Mauer might be the most skilled hitter that I have ever had the pleasure to watch. But I also think he is one of the dumbest, and most stubborn.
I agree with you on 2 of 3 points, those being his skill level and stubborness. I think any "dumbness" is a result of that stubborness. He is not a dumb hitter, the approach has served him very well.
But yeah, I have an issue with the stubborness.
Because often times you are getting multiple at-bats against the starting pitcher in a game and Mauer brings the same exact approach to every at-bat.
You absolutely want to get a good look at the guys pitches in your first at-bat, and Joe is great at this. He'll often wait until he has 2 strikes and isn't afraid of this, allowing him to see a lot of pitches right away.
Now, in the next at-bat, Joe has potentially already seen 4+ pitches, and likely all of that pitchers arsenal at that point. And he still takes that grooved first pitch fastball 90% of the time because he uses the same approach in all his at-bats.
The problem with this is, that this pitch is almost universally going to be the best pitch to hit that Mauer see's in an at-bat, so he's shortchanging himself by doing this. What is he waiting for?
Now I'm not saying he needs to overhaul anything as this has still worked pretty well for him, but I think he could benefit even more by being a bit more aggressive (like league average aggressive on 1st pitches instead of significantly below) if he's seen a bunch of pitches in the game already.
It's nearly every game I watch where he takes one of these pitches and I cringe, because I know he'd crush it if he'd just swing the bat.