it take from the time the ball is in Joe's mitt to the time he throws the ball. The footwork analysis is interesting but ultimately what matters is how long the exchange takes.
      While that would be good supplemental information, what Gardenhire was referring to when he was saying Mauer is not getting behind the ball is that it is costing him some zip. It could be that he's getting a quick release in both cases however in his current form he's slightly slower at getting to ball to second overall.

      Has anyone tracked Mauer's passed balls and wild pitches this season? It seems like more catchable balls have gotten past him this season than ever before. I seem to remember several going between his legs without him getting his glove down to block the ball.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I don't really consider myself a "stat-head" by any definition of the term. I use stats to support my opinions, not as the basis for them. (I mean, come on, I was railing against WAR on another thread just yesterday.)
      By "any definition"? Is Billy Beane a stat-head or not?

      I am in complete agreement with your middle sentence, but can't a stat-head do the same?

      Finally, in response to your third sentence, your efforts on that thread with regards to WAR were admirable and did not go unnoticed by me.


      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I simply take exception to the whole "looks at box scores, doesn't watch the games, has never played baseball" mantra. I know plenty of fellow analysts who would be deemed "stat-heads" and the majority of them have played baseball before, watch tons of games and understand the intangible nuances of the sport. It's a vastly inaccurate stereotype.
      Usage of the "Some of my best friends" arguments aren't overly persuasive.

      Having said that-
      If you look at the coke-bottle-lens-eyeware-, pocket protector-, White and unmarried single 20- & 30-Something bloggers-, indices in aggregate, I'd say the stat-heads make up a larger population of statistical-based analysts than the ex-jocks. (Let me be the first to say that Twins Daily is a refreshing excepton!-- although one of your brethren readily embraces the genre- with his self-titled, "Gleeman and the Geek" podcasts.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by powrwrap View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      If you get Metrics... Put it on your sleeve... It's a Badge. No reason to be insulted. I know what the stats mean... I'm a stat head.

      My only concern with some use of metrics is the gospel like use of them by some. A good stat head should be able to recognize the fluctuations and realize that the stats don't provide an answer for the fluctuations and therefore can only be used as information of what has happened and not what will be with complete certainty.

      The stat heads that should be insulted are the ones who take the numbers and say case closed!!! If that's not you... Don't be insulted.

      There are baseball people who don't get metrics at all. That's a hole in their game.
      Excellent post. BTW, I use stats all the time. I enjoy stats. What I object to is what Riverbrian pointed out--when people use stats as the gospel and don't take into account the nuances of the actual game play. That's what I was getting at (rather clumsily) in my post when I said that if you've got a good base stealer you almost always send them.

      Since I'm the guy that used the term 'stat-head' let me explain a bit further. And I can't believe everybody on this board that love the numbers of baseball didn't see it.

      [QUOTE]The primary commodity in offensive baseball is the out. You get 3 of them per inning and just like it makes little sense to bunt early in a game and trade one of those three outs out to advance a single runner one base, it's usually not a good idea to send a risk a 25 to 40% chance of being thrown out in exchange for one out.


      "OK, what's wrong with this statement? Anyone?

      The problem is that no decent base stealer gets thrown out 25% of the time, much less 40% of the time. That's why I said if you have a good base runner you should almost always send them, if the situation warrants it. If you've got a guy with a success rate of 80% as a base stealer and you need to get that guy into scoring position, you send him. I'm sure someone can find the stats that show the likelihood of a base runner scoring from first base with 'x' number of outs vs. the chances of the runner scoring from second base. Heaven's sake, Ryan Braun is a career 79.5% success rate at SB's and we don't even think of him as being a base stealer. Furthermore the league average on CS% is around 27% FOR ALL BASERUNNERS."

      Well-pllayed, powrwrap, RE- your complete and total dismantling of the all-too-common Twins Daily counter-point tactics- Argumentus Extremis Finitis with special sub-fallacies given by way of Stramineus Hominem (Straw Man) and Ignoratio Elenchi (Ignorance of refutation).
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      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.
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