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Article: Why is Joe Mauer Such a Lightning Rod?

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#331 TheLeviathan

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 08:33 AM

This thread really shows how you can dissect hitter in a multitude of ways and 1,000,000 different stats that can be looked used in a baseball argument.

I am a bit in awe of people's passion to continue their debate and coming up with new numbers and statistics (although I think I would be scared to meet some of you in a dark alley, esp. if you were armed with a calculator).

I also suspect some of you are going to have to agree to disagree.


I won't agree to that.

#332 Willihammer

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 08:45 AM

Out of curiosity, does anyone go to batting practice? Is Mauer hitting moonshot after moonshot at BP like Ichiro?

#333 tobi0040

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 08:47 AM

[quote name='cmathewson']"Mauer just hits bloops." "He has no interest in driving in runs when it counts." "He looks frail, like he could break at any time." "He lacks leadership." Bah. All of those opinions lack evidence.

I agree with CMAT and I wanted to address these types of comments and the notion that anyone who criticizes Mauer is "burned at the stake".

I can only speak for myself, I feel like anyone can criticize anyone and that is fine.

In the case of Joe Mauer, just please add a smidge of perspective. A full time catcher has won a batting title six times. Joe has three of those. The first since the 1940's. In the last 50 years, five catchers have one an MVP. Joe was one of those as well. All before he was 30 years old. As of last May, he had the highest batting average of any active player (not sure if he is #1 or #2 now).

Here are a few comments just on pages 1-4 of this thread, with no mention of the accomplishments to date:

"At 1B Joe is nothing more than an overpaid James Loney"

"Talent without leadership is the same as leadership without talent"

"Joe is not the type of player to lead a team to a championship"

"Joe is a guy that will lead the league in LOB", which of course is not accurate.

One last point, Joe provided the most value as a catcher and it was him who insisted on staying there. He could have moved to 1B or 3B, or LF two years ago but he put up with the punishment in order to provide more value to the team. It wasn't until a doctor convinced him that his health and career would be impacted if he stayed there. I have not seen anyone bring this up when questioning his work ethic, durability, leadership, or toughness, etc.


[COLOR=#800080]http://www.bringmeth...-batting-title/

[COLOR=#800080]http://www.fangraphs...rs-and-the-mvp/[/COLOR][/COLOR]

Edited by tobi0040, 11 April 2014 - 08:52 AM.


#334 Dman

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 08:49 AM

You are trying to understand this based on facts and figures. The term "lightning rod" brings to mind an emotional reaction NOT a logical one. If you are trying to understand negative reactions to Mauer by trying to understand facts, figures and logic, you will never get it.


He may actually be better able to swing the emotional reaction back his way as a first baseman than he could have as a catcher. That is ironic because from a logical standpoint, he was more valuable as a catcher.

But if he can stay healthy and produce at the plate at a near-average level for his career, he can probably swing the emotional pendulum back his way a little (although it would help substantially if the team would start winning). But just BEING on the field every day would be helpful in repairing his image -- don't you remember all the comments about people who felt cheated because they could never see Mauer play on a getaway day or in a day game after a night game?

Most fans aren't going to sit and analyze Mauer's performance based on WAR or any other logical factors. They are going to make their judgments based on how his performance makes them feel and based on what they see (that's why being on the field is important) and what is memorable.

You can argue for days based on facts and figures but that will never get you to the reason that Mauer is a lightning rod


JB I am inclined to agree with you. I know from personal experience that he elicits an emotional response when batting. I can't count the number of times I have screamed at my screen after Joe takes a meatball first pitch down the middle of the plate. It makes my stomach turn knowing he won't see a pitch that good the rest of his at bat. Only to see him eventually draw a walk, get a single or double later in the count. Granted I have also seen him strike out on three pitches far too much as well. So I get the angst and understand that piece of criticism but it breaks down once you look at his over all stats and realize he is one of the best hitters in baseball.

If Home runs or a more aggressive approach = leadership then I don't think Joe Mauer is going to live up to those expectations. I know lots of people think he should because of the money he makes and being the face of the franchise but he can't seem to hit home runs and his approach to hitting is what it is and may land him in the hall of fame. For me personally I don't think he has to be the home run guy on this team to be successful or for the team to be successful. Do we need home run hitters, you bet but it doesn't have to be Joe.

So can we criticize Joe for the things he can't do, sure. My problem though is what is the point. Every player in baseball has a weakness in some area if you look hard enough. Why nitpick over the things Joe doesn't do well when there is so much more that he does better than anyone else in all of baseball? That is where my emotion or push back comes from. It seems like some go out of there way to blame him for all the teams problems and I don't think that is true or fair.

If only Joe mentored or was a leader then this team would be better. If only he swung at the first pitch the team would be better. If only he hit more HR's this team would be better. None of that is true. Baseball is a team sport. There are 12 or 13 guys that have to do their part for the team to have a chance to win. Joe can't play all 9 positions.

There are only two players that I can think of who appeared to be able to single handedly win games for there teams. Pujols and Cabrera come to mind and the reason they could impact games is because they had great pitching staffs which kept them in games until the end where a home run or timely base hit could be the difference. Joe hasn't had the good fortune of good pitching in quite some time and he is not Pujols or Cabrera with the bat. He isn't going to single handedly rescue this franchise. He will need a supporting cast for the team to be successful.

Edited by Dman, 11 April 2014 - 09:56 AM.


#335 JB_Iowa

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 09:14 AM

So can we criticize Joe for the things he can't do, sure. My problem though is what is the point. Every player in baseball has a weakness in some area if you look hard enough. Why nitpick over the things Joe doesn't do well when there is so much more that he does better than anyone else in all of baseball? That is where my emotion or push back comes from. It seems like some go out of there way to blame him for all the teams problems and I don't think that is true or fair.


This thread invited that type of nitpicking. Overall I don't see nearly as much venom toward Mauer on TD as on a variety of other forums although this thread did get a little more heated than I expected.

It seems to me that the Twins have 4 lightning rods: The Pohlads; Terry Ryan/Front Office; Gardenhire/Anderson and Mauer.

You'll note that Mauer is the only one of those that is a player. I can't think of any other player that would be a lightning rod. Oh, if Nolasco doesn't pick it up or if Perkins is a big failure, they might cause a minor splash but the "blame" is more likely to be placed on the front office than on the player.

But pre-2011, Mauer was, in some ways, bigger than the game (and especially with Morneau injured, bigger than the rest of his teammates combined). When I think back to the majority of comments when his contract was signed, he had attained near god-like status. There were a few precautionary warnings but overall, he was expected to be the face of the Twins for years to come.

And when you are the very visible face of something that then has repeated failures as an organization, you become a lightning rod.

2011 was the turning point. It was the turning point for the team in going from overall success to abysmal failure in the blink of an eye. It was the turning point in the way many people viewed Mauer. He went from hero status to someone who was viewed as soft, lacking leadership and overpaid especially when people look at what he is paid for every AB. He was made even more of a lightning rod when familiar faces associated with the Twins' success went elsewhere in free agency.

Now we are looking at a team with 90+ losses for 3 consecutive years -- and quite possibly headed toward making it 4 years. Those 4 "lightning rods" mentioned in my 2nd paragraph will all be getting additional scrutiny and additional blame.

It isn't logical to expect Mauer to carry this team on his own but he will be the symbol of the players' portion of the failure. That's why he will continue to be a lightning rod regardless of how he produces.

#336 cmathewson

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 09:27 AM

Well, he could certainly will himself to try a bit more often. I think that's the crux of the issue.

If had spent a stretch trying, failing, and went back to what worked - ok. But part of the issue people have with him is his staunch refusal to break his strict tendencies no matter what the situation/role dictates. As someone who thinks he gets criticized too much for being an elite hitter....I'd be lying if that didn't irk me. And it does seem to be irking me more as his career goes on and his role has expanded.


I think that is the issue. I think he has tried often, and it hasn't worked, so he reverted to his usual approach. You might disagree. I don't see a way to break that impasse.

I have just watched him very carefully since I lived behind Cretin and frequently walked over to watch him hit. What impressed me initially was his opposite field approach. That is rare for high school kids who hit against guys throwing 70. Most guys in high school can't wait like that.

In the majors, it is even tougher to pull the ball for hits. That's because pitchers are constantly trying to exploit that weakness. Every time I see him pulling off the ball a little bit, he starts to slump. It's a thing. He does have good opposite field power. And I hoped he would be able to pull it more with the fresher hands that come from not catching. But so far, that hasn't happened. Like I said, I hope for more. I just don't expect a 31 year old to change the way he hits and have the same rate of success.
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#337 spycake

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 09:30 AM

Well, he could certainly will himself to try a bit more often. I think that's the crux of the issue.

If had spent a stretch trying, failing, and went back to what worked - ok. But part of the issue people have with him is his staunch refusal to break his strict tendencies no matter what the situation/role dictates. As someone who thinks he gets criticized too much for being an elite hitter....I'd be lying if that didn't irk me. And it does seem to be irking me more as his career goes on and his role has expanded.


What other player has changed to fit their "role", though? It's not like Pujols or Cabrera came to camp one year and decided to be a slugger, because their team needed it more. Jeter/Suzuki/etc didn't suddenly try to hit more HR when Yankee sluggers were going down last year.

Players change, but it's almost 100% due to skills and health, I think (and natural variability, of course). Coaching plays a role in the development and application of the skills too. But I don't think anyone at the MLB level -- certainly nobody above Jason Bartlett level role players -- is willing themselves to be different in their mechanics because of something as silly as an amorphous "role".

(That said, I would be a little disappointed if Joe has personally resisted moving out of the #3 spot in the order, when his skills look better at #2 or even #1 on this team. But evidence suggests he's at worst only a co-conspirator in that department, the team has always wanted him there.)

#338 twinsnorth49

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 09:37 AM

Maybe not burned at the stake, but there have been a few zingers tossed in this thread, no? :D

From my perspective, one discussion is centered not on one PA, but on a lack of power, which I think hurts his production and therefore the team, and his perceived unwillingness to try to change that...despite my belief he could. Some cite this one PA as one example. I think it's a fair example, although I would prefer to cite something like his extreme reluctance to swing early in counts.

I do believe great hitters alter their approach in some ABs based on the needs of the team at the time. Down three, with two out and two on, in the bottom of the last inning, is an obvious example of such a situation, particularly for a hitter often cited as a HOFer...I believe he should be looking for a pitch to hit over the fence, and if he gets it, should take a shot at the RF bleachers. It's fair to say he often lets such pitches in such situations go by. Some cite this particular PA as an example.

Obviously he'll sometimes make an out by doing so. I would never criticize him for trying. I think it's a fair criticism that he seems reluctant to try.


Sure, but the zingers are being volleyed both ways, no use one side crying foul.

I get what you're saying Chief and maybe I partly agree, would I love to see Mauer hit for more power? Sure, do I think he can do it by altering his approach at the plate? No. I think he would have to alter not only his approach but also his swing mechanics and I don't think that would would ultimately net better results than his current swing does, which on average is pretty impressive.

The other thing is, I think people are hung up on the type of plate appearances that occurred the other day, yes it was a high leverage situation but to judge the approach I think is unfair to any player. How many times has Mauer decided he might try to alter the possible outcome of a game earlier by trying to yank a pitch only to turn it over for a GB to 2nd? It's really difficult to know that but I don't think you can discount it, as we all know the margin for error is pretty thin.

#339 Dman

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 09:39 AM

This thread invited that type of nitpicking. Overall I don't see nearly as much venom toward Mauer on TD as on a variety of other forums although this thread did get a little more heated than I expected.

It seems to me that the Twins have 4 lightning rods: The Pohlads; Terry Ryan/Front Office; Gardenhire/Anderson and Mauer.

You'll note that Mauer is the only one of those that is a player. I can't think of any other player that would be a lightning rod. Oh, if Nolasco doesn't pick it up or if Perkins is a big failure, they might cause a minor splash but the "blame" is more likely to be placed on the front office than on the player.

But pre-2011, Mauer was, in some ways, bigger than the game (and especially with Morneau injured, bigger than the rest of his teammates combined). When I think back to the majority of comments when his contract was signed, he had attained near god-like status. There were a few precautionary warnings but overall, he was expected to be the face of the Twins for years to come.

And when you are the very visible face of something that then has repeated failures as an organization, you become a lightning rod.

2011 was the turning point. It was the turning point for the team in going from overall success to abysmal failure in the blink of an eye. It was the turning point in the way many people viewed Mauer. He went from hero status to someone who was viewed as soft, lacking leadership and overpaid especially when people look at what he is paid for every AB. He was made even more of a lightning rod when familiar faces associated with the Twins' success went elsewhere in free agency.

Now we are looking at a team with 90+ losses for 3 consecutive years -- and quite possibly headed toward making it 4 years. Those 4 "lightning rods" mentioned in my 2nd paragraph will all be getting additional scrutiny and additional blame.

It isn't logical to expect Mauer to carry this team on his own but he will be the symbol of the players' portion of the failure. That's why he will continue to be a lightning rod regardless of how he produces.


Yeah looking at it from that perspective frames things in a significantly different way than I think about it. I look at it from a stats and player comparison point of view. Not based on the height of his and the teams success and popularity.

After he won the MVP he had me thinking he was going to hit HR's almost as well as Morneau and that would have made him a truly amazing player so I guess I can see why some people feel a little bit shafted on the contract vs production issue.

It just irks me that someone as good as he is has so many (maybe not on this board but certainly others) blasting him for either things he doesn't control or to change who he is as one of the most successful hitters in baseball. I agree with other posters who think he has tried at times to hit more HR's but his swing just doesn't have quite enough umph to punch it out.

I guess there is no way around the emotional effect he has on people. Like I said he makes me crazy with that first pitch sometimes and creates more angst and second guessing if the at bat goes bad from there. However, if you think or look at him logically then you have to admire the player that he is.

#340 JB_Iowa

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 09:49 AM

However, if you think or look at him logically then you have to admire the player that he is.


I absolutely agree with that. And I think that even some who are arguing most vehemently from the negative side have a great deal of admiration for what he has achieved.

(In all honesty, i think you could put a lot of superstar players in place of Mauer in Minnesota the last few years and that player would be a lightning rod. The criticisms might be different but with such stunning team failure, any star player would probably become a lightning rod. But you usually don't see a team with such an abysmal record over 3 years with a true superstar on their roster.)

#341 TheLeviathan

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 10:19 AM

What other player has changed to fit their "role", though?


I think it's more frequent then you might think. The issue is that you're looking at it from a results point of view and I look at it from approach. When Mauer annoys me or I feel like being critical is when he deliberately remains passive because that's his way. I can only speak for myself, but I would be just fine if he got more aggressive and it was still only singles. I don't fault the guy for being a line drive hitter. But man would I like him to lace a few more singles on those grooved "strike ones" then he currently does. Particularly in crucial situations.

I'm also a bit dubious of how much he's tried to change his approach. I'm curious when people think this was attempted.

#342 BigTrane

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 10:54 AM

Here's another one for you.
He makes all that money, but he's so cheap he won't spring for a babysitter, so now he's bringing his kids to the office.
http://wapc.mlb.com/...s-babies-mascot
JK, but I wouldn't be surprised by very much at this point... you heard it here first, folks!
Feel free to pile on about Suzuki.

#343 BigTrane

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 10:57 AM

Of course, you and I and everyone else posting in this thread aren't going to increase or decrease diddly; only Joe can do that. The same Joe that still may be recovering from a recent head injury. There is science involved there as well, and that has been singularly ignored by just about everybody here, on either side of the coin.


In all I've seen and heard, it's happening on the national level as well, hence it's being called "The Buster Posey Rule". If TLaR or national media ever mentions Mauer with regard to the collision rule, I'll eat my hat.
Feel free to pile on about Suzuki.

#344 CRArko

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 11:11 AM

In all I've seen and heard, it's happening on the national level as well, hence it's being called "The Buster Posey Rule". If TLaR or national media ever mentions Mauer with regard to the collision rule, I'll eat my hat.


The national media barely acknowledges the existence of the State. Usually only if something bad happens.

I hope more is learned about this before it gets to the time Matt Birk's brain is under the scopes.

#345 Paul

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 04:24 PM

I may be repeating what someone else has said but, maybe, just maybe, Mauer knows what he's doing. Maybe he's part of that small 99.9% group of players that are taught to look for a particular type of pitch in a particular zone in a hitters count. And maybe, because he has little fear of not being able to get the barrel on the ball, he considers 0-0 a hitters count for him. And maybe the pitch and zone he looks for ain't a grooved fastball down the center of the plate. And maybe if he did look there for that more often his BA on first pitches would drop substantially from almost .500, which ain't too bad.

Here's an anecdote for ya. I think it was the last year at the dome, Verlander threw one up and in, 98 MPH. Mauer was looking for that pitch in that zone, turned on it and hit it in the upper deck. Verlander was quoted as saying something along the lines of "I threw that ball exactly where I wanted. No one else in baseball can do that to that pitch."

#346 CRArko

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 05:56 PM

FSN just played a (translated) quote from Sano that he chose Minnesota because of Joe Mauer. Will ceases never wonder.

#347 Sconnie

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 07:36 AM

I think this says it all
http://www.twinkieto...tle-mutilations

man Randball Stu is funny!

#348 JB_Iowa

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 08:06 AM

I think this says it all
http://www.twinkieto...tle-mutilations

man Randball Stu is funny!


Or not at all.

#349 CRArko

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 08:19 AM

Or not at all.


Yup. Many brain cells died to bring us that column. And it didn't look like there were a whole lot to spare.

#350 twinsnorth49

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 09:47 AM

I'd like to see the kicking over tables and lighting things on fire to win correlation data...........does anybody have that handy?