There aren't many sure things. Among the surest things for the Twins is that if he is playing, Joe Mauer will hit. I certainly think that he will hit better and in more games as a first baseman. I also am pretty certain that Mauer will be an asset at first base whether he plays there for 20 or 50 or a 150 games. Will Pinto be the regular catcher immediately and last there for several years? I think so, but it is far from a sure thing. It would be great if he could step in but I think the Twins need to have a contingency plan--one not involving Mauer going back to catcher if Pinto isn't ready or gets hurt.
I am comfortable with a Pinto/Herrmann semi-platoon behind the plate. Semi, because Pinto should be the primary catcher. SSS and everything, I know, but I don't really care. I don't expect Pinto's fall to earth to be that dramatic. And Herrmann will get a bit better after his rookie season. His isolated discipline of about 90 means that if he can hit .240, he is a good backup catcher. I don't expect much of a higher average, but a .240/.330/.370 doesn't seem out of the question. And Pinto's OPS could legitimately be 70-100 points higher than that. Some offensive drop by moving Mauer away from catcher is mitigated by having adequate-good catching options, the arrival of Sano at third, and a jump forward by Arcia (and, ahem, a platoon of Parmelee and Plouffe).
Also, I am pretty damn sure that Mauer will be a better defensive first baseman than Colabello, Parmelee, Plouffe, Sano, etc. etc. etc. et al, et al, et al--perhaps the best in the entire organization?
Does anyone have actual data on the rate of concussions for catchers versus other positions? It is critical to have data to make a risk-based decision. Humans are notoriously awful at estimating risk.
I think it would be very interesting to see the reaction of the fanbase if that actually happened (and note I am not in any way predicting it nor anticipating it - I'm just speculating for the sake of speculation) - how many would respect him for doing right by his family and how many would feel betrayed by his decision?
The problem with putting Pinto at DH (same for Doumit) for 30-50 games is that it means that the team doesn't have a real DH that is an actual plus hitter in the lineup. Pinto is in his mid 20's and he shouldn't need rest days other than the standard one per week. His bat also likely won't be that important to the lineup and he should get an actual rest day instead of DH'ing.
We're dealing with really small numbers here which is why we need actual data to make a good decision.
Suppose playing catcher doubles his concussion risk versus playing 1B. That means moving him to 1B decreases his risk he gets a concussion in 2014 from very unlikely to very, very unlikely. I don't see "long term health concerns" as a legitimate reason to move him from C to 1B. If that was a real worry the only way to mitigate it is to quit playing baseball.
If we're looking at overall injury risk to a C versus 1B I think that is legitimate because you want Mauer on the field instead of on the DL but it has nothing at all to do with concussions.
I don't think Mauer is 100% done catching, but he probably should be, for his sake and the team's.
The risk of getting another concussion from a pitch, an errant throw during practice, or any other reason is there no matter what position he plays.
What goes away if he's not catching is the specific risk of foul tips hitting him in the head. Which just happens to be the specific cause of this concussion, and which can be anticipated to happen multiple times again wih near certainty if he stays a catcher.
Combined with the other short and long term physical risks of catching make this decision really easy IMO.
Arguments in the vein of "Mauer provides more value relative to the competition at catcher than he would at another position" only make sense if you're playing fantasy baseball. Since the Twins currently have a batting order featuring crap, crud, and flotsam Mauer's position change does nothing to weaken this team. It only weakens his chances of making future All-Star games.
This could also be an opportunity to maximize value in Willingham. If the Twins go to a more traditional catching situation like they had with Mauer/Redmond they they no longer will have the 1B/DH/Catcher rotation. You get Willingham out of left field and put him at DH were he can hit.
We could always put Adam Brett Walker II at Catcher. I read or heard he was a Catcher his entire life until he went to college. College coaches didn't want to waste his athleticism behind the plate. He could be another big Catcher (ala Joe). When is the last time we could say we had a Catcher who hit 30+ HRs either? A new direction (average for power)? Might have some swing and miss but HRs and RBIs don't grow on trees. :) I am kidding but.............. :)
Next season or 3 Mauer can platoon at First and C with Plouffe or Colabello being the Right Handed 1B and Pinto at C. Mauer can Catch 60-100 games and play 1B 50-90 games depending on health and how the complimentary parts are playing/ hitting. I think Mauer has a few seasons left behind the plate. I do think thats where his value is greatest and as long as he isnt worn out he'll be able to hit.
I have been an opponent of moving Mauer away from catcher, and stick by it, unless he can't do it anymore. 5 weeks does not a lifetime make. I agree with DJL44, that playing baseball puts every player at risk of getting a concussion.
An aging Joe Mauer could hit well enough to play 3rd, but there's no long term value to throwing him out at a completely unfamiliar position that takes entirely different skills than catcher or even 1st base.
Couple all that with the fact that one of the top hitting prospects in baseball already plays that position (how well remains to be seen), and this just makes no sense.
I think Mauer spends significant time at 1st base next year (if healthy enough to play, of course). He also DH'es some, perhaps against lefties with Colabello playing 1st for those games.
If Parmelee and Colabello are the 1st base options, and they both stink next year, then you haven't gained anything at all by "opening up" 1st base for somebody else to play (by having Mauer at catcher). Positional scarcity has some validity, but what people miss is that it has as much or more to do with the quality of the other 8 guys than it does with the quality of the guy overperforming at a "scarce" position.