Posted 25 February 2012 - 02:25 PM
More interesting than Mauer's actual home run total is what factors people think will affect his total. The one year that he actually hit a serious load of taters was when he was relatively healthy and still in the Metrodome, where his opposite field power put a bunch over the left field fence.
Today's Joe Mauer is a couple years older, has had problems with his back, his knee, and his shoulder. He's playing at a park where the left field fence is too far to reach with his opposite field swing, which means he would have to turn on inside pitches. We've seen in the past that pitchers are loathe to give Mauer anything inside, which means his opportunities to turn on inside stuff will be very limited. That means Mauer will probably again be relegated to hitting most of his long balls to the opposite field.
That said, Mauer has the ability to control the strike zone. If he punishes pitchers with enough of his patented down-the-line doubles, maybe they'll get desperate and pitch him inside. If that happens, we could see the joyful cranking of some very hard-hit dingers to right field. Playing into that scenario is Mauer's history of being a line drive hitter, which means most pitchers don't expect him to elevate the ball. They pitch him inside expecting at worst a line drive single to right. Joe is going to have to be ready to do more than that. Can he load up for inside pitches? Will he recognize the hitting situation and take advantage?
I think Mauer is a smart enough hitter to start turning on inside pitches. I'm going high with my estimate. 22 homers in 2012, if he's reasonably healthy. Half of them to right field.