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Is Joe Mauer really back?


Brock Beauchamp
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We all know he's been the one shining bright spot on the team (given Escobar falling back to earth a bit in recent games) but given how many of his hits were coming from singles, I was a bit concerned. Well, I'm not sure that concern was founded. Joe is making contact when he swings, not swinging when he shouldn't, and hitting the ball hard when contact is made.

 

Here's a run down of some of his stats. The first slash is his 2016 number, the second is his career number. A few aberrations in here but the good kind of aberrations that indicates he's seeing the ball well again.

 

K%: 9.3%/12.3% (maybe the most promising aspect of all this and supported by later stats)

 

BB%: 14.0%/11.9% (he's maintaining his discipline)

 

BA: .371/.313 (not particularly relevant, I simply liked the number)

 

SLG: .543/.451 (whoa, didn't expect to see this)

 

LD%: 34.4%/23.9% (yeah, the eye test matches up with this)

 

GB%: 50.0%/50.7% (again, this matches up)

 

Hard Hit%: 37.5%/33.5% (solid)

 

Pull%: 34.4%/28.9% (yay!)

 

O-Swing%: 12.1%/21.8% (what?!?!?!)

 

Z-Swing%: 46.3%/51.1% (will pitchers take advantage of this in time?)

 

Zone Contact%: 93.0%/87.3% (will the above matter? his elite contact has returned)

 

Okay, some of these stats aren't sustainable but we haven't seen this Joe Mauer since the concussion... Hell, we haven't seen a full season of this Joe Mauer since 2010. Even when Mauer had good months in 2014/2015, it always felt like he was teetering on the edge and the stats backed up that feeling. He was getting hits but his K rate didn't change, his approach didn't change, and balls were simply falling into the green part of the field instead of a fielder's mitt. That wasn't sustainable... But it appears this change might be sustainable if he keeps it up. This isn't smoke and mirrors, this is vintage Joe Mauer being Joe Mauer.

 

These numbers are extremely encouraging. Yeah, Mauer is going to regress here and there but he's doing exactly what he did in the past and having similar success doing it. No more bad swings, no more missing the ball, no more grounder-after-grounder-after-grounder to the second baseman.

 

I never thought we'd see the old Joe Mauer come back but it appears just that may have happened.

 

Lots of baseball left to play... But if Joe continues seeing and hitting the ball at anything approaching the level he has thus far, we're going to see another borderline elite season from Joe Mauer, something most of us had written off as history long ago.

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The thing I've noticed about Mauer the past couple years is the frequency of "topping" the ball:  like you wrote, Brock.  Grounder after grounder to 2B.  This year, I've hardly seen that.  More solid contact, more hits.  Like his liner to left last night.

 

As many have predicted, it looks like the concussion symptoms may be over.

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The thing I've noticed about Mauer the past couple years is the frequency of "topping" the ball:  like you wrote, Brock.  Grounder after grounder to 2B.  This year, I've hardly seen that.  More solid contact, more hits.  Like his liner to left last night.

 

As many have predicted, it looks like the concussion symptoms may be over.

Yep, and that was supported through many stats: increased K rate, zone contact rate, soft/med/hard hit balls, groundball rate. All of those support the notion he wasn't squaring up on the ball and wasn't making good contact when he did swing (at least in comparison to his former self). Lots of weak contact, lots of grounders, lots of missed swings.

 

All of that has changed this season... Yes, it's only ten games but hell, I'll take it. For the first season in a long time, I'm bullish on Joe Mauer being a 3+ WAR player.

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I know it is almost cliche to talk about his conditioning, but he looks stronger, even a little bulkier than the past. It may just be that the red alternates are flattering or that he is really in outstanding shape.

 

The single to left last night was muscled to left.

 

The fact that he can be spelled at first, reducing wear and tear also suggests that things are set up for a nice season from our 20M dollar man.

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He's very important to this team because of his obp which they sorely lack. The throw he made last night was a bullet. Kind of a shame to waste that arm at first....

I sort of agree about the arm, but then again a slow 6'6" guy with soft hands who can no longer play catcher should probably play first base. I do want to say I can't think of a better throw from a first baseman ever.

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Thanks for the breakdowns,Brock. His at-bats have certainly looked like he's more assured at the plate this season. I also like that he showed bunt to get the Angels IF out of their shift last night. It seems like a no-brainer, but I don't recall him doing that before.

He probably tried to bunt a dozen times last year and showed bunt a couple dozen more times. I think I recall two bunt hits last year and a bunch of foul balls.

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I love how he faked out the relief pitcher for his RBI single - questioning the umpire on the other strikes, daring the pitcher to throw one more outside then depositing it into left field.  

That's one stat you don't see - the Jeter factor. Some players are so good at the _game_ that they see things other players don't and think of ways to win that other players don't.

 

Luke mentioned one example, here's another: When Nunez and Sano collided in right field, how many other players would have instantly recognized the situation, raced out to grab the ball, then fired a perfect strike to third for the out? Very few. Some would chase down the ball, then throw it to the pitcher to prevent a home run. Some would throw it badly, allowing a home run. Mauer got there quickly and threw it perfectly. 

 

At the plate there is one confounding factor. With plenty of power hitters batting after him, Mauer's job this year is to go back to his original style. His assignment is to get on base ahead of Miguel Sano, and drive in runs with line drives. He is not attempting to pull and lift the ball anymore, an experiment that changed his swing too much. The combination of returning to his strong suit and the reduction of his concussion symptoms (they may still be there, but reduced) appears to be bringing back a lot of the Joe Mauer we once knew.

 

BTW, in case anybody wondered if Mauer could play right field, imagine a guy rounding second just as Mauer is picking up the ball in right. Do you challenge that arm? Joe Mauer may not be 100 percent over his concussion symptoms, but he's close enough to remind us just how amazing he can be. 

Edited by jimbo92107
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I sort of agree about the arm, but then again a slow 6'6" guy with soft hands who can no longer play catcher should probably play first base. I do want to say I can't think of a better throw from a first baseman ever.

I don't think he is that slow. I bet he would have been a good right fielder but that ship has sailed. Sure was fun to watch him cut loose that throw.
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That's one stat you don't see - the Jeter factor. Some players are so good at the _game_ that they see things other players don't and think of ways to win that other players don't.

 

Luke mentioned one example, here's another: When Nunez and Sano collided in right field, how many other players would have instantly recognized the situation, raced out to grab the ball, then fired a perfect strike to third for the out? Very few. Some would chase down the ball, then throw it to the pitcher to prevent a home run. Some would throw it badly, allowing a home run. Mauer got there quickly and threw it perfectly. 

 

At the plate there is one confounding factor. With plenty of power hitters batting after him, Mauer's job this year is to go back to his original style. His assignment is to get on base ahead of Miguel Sano, and drive in runs with line drives. He is not attempting to pull and lift the ball anymore, an experiment that changed his swing too much. The combination of returning to his strong suit and the reduction of his concussion symptoms (they may still be there, but reduced) appears to be bringing back a lot of the Joe Mauer we once knew.

 

BTW, in case anybody wondered if Mauer could play right field, imagine a guy rounding second just as Mauer is picking up the ball in right. Do you challenge that arm? Joe Mauer may not be 100 percent over his concussion symptoms, but he's close enough to remind us just how amazing he can be. 

a further reminder: 

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a further reminder: 

Mauer said afterward that he faked throwing to first in order to get Gardner to break for home. The thing is that Gardner was already going and Mauer barely beat him to the plate. That was a very fun, interesting and exciting play by both players.

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Last night's throw was great but it wasn't any more impressive than Sano's canon throw to home two nights ago.

 

Unfortunately, Miguel threw it a bit *too hard* but damn, that was a rifle shot.

 

Ryan agrees with you 

 

 Mike BerardinoVerified account ‏@MikeBerardino  11m11 minutes ago

Ryan praised Mauer throw from right but noted, "Sano has a way better arm than Joe. They run about the same."

 

I should not judge by a tweet and hear the whole quote, but this kind of bugged me.  Just compliment your player don't try to minimize or qualify his skills to defend one of your decisions.

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Last night's throw was great but it wasn't any more impressive than Sano's canon throw to home two nights ago.

 

Unfortunately, Miguel threw it a bit *too hard* but damn, that was a rifle shot.

indeed, both were impressive. but miguel's was high and wide, whereas joe's mighta taken off the runner's foot if plouffe's glove hadn't been there. 

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