Jump to content
Twins Daily
  • Create Account

Debate No. 2: Who was the better player: Kirby Puckett or Joe Mauer? (Debate/poll concluded - thread open)


Squirrel
 Share

Debate No. 2 Post-debate Poll  

42 members have voted

  1. 1. Which debater was more persuasive?

    • Debater A: Kirby Puckett was the better player
    • Debater B: Joe Mauer was the better player
    • Both were equally persuasive

This poll is closed to new votes


  • 3 weeks later...

Recommended Posts

As we start this great Lincoln-Douglas style debate on the careers of Kirby Puckett and Joe Mauer I wanted to begin with an obvious forward.  Kirby Puckett was a failed human being.  He abused and threatened multiple women including his wife, a mistress, and random folks in restaurants.  If this were a discussion on who the better person was then I would forfeit right now as Joe Mauer would unquestionably win that award.  For those wanting to read more, SI wrote an excellent story on this topic in 2003.

With this out of the way I would like to start the debate.

1.    WAR
In this day and age of advanced statistics almost all HOF or career comparison discussions start with WAR.  Fangraphs has Joe Mauer having the advantage here with 52.5 to Puckett’s 44.9.
large.mauerpucket.jpg.6bbf3f367f0c701edf22bf65f1fd830e.jpg.ad529b0508ef570b426242ead87633c7.jpg
This doesn’t tell the whole story though as Mauer took 15 seasons to get his number while Puckett was able to achieve his in 12.  When looking at it as WAR per Season Puckett took the lead with 3.74 versus Mauer’s 3.5.  WAR is a pretty dry and dusty way to look at this so let’s look at what actually wins games.

2.    Runs
The actual measurements of runs gets a bad rap these days.  Blogs and podcasts are put out about how RBI are meaningless counting statistics that are just side effects of how your teammates are doing around you.  I don’t think they deserve the importance that was placed on them until the early 2000’s but they are not meaningless.  If you look at Puckett and Mauer you will see that Puckett averaged 90 RBI and 89 Runs a season to Mauer’s 62 RBI and 68 Runs a season.  That is a big disparity but a person could still look at this and say this is just luck of the draw and a reflection of teammates but there are actual stats that back up why Puckett generated more runs.

3.    Hits
Throughout their careers Mauer and Puckett were known for the opposite things.  Mauer gained a reputation as someone who never swung at the first pitch and was always happy to take a walk.  Puckett was instead known as a guy who was never afraid to swing at anything, be it in the zone or out.  This resulted in quite the disparity in hit count as Puckett averaged 192 hits a season while Mauer averaged only 142.  These 50 hits are significant in run creation because they included 4-5 HR which are always impactful in RBI/Run production.  They included a number of other XBH which are important because a runner on first can be in scoring position if you hit a double, so it offered non-optimal RBI opportunities.  Finally, hits generate errors and confusion.  Puckett likely took second on several singles in those 50 hits because of errors or throwing decisions.  I have never seen Mauer take second after a patient AB turned into a walk.  These hits are a huge reason that Puckett generated far more runs that Mauer per season but there is another reason that contributed.

4.    Durability
In these modern times it is popular to only look at the % stats.  What is a person’s BB%, K%, OBP%, SLG%, etc…  These are extremely helpful, but they don’t tell a complete story when looking at player who play dramatically different amounts of games.  Mauer and Puckett have similar career stats in many of these major types of stats like OPS (Puckett .837 / Mauer .827) and wOBA (Puckett .366 / Mauer /358) but when looking at the counting stat of games played Puckett averaged 25 more games played per season (149) when compared to Mauer and his 124 games per season.  Some of you might be thinking that obviously he played fewer games, he was a catcher.  Fortunately, the smart folks at Fangraphs thought of this as well and gave positional adjustments allowing for some positions to be allocated more runs created just because creating runs from that position is harder than others.  The current adjustments for CF are 2.5 runs a season and C is 12.5 runs a season.  This means in a full season Mauer is spotted 10 runs.  As we look back, Puckett averaged 28 more RBI and 21 more Runs a season which is still more than Mauer, even with positional ranking brought into play.  

I am a bit ashamed to say that I have buried the lead in the argument though.

5.    Playoff Success
If you aren’t having Jack Buck saying, "and we'll see you tomorrow night!" going through your head right now I’m not sure if you are on the right site 😊.  Puckett has unquestionably had the greater postseason success.  Puckett has 2 World Series rings and Mauer never won a playoff game.  Puckett is in almost all of the top 10 MLB playoff moment lists on the internet while the main think Joe is known for is being part of the longest playoff losing streak in MLB history.  Puckett elevated his game in the postseason taking his career OPS of .837 and increasing it 60 points to .897.  Mauer let the postseason pass him by with a massive drop of 186 points from a career OPS of .827 to a playoff OPS of .641.  Puckett, when confronted with a potential series ending game 6, famously said "Jump on my back, I’m going to carry us tonight.”.  After that, he has 3 hits, a sac fly, and one of those hits is a game winning home run.  I attempted in vain to find similar quotes or examples of Mauer leading in the playoffs and I couldn’t.

Conclusion
In short, Puckett had more WAR per season, generated more runs in any given season due to more hits and games played, and was so much better in the playoffs that it is embarrassing to compare.  Joe Mauer was very good at baseball; Kirby Puckett was better.

20090826__pucket92.jpg?w=431

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joe Mauer is perhaps the most unappreciated athlete whose career I witnessed from opening to close. Once he passed through the honeymoon phase of Minnesota fandom, I saw increasing hostility toward a man who is one of the top five greatest athletes to spend his entire career in a Minnesota uniform. Baseball, the oldest American sport, is full of historic feats and Joe Mauer did things no other catcher in the history of the sport has accomplished. Let’s talk about one of those things…

If your name ain’t Joe Mauer and you played catcher in the American League of Major League Baseball, the number of batting titles you have won in the 121 year history of the league is… zero.

If your name ain’t Joe Mauer and you played catcher in any league of Major League Baseball, the number of batting titles you have won in the 145 year history of the sport is… four.

According to Baseball Reference, a total of 2,734 people have squatted behind the dish for a Major League Baseball team in the 145 year history of baseball. By my math, that brings the tally to:

The other 2,730 catchers to play in an MLB game: four batting titles

Joe Mauer: three batting titles

But it’s not as if Mauer was just Mike Piazza, a designated hitter masquerading as catcher.

Because Joe was such a natural athlete that defensively, he just randomly pulled off stuff like this:

Before the tragic concussion that altered his career, Mauer had the following triple slash line:

.323/.405/.468

The man had an on-base percentage that rivaled the most aggravating walk machine I’ve seen in my life (Frank Thomas at .419) and slugged squarely between fellow Minnesotans Kent Hrbek (.481) and Paul Molitor (.448). Everyone I mentioned in that sentence either played first base or designated hitter for most of their career.

Joe Mauer was a catcher.

He was a complete player in every way; he batted for high average, had the discipline to walk and reached base in nearly 40% of his plate appearances, and played the most difficult position in baseball and did it very well, winning three Gold Gloves.

Oh, and he also did this.

Say hello to Joe Mauer, the best baseball player you’ve seen in a Minnesota jersey in the past 40 years and perhaps ever.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I read through my opponents opening statement, I found myself agreeing with much of it.  “Joe Mauer was underappreciated and unfairly attacked by fans and media.”  “Joe Mauer was an exceptional athlete, especially at the catcher position.  Look at these 3 batting titles.” “Joe Mauer was exceptional before the concussion.”  I was agreeing so much that I feared I was losing the debate, so I went back and looked at what the actual debate was and found that the points I agreed with had nothing to do with the debate we are engaging in of "Who was the better player: Kirby Puckett or Joe Mauer?" so let’s look at them in more depth.


1.    “Joe Mauer was underappreciated and unfairly attacked by fans and media.”
It is an undeniable fact that Mauer took a lot of abuse.  Souhan would put an article out every 3 months about swinging more and harder or finding some other way to diminish Mauer.  Fans seemed to pull back from him, especially after he failed to ever duplicate his 2009 breakout season.  There is even a hilarious Boring Joe Mauer account that seems to capture his milk toast nature.  This always seemed unfair considering how much Puckett was embraced by fans and media but beyond his difference in personality with Puckett there is that fact that Puckett won 2 world series with the Twins and had a top 10 impactful game in the history of baseball in game 6 while Mauer’s claim to fame in the postseason is almost getting a double against the Yankees.  Regardless, fan and media appreciation don’t impact who the better player was.

2.    “Joe Mauer was an exceptional athlete, especially at the catcher position.  Look at these 3 batting titles.”
Joe was a great catcher; I think all Twins fans remember him in his catchers gear with the old school mask.  We all teared up a bit when he came out in his equipment for his last day to say goodbye to the fans.  Despite all these strong memories, Joe didn’t play catcher as frequently as we think.  He only played 897 of his career 1858 games (48%) at catcher while spreading the rest around 1B and DH with a few PH thrown in for good measure.  For comparison, Puckett played more of his career in CF with 1432 of his career 1783 games (80%) played in his premium position.  Not only did Puckett play more games per season as I described in my opening statement, he more frequently played his premium position as well.  Also, as shown in my previous post, even though Puckett had nowhere near the average or number of batting titles, he  certainly had more hits per season which assists in run creation.

3.    “Joe Mauer was exceptional before the concussion.”
There is no doubt that Joe had a career cut short by injury.  Concussions negatively impacted his career and he was not the same after his injury.  That said, injuries to the head and body are part of the game when you are a catcher.  That is why the Astros moved Biggio out of the catcher position when they found he had some skill and started playing him at 2B to extend his career.  I don’t know if the blame falls to Mauer or to the Twins but keeping his talent behind the plate decreased both the length and quality of his career.  Another factor of comparison here is that Mauer lied to the Twins about his vision sensitivity issues after his concussion for 2 years before admitting to sensitivity on the Spring of 2016.  “It could be a lot of things,” Mauer continued. “There are so many different symptoms. For me it was lighting, I couldn’t really pick up the ball. It was blurry at times. Where I am here versus last year at this time, I can tell my workouts are better.”  When he was asked about keeping his coaches up to date with this info he stated “Mauer was asked whether he shared his pitch-tracking concerns with hitting coach Tom Brunansky, manager Paul Molitor or the front office as he tried playing through them. “You know, I probably haven’t done that great of a job of doing that,” he said. “There’s days where it’s been really difficult and those when it hasn’t been very difficult. It just hasn’t been very consistent.”  According to reporting from the Pioneer Press “Both Twins general manager Terry Ryan and manager Paul Molitor said they were never informed last season about any vision issues for Mauer.”  In comparison, when Puckett had a vision issue he immediately informed Twins doctors and management and went through a cooperative analysis of the situation.  Undoubtedly, Puckett handled this situation better.

Conclusion
When we get away from the fans and media, the success at catcher, and the what-ifs about the concussion, Puckett brought more runs to the table every season while playing his premium position more frequently and brought 2 world series to Minnesota.  Mauer was good, Puckett was better.  Play it out Puck....

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 11/14/2021 at 1:32 PM, H2H Debater A said:

In this day and age of advanced statistics almost all HOF or career comparison discussions start with WAR.  Fangraphs has Joe Mauer having the advantage here with 52.5 to Puckett’s 44.9.
large.mauerpucket.jpg.6bbf3f367f0c701edf22bf65f1fd830e.jpg.ad529b0508ef570b426242ead87633c7.jpg
This doesn’t tell the whole story though as Mauer took 15 seasons to get his number while Puckett was able to achieve his in 12.

I’m glad my opponent agrees that Mauer was more valuable in his career but they forgot to mention the most important aspect of performance and it’s not total seasons played. Joe Mauer ended his career with 7,960 plate appearances while Puckett ended his career with 7,831 plate appearances. The two players are less than 150 plate appearances apart in the number of opportunities to affect a game positively or negatively, yet Joe Mauer was worth 7.6 wins more than Puckett. Is 7.6 wins a lot? Well, to Kirby it was, as it’s more wins than he produced in a single season. Mauer, on the other hand, easily cleared that number in his 2009 MVP season (there’s another feat Mauer accomplished that Puckett did not).

Mauer performed at a higher level on a per-inning basis and he was worth more overall to his team than Puckett, and it’s not particularly close. By the very definition of the word, doesn’t that mean Joe was the better baseball player?

On 11/14/2021 at 1:32 PM, H2H Debater A said:

The actual measurements of runs gets a bad rap these days.  Blogs and podcasts are put out about how RBI are meaningless counting statistics that are just side effects of how your teammates are doing around you.

They receive a bad rap because they’re a terrible stat to evaluate individual performance, and that’s what we’re talking about here. But if we want to go that route, I’ll play. Runs and RBI are team contextual numbers. If we look at just the raw performance numbers over their careers:

Runners in Scoring Position
Mauer: .937 OPS in 2,107 opportunities
Puckett: .879 OPS in 2,146 opportunities

Men on Base
Mauer: .888 OPS in 3,548 opportunities
Puckett: .874 OPS in 3,567 opportunities

One aspect few ever mention is how “clutch” Joe was in two out situations. Look at this:

Runners in Scoring Position, Two Outs
Mauer: .943 OPS in 849 opportunities
Puckett: .854 OPS in 814 opportunities

Again, we see Mauer was better than Puckett across the board in run-scoring opportunities on a per-plate appearance basis. This is becoming a theme.

On 11/14/2021 at 1:32 PM, H2H Debater A said:

If you aren’t having Jack Buck saying, "and we'll see you tomorrow night!" going through your head right now I’m not sure if you are on the right site 😊.  Puckett has unquestionably had the greater postseason success.

There’s no doubt that Puckett’s 1991 postseason helped the Twins win a championship but to quote The Great One, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Well, what happens if you aren’t given an opportunity to take your shots?

Mauer played in only 10 postseason games, accumulating 44 plate appearances, or basically one long road trip during the baseball season. He posted a disappointing stat line of:

.275 batting average, .641 OPS (.666 OPS once adjusted for Phil Cuzzi’s badly-needed corrective surgery)

Whereas Kirby Puckett was a postseason beast, right? Well, hold on for a minute and let’s look at this more closely. Through his first ten postseason games, Puckett posted the following stats:

44 plate appearances (same as Mauer so there’s nice symmetry here), .205 batting average, .580 OPS

Kirby kept receiving plate appearances, something Joe didn’t, because he had a team that picked him up and put him on their backs in that 1987 ALCS against the Tigers. Brunansky posted a 1.524 OPS, Gagne posted a 1.187 OPS (what?!?!), and Gladden posted a .908 OPS.

What would Mauer have done in plate appearance 45+? We’ll never know because Joe, despite being surrounded by good players, never had a teammate pick him up for a few games as he stumbled, as all players do at times. Puckett had the benefit of support that Mauer never received.

Kirby was a good - not great - player who benefited from his era, team, and the Metrodome.

This one is going to chafe a few readers and I’m sorry, but it’s true, so I’ll just tear the Band-Aid off.

Without benefiting from playing 50% of his career games using a tennis ball in a concrete cave, Kirby Puckett would be a rather forgettable player to baseball fans at-large. He’d be fondly remembered by Twins fans as a pretty good player in the vein of Gary Gaetti but he would not be Kirby Puckett, Hall of Fame player. Puckett’s home/road splits weren’t just noticeable, they were Coors-esque in their size.

Kirby Puckett had an OPS of .909 in the Metrodome and .761 on the road. That’s a +.148 OPS gap. Without the Metrodome and its very specific atmosphere (particularly the turf) inflating Puckett’s batting average and slugging, we’d view him very differently today. He wouldn’t be in Cooperstown, that’s almost certain. As a comparison point, teammate Gary Gaetti had a .744 OPS in a Twins uniform. Gaetti was also an outstanding defender, just like Puckett, so Kirby’s defense wouldn’t have propelled him far above Gaetti in overall value.

No one builds statues of Gary Gaetti.

Mauer, on the other hand, performed pretty much the same no matter where he went. By the time Joe donned a Twins uniform, the Superball silliness of the turf in the Metrodome had been replaced by softer, slower turf that played more like a grass field. Later, Mauer transitioned to Target Field, which was not a stadium built to put Mauer’s game on full display, yet he still performed well above league average (also note that Mauer, due to concussion symptoms, had already begun a premature decline for most of his Target Field career, which we’ll talk about later).

Metrodome: .882 OPS
Target Field, .786 OPS
Road: .832 OPS

The point I’m making here is that you can drop Joe Mauer into literally any era of baseball and his hit tool and defense at catcher make him an elite player.

But if you remove Kirby Puckett from the very specific era and stadium in which he played, no one asks the question “who’s the better player, Mauer or Puckett?” because the answer is obvious to everyone.

The answer is Joe Mauer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As my debate with the honorable “H2H Debater B” goes on I find myself wondering if I am remembering baseball correctly at all.  Their first rebuttal point was to say that Mauer and Puckett had virtually identical numbers of plate appearances but Mauer was able to produce more WAR in that amount and I was wondering, is the point of baseball to be the most efficient in producing WAR or was it to have successful seasons that resulted in playoff runs and championships.  If it is the former, then Mauer is a better player but I think the vast majority of the readers would agree with me that having the better total season is more important and is what contributes to playoff and championship success.  The fact Puckett was able to stay on the field for 25 more games a season which allowed for him to get as much done in 12 seasons as it took Mauer 15 is why Puckett is more valuable.

In addition to wanting look at PA instead of seasons my opponent also wants to disregard the outcome of having runners on and only look at the process by measuring OPS with RISP.

Quote

 

Runners in Scoring Position
Mauer: .937 OPS in 2,107 opportunities
Puckett: .879 OPS in 2,146 opportunities

Men on Base
Mauer: .888 OPS in 3,548 opportunities
Puckett: .874 OPS in 3,567 opportunities

One aspect few ever mention is how “clutch” Joe was in two out situations. Look at this:

Runners in Scoring Position, Two Outs
Mauer: .943 OPS in 849 opportunities
Puckett: .854 OPS in 814 opportunities

 

If we look back at my opening statement you will see that Mauer clearly favored the Walking part of OPS while Puckett favored action.  Taking the same stats from above I take away the predictive stat of OPS and use the outcome stat of RBI and we find a totally different leader:

Runners in Scoring Position
Mauer: 756 RBI in 2,107 opportunities
Puckett: 842 RBI in 2,146 opportunities

Men on Base
Mauer: 829 RBI in 3,548 opportunities
Puckett: 974 RBI in 3,567 opportunities

Runners in Scoring Position, Two Outs
Mauer: 278 RBI in 849 opportunities
Puckett: 267 RBI in 814 opportunities

I have always thought that RISP with 2 Outs is an odd stat as it could happen at any point in the game, even during a blowout.  I think clutch is better defined by high leverage and the numbers for that are as follows: 

High Leverage
Mauer: 338 RBI in 1506 opportunities
Puckett: 397 RBI in 1400 opportunities

Do we want to elevate the guy that had a better process in these situations or do we want to reward the guy with the better outcome.  I say the point of baseball is to score runs and win games, not to demonstrate the best Sabermetric process and Puckett shows the best outcome.

My fine opponents’ comments on the playoffs start out with an immediate misquote.  I know classic Michael Scott from the Office when I see and have no idea who this “Great One” is you are referring to but he sure as hell didn’t make that quote:

Dug1CsAUYAAQL-A?format=jpg&name=small

Putting that aside, if you want to willingly forget about some of the greatest playoff moments in the history of baseball and just concentrate on the first 10 games, Mauer had 1 XBH (2B) and 1 RBI in those games.  Puckett, even when struggling a bit, had 3 XBH hits (2B, 3B, HR) and 4 RBI.  Great players can still make a difference while slumping and Puckett showed that while struggling he could still impact the game while Mauer was pulling his best Moonlight Graham impression and trying to make you remember if he was actually ever there.  I also would point out that Mauer had Cy Young winners and MVPs on his teams so its not like he was pulling an Ernie Banks here.

I am happy to say that regardless of the outcome of this debate, my opponent and I agree on one thing, this guy deserves a statue.

EVB9zb-XgAoZbMY?format=jpg&name=small

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 11/16/2021 at 5:28 PM, H2H Debater A said:

As my debate with the honorable “H2H Debater B” goes on I find myself wondering if I am remembering baseball correctly at all.  Their first rebuttal point was to say that Mauer and Puckett had virtually identical numbers of plate appearances but Mauer was able to produce more WAR in that amount and I was wondering, is the point of baseball to be the most efficient in producing WAR or was it to have successful seasons that resulted in playoff runs and championships.

My opponent continues to refuse to acknowledge the difference between baseball positions - primarily catcher - so it’s time to pull out the spreadsheets and point out how comparing seasons and raw numbers between a catcher and centerfielder always leaves the catcher at a disadvantage.

For those who subscribe to TL;DR, I’ll pre-summarize the following paragraphs:

Playing catcher is extremely difficult and catchers require days off to heal and recuperate. Who knew that squatting for three hours a day and taking foul tips off the face (which ultimately led to literal brain trauma for Mauer) makes baseball a really, really hard game to play well?

So let’s look at the numbers.

From 2004-2013 (before the concussion and forced move to first base), Joe Mauer played the fourth most games at catcher in all of Major League Baseball.

From 1984-1993 (before being so wildly out of shape that he had to move to right field), Kirby Puckett played the second most games at center field in all of Major League Baseball.

Wow, what a massive difference. Contextualization is key here and it’s the driving point of almost everything I’ve written. Without attempting to adjust to competition level and their own peers, how can one compare two players as wildly different as Puckett and Mauer?

Because my opponent continues to tout seasonal efficiency as the basis of their argument, let’s do just that, except we’ll compare the players not to each other but to the peers of their respective eras.

Joe Mauer played in two decades, the 2000s and 2010s. Kirby Puckett played in two decades, the 1980s and 1990s. Let’s take a look at how they compare to their own peers:

From 2001-2020, here are the top 10 seasons at catcher in either league:

Rk Player WAR/pos Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Joe Mauer 7.8 2009 26 MIN AL 138 606 523 94 191 30 1 28 96 76 14 63 2 0 5 13 4 1 .365 .444 .587 1.031 *2D/H
2 Buster Posey 7.6 2012 25 SFG NL 148 610 530 78 178 39 1 24 103 69 7 96 2 0 9 19 1 1 .336 .408 .549 .957 *23/HD
3 Yadier Molina 7.2 2012 29 STL NL 138 563 505 65 159 28 0 22 76 45 4 55 5 3 5 10 12 3 .315 .373 .501 .874 *2/H3
4 Javy Lopez 6.8 2003 32 ATL NL 129 495 457 89 150 29 3 43 109 33 5 90 4 0 1 10 0 1 .328 .378 .687 1.065 *2H/D
5 Jonathan Lucroy 6.4 2014 28 MIL NL 153 655 585 73 176 53 2 13 69 66 3 71 2 0 2 13 4 4 .301 .373 .465 .837 *23/HD
6 Yadier Molina 6.2 2013 30 STL NL 136 541 505 68 161 44 0 12 80 30 4 55 3 0 3 14 3 2 .319 .359 .477 .836 *2/3H
7 Buster Posey 5.9 2015 28 SFG NL 150 623 557 74 177 28 0 19 95 56 10 52 3 0 7 17 2 0 .318 .379 .470 .849 *23/HD
8 Joe Mauer 5.9 2010 27 MIN AL 137 584 510 88 167 43 1 9 75 65 14 53 3 0 6 19 1 4 .327 .402 .469 .871 *2D/H
9 Jorge Posada 5.9 2003 32 NYY AL 142 588 481 83 135 24 0 30 101 93 6 110 10 0 4 13 2 4 .281 .405 .518 .922 *2/HD
10 Joe Mauer 5.8 2006 23 MIN AL 140 608 521 86 181 36 4 13 84 79 21 54 1 0 7 24 8 3 .347 .429 .507 .936 *2D/H

From 1981-2000, here are the top 10 seasons at centerfield in either league:

Rk Player WAR/pos Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Rickey Henderson 9.9 1985 26 NYY AL 143 654 547 146 172 28 5 24 72 99 1 65 3 0 5 8 80 10 .314 .419 .516 .934 *8/7HD
2 Ken Griffey Jr. 9.7 1996 26 SEA AL 140 638 545 125 165 26 2 49 140 78 13 104 7 1 7 7 16 1 .303 .392 .628 1.020 *8/D
3 Ken Griffey Jr. 9.1 1997 27 SEA AL 157 704 608 125 185 34 3 56 147 76 23 121 8 0 12 12 15 4 .304 .382 .646 1.028 *8/D7
4 Lenny Dykstra 8.9 1990 27 PHI NL 149 691 590 106 192 35 3 9 60 89 14 48 7 2 3 5 33 5 .325 .418 .441 .859 *8/H
5 Ken Griffey Jr. 8.8 1993 23 SEA AL 156 691 582 113 180 38 3 45 109 96 25 91 6 0 7 14 17 9 .309 .408 .617 1.025 *8D/3
6 Andruw Jones 8.2 2000 23 ATL NL 161 729 656 122 199 36 6 36 104 59 0 100 9 0 5 12 21 6 .303 .366 .541 .907 *8
7 Willie McGee 8.2 1985 26 STL NL 152 652 612 114 216 26 18 10 82 34 2 86 0 1 5 3 56 16 .353 .384 .503 .887 *8/H7
8 Eric Davis 7.9 1987 25 CIN NL 129 562 474 120 139 23 4 37 100 84 8 134 1 0 3 6 50 6 .293 .399 .593 .991 *8/7H
9 Andre Dawson 7.9 1982 27 MON NL 148 660 608 107 183 37 7 23 83 34 4 96 8 4 6 8 39 10 .301 .343 .498 .841 *8/H
10 Kirby Puckett 7.8 1988 28 MIN AL 158 691 657 109 234 42 5 24 121 23 4 83 2 0 9 17 6 7 .356 .375 .545 .920 *8/H

Compared to his peers at catcher, Joe Mauer had the 1st, 8th, 10th, 12th, 15th, 40th, and 67th best seasons in the top 100 seasons during that span.

Compared to his peers in centerfield, Kirby Puckett had the 10th, 18th, 55th, and 93rd best seasons compared to his peers. That’s it.

Joe Mauer had three top ten seasons compared to catchers of his era. By the time Puckett appears on his list a second time, Mauer has made five appearances.

If we want to tout efficiency per season and how effective each player was on a seasonal basis, I think that clearly sums up who the better player was during their career.

On the subject of “durability”, there’s no denying that Puckett was something of an iron man. Good for him. But as I’ve shown above, Joe Mauer was no slouch, either, despite Twins fans somehow tricking themselves into believing he had the injury history of Byron Buxton. He played the fourth most games in baseball at his position before a concussion flipped his career on its head.

The difference between Mauer and Puckett is that Puckett’s career-ending injury/condition was obvious and Mauer’s was not. Baseball was only beginning to learn about the long-term significance of CTE, which is literally brain trauma and should be viewed as such. Joe Mauer stopped being a catcher at age 30 (he was so young!) not because of some failure of willpower or toughness but because his brain was literally damaged from playing the hardest position in baseball.

And if someone wants to hold a brain injury against a guy as a claim that he wasn’t “durable”, well… *shrugs* It’s not a good look.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As we conclude this debate, I wanted to draw attention to what has clearly become a debate about outcomes and expectations.  A lot of Sabermetrics is identifying how many runs certain characteristics are expected to generate (BB%, OPS%, wOBA%) where counting stats are used to show how many runs you did generate (R, RBI).  Counting stats have no predictive value but they are highly effective in evaluating performance.  
My opponent has attempted to obfuscate the issue by starting out and only comparing Mauer to other catchers.  The argument is Mauer vs Puckett, not Mauer vs His Peers and Puckett vs  His Peers.  My opponent wanted to discount the actual runs produced by Puckett and focus on OPS in specific situations.  Again, Mauer won the process awards for OPS with RISP, Runners on, and High Leverage but Puckett won the outcome award of actual RBI in those 3 use cases.

My opponent attempted to play up Mauer’s time at catcher and state how it was more valuable than Puckett’s time at CF.  His is right that Catcher is more valuable, but we found he didn’t even spend 50% of career there.  Below are charts showing number of games Puckett and Mauer played with the Fangraphs 162 game run value.  You will see that accounting for their entire careers that Puckett had a slight advantage as he played so many more games at a premium position where Mauer played more than half of his games a low value positions of 1B and DH.

Puckett

large.puckettRun.jpg.22e4026fc4a366e5ebf


Mauer

large.mauerRun.jpg.6689ce1007e5c7a4be34c

Finally, my opponent somehow wanted to enter a world of make believe, a world of pure imagination, and pretend that the only thing we can compare about the post season is the first 10 games both played.  Taking away the absurdity of the fact we are ignoring Game 6, I still showed that while both slumped in their first 10 games, even with a roughly equal OPS number Puckett was able to produce more value in number of RBI and XBH.  It is almost impossible to compare one of the great playoff performers in MLB history to a guy who the New York papers referred to as an “EZ Pass” in the playoffs though.

Ask any Twins fan who can remember both runs about if they would prefer to keep 1984-1996 of 2004-2018 and you will see as overwhelming of a vote total as you are likely to ever see.  The choice is clear, Mauer was good but Puckett was better.

81443_014STRIBSALE.jpg?w=1314&h=480&form

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The theme of my argument has been consistent throughout this debate:

Joe Mauer, as a catcher, not only shined in comparison to other catchers of his era, he literally did things no other catcher has done in the 145 year history of Major League Baseball.

He won three batting titles, which is over 40% of all batting titles won by catchers in the 145 year history of the sport.

He won an MVP award, a recognition only three catchers have achieved in the past half-century of baseball. Those three catchers are Johnny Bench, Joe Mauer, and Buster Posey.  That’s quite a pair of bookend names around Joe Mauer.

By comparison, Kirby Puckett never performed at a historic level at his position. He didn’t even compare favorably to other centerfielders over the two decades spanning his career.

While only three catchers have won MVPs in the past half-century, Mike Trout alone has won three MVPs as a centerfielder.

While Mauer appeared in the top 100 catcher seasons six times - including the best catcher season overall - in the two decades he played, Ken Griffey, Jr appeared three times before Puckett appeared even once on the centerfielder list.

Once we start exploring the performances of Mauer and Puckett relative to their positions, the more extraordinary the career of Joe Mauer becomes as he consistently rises to the cream of the crop of not only catchers of his era, but also the all-time list of catching greats. Using the JAWS ranking system that evaluates player performance over their peak seven seasons, Joe Mauer is considered the eighth greatest catcher of all time.

Which brings me back to this statement:

Mauer could be placed into any era and be not only a good, but elite player. He had all the tools to be great and was extraordinary, historic in a few of those traits.

I pointed out to my opponent that Puckett not only doesn’t rank favorably when put into the context of his own position, Kirby Puckett wasn’t even that good of a player outside the Metrodome (again, a +.148 OPS home/road gap).

My opponent chose not to respond, which tells me they had no rebuttal to Puckett’s pedestrian performance outside his home stadium over a dozen year career and the 20+ stadiums in which he played. That sample size is large enough to show his road performance was not a fluke.

In conclusion, if you’re going to compare and evaluate two players, choosing the best, do you select:

The player that ranks as high as eighth on the all-time list of players at his position, a player who did things no other player at his position has done in 145 years, a player who has won awards that only all-time greats at his position have won in the past 50 years?

Or do you choose the player who wasn’t even that good of a player outside the stadium he was lucky enough to be drafted into, much less be included on lists of all-time feats accomplished by the greats at his position?

The choice seems rather obvious to me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Debate No. 2 has now concluded and this thread and poll are open for public vote and comment!

Please give both debaters a virtual round of applause for the time and effort ... they both did a tremendous job! It is much appreciated! 👏👏👏

Look for new debates to start soon ... "Strong lineup vs strong rotation: Which is more important?" and "The Twins should trade Buxton this off-season".

If you want to be a debate participant and/or have topics to suggest, please PM @Otto von Ballpark or @Squirrel.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"And we'll see you tomorrow night."

The only person who ever said that to, or about, Joe Mauer was his mom the day before family movie night back in October 2006.

Mauer's numbers might be on par with, or even better than, Puckett's, but Puckett's memories blow anything Mauer did completely out of the water, straight through the atmosphere, and into deep space. And, at the end of the day, it's the memories that matter most.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, again. Both debaters did an excellent job. The amount of support for each position was laudable. I will always connect Kirby Puckett to two World Series trophies and the Metrodome as well as Bob Casey. What a shooting star Puckett was for our team. Joe Mauer was a unicorn athlete. I will never forget watching him get triple teamed by three players who played D1 basketball in the state tournament. Cretin lost because of an injury to one of their players but Mauer was spectacular as he dished out assists, rebounded, scored, and blocked shots. Jay Jaffe has done some marvelous work with analytics and his work places Mauer in the top ten catchers in baseball history. I have followed baseball closely for more than sixty years in many capacities and think Mauer was totally amazing. So, despite my vast appreciation for Puckett, my brain judges Mauer to be the superior player. Thus, my vote would not be neutral or fair to the debate. However, I am very impressed by the extensive argument and presentation for Puckett. Great job by both persons.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Mauer case brought up his relative standing among catchers, which is important to his value.

But that might be different than "best player" in absolute terms -- better players are often steered toward center field, rather than allowed to catch.

Looking at offense -- Rbat (hitting) + Rbaser (baserunning) + Rdp (double play avoidance):

Puckett career 255 runs above average in 7831 PA
Mauer career 242 runs above average in 7960 PA

That's razor-thin but does give Puckett a career edge of about 1.3 runs per 600 PA.

Mauer does have the best single-season value (2009), although Puckett holds spots 2-4. On a per-600 PA basis, Mauer's 2006 would jump up to 3rd.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Went with Mauer and Debater B. I was probably leaning slightly towards Puckett to start, but it seems pretty overwhelming how much better Mauer was than Puckett relative to his peers, not to mention the advantage in things like WAR. I also remember Joe being robbed of an obvious double against the Yankees by a crappy umpire which would bolster his limited stat lines in the playoffs. I also feel, had the Twins deployed Mauer at 3B instead of 1B, he would have accumulated several more WAR before the end of his career.

I didn't appreciate opening with the totally unnecessary character assassination designed to distance and levitate DebaterA away from and above their position. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 minutes ago, bean5302 said:

@Squirrel are you planning on updating the thread to show what the pre-debate poll results were? I'm not able to view that one.

Ahh ... yes, the comparison before and after ... I think we will give this poll a day or two, allow people to vote, and then show the comparison. Wouldn't want to unduly influence anyone!  :) 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Puckett's 8 year peak (1986-1993) has more total offense (Rbat + Rbaser + Rdp) by about 2.25 runs per year, but Mauer's 8-year peak (2006-2013) has the higher rate per 600 PA by 3.6 runs. (Although that rate advantage would drop to 2.4 if you only looked at Puckett's 7 year peak, which is still more PAs than Mauer's 8.) This is close!

Of course, there's also defense (hard to quantify), and postseason...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Postseason, through 1987 World Series Game 5, Puckett was actually quite close to Mauer's overall postseason line:

Player G Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip aLI WPA acLI cWPA RE24
Puckett 10 6-4 46 44 4 9 1 1 1 4 1 5 1 0 1 0 .205 .239 .341 .580 .211 0.88 0.138 33.29 -0.14% -1.57
Mauer 10 0-10 44 40 1 11 1 0 0 1 4 7 0 1 0 0 .275 .341 .300 .641 .333 1.03 -0.222 15.47 -2.65% -1.48

Still a positive WPA for Puckett, I'd guess due to the XBH and RBI advantage? Also the BAbip suggests some bad luck for Puck?

Of course, from 1987 game 6 onward...

Player G Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF ROE GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip aLI WPA acLI cWPA RE24
Puckett 14 10-4 63 53 12 21 2 1 4 12 7 4 12 0 1 2 1 1 2 0 .396 .452 .698 1.150 .436 1.33 0.972 102.16 38.73% 6.46

cWPA% means Puckett basically won 38.6% of a championship by himself in his postseason career, despite the slow start. On a per-PA basis, that's behind Speaker, Gehrig, Freese, and Berkman from the Baseball-Reference career postseason top 10 list, but ahead of Mantle, Rose, Springer, Jackson, and Ortiz.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Puckett  is a unanimous choice  ,,, why ? .....

Puckett was an ignitor,  spark plug and a leader , a leader of the team has alot of value .....

Also a great ambassador to baseball around the league ,, players and fans loved him

 

Mauer was a home grown minnesota boy that did not have the personality,  flamboyant charisma  to lead a team to a world series and in my opinion  you don't pay someone  that kind of money just because he's homegrown  ,,,, that was management  error  not his ,,, 

He was a decent player more so in the dome than target field , his hitting everything to left field in his later years instead to all fields kept him from hitting  300 or better ,,, his second to last year he hit to all fields and hit 300 or better  , but his last season he went back to flying out to left field ,,, 

 

 

I could go on but what's important for me and the team success is leadership 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Otto von Ballpark said:

Puckett's 8 year peak (1986-1993) has more total offense (Rbat + Rbaser + Rdp) by about 2.25 runs per year, but Mauer's 8-year peak (2006-2013) has the higher rate per 600 PA by 3.6 runs. (Although that rate advantage would drop to 2.4 if you only looked at Puckett's 7 year peak, which is still more PAs than Mauer's 8.) This is close!

Of course, there's also defense (hard to quantify), and postseason...

Puck obviously has the postseason advantage but I think catchers need to have expectations adjusted for them (which is probably why so few are in the HoF because voters don't make those necessary adjustments).

Catchers simply cannot play as many games over a season as a regular every day position player. Going back to the last "normal" season where some key catchers didn't take a year off and come into 2021 fully healed and ready to play at a level they normally wouldn't...

In 2019, 12 position players played 160+ games.

Filter that down to catcher only and the top catcher played 153 games but if you scroll all the way down to 12 on the list, that games played number drops wayyyy down to 114.

Another thing to consider is that, as a whole, catchers just get the snot beat out of them over a season. Looking to 2019 again, here is the catcher OPS line for halves of the season:

First Half 2019: .721
Second Half 2019: .703

If you filter down to only September, the number drops to a really ugly .694 OPS.

For all position players, the same numbers:

First Half 2019: .762
Second Half 2019: .761

Filtering out only catchers proved to be too annoying so I left them in the second number. If you remove catchers, the OPS of position players likely climbs as the season progresses while catchers take a significant .018 OPS hit as the season progresses.

It's really hard to be an MLB catcher and I think the public at large - including many writers and voters - do a really bad job of adjusting what should be the expectation of a MLB catcher comparative to MLB players at other positions.*

*this could also be used as a damned good argument why moving Mauer off catcher in the minors may have been the right decision

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

*this could also be used as a damned good argument why moving Mauer off catcher in the minors may have been the right decision

I think Mauer would have been playing catcher at 35 and still been playing if not for the lightweight titanium masks. Those things were a disaster. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

Puck obviously has the postseason advantage but I think catchers need to have expectations adjusted for them (which is probably why so few are in the HoF because voters don't make those necessary adjustments).

This is obviously true -- although it's still talking about value relative to position. I think there is still a subjective interpretation of "better player" that doesn't include that, or at least de-emphasizes it (maybe just for defense?).

2 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

Filtering out only catchers proved to be too annoying so I left them in the second number.

FanGraphs Splits Leaderboard for the win!

For Mauer's entire catching career (2004-2013):
Catchers 1st half: .714 OPS
Catchers 2nd half: .714 OPS
Non-catchers first half: .757 OPS
Non-catchers 2nd half: .763 OPS

So overall catcher batting performance was no worse in the 2nd half relative to the 1st, and non-catchers only got an extra .002 of AVG and .004 of SLG in the 2nd half.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I want to bring up the concept of peak performance, narrowing it to one season.

The 2009 Joe Mauer was the best baseball player on the planet at the time. The 2009 Joe Mauer was also the best catcher in the history of baseball. Kirby Puckett was never the best baseball player on the planet nor the best center fielder in history in any of his seasons. That's why Mauer was better even though Kirby is my favorite baseball player ever.

IMHO, of course.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, bean5302 said:

I think Mauer would have been playing catcher at 35 and still been playing if not for the lightweight titanium masks. Those things were a disaster. 

Agree. The old mask are/were heavy. I caught a few hundred games and was whacked numerous times by  foul balls and am still just stupid but rather undamaged from the hits. A number of others shifted to the lighter masks and suffered a series of unfortunate injuries, most commonly concussions. My usage was tied to cost, not convenience or some intelligent motive. I have read a few studies that try to compare the masks but cannot recall where. Maybe I did suffer more than recalled.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's also a sad parallel that both players had their careers derailed due to injuries to their nervous systems, the brain in Mauer's case and the retina (which is anatomically part of the brain) in Puckett's case. It points up that the nervous system is by far the most important part of an athlete's body because it processes incoming signals and directs actions. There are millions of Americans who are the physical equals of star athletes but muscles and bones are not what sets star athletes apart from the general population.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't "kiss my sister". Debate judging is about chosing a winner, not avoiding being a judge. I think that option should be removed. If you can't chose, just don't vote.

Since this is a debate about who is the better player, and not the success of the teams they played on in the playoffs (Ted Williams only got to play in one post season series, the 1946 World Series, and he only hit .200) - even though I would have voted for Puckett before the debate, (and I saw all the seasons of these players as an adult, and not a wonder eyed kid), I now have to, post debate, go with Mauer as the better player.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

The Twins Daily Caretaker Fund
The Twins Daily Caretaker Fund

You all care about this site. The next step is caring for it. We’re asking you to caretake this site so it can remain the premiere Twins community on the internet.

×
×
  • Create New...