There has been plenty of debate related to the season Joe Mauer is having for the Twins, and the catcher has come under a remarkable amount of criticism in recent weeks.
It’s fair to say Mauer has had a poor season. There is plenty of evidence if you look at the stats, and just by using the naked eye, to show that Mauer’s season hasn’t lived up to his $23 million contract.
The more important question is whether this season is the start of a trend, or simply a statistical anomaly. If you strictly look at the past two months, odds are this season is nothing more than a speed bump for Mauer.
For example, since July 1st, Mauer has batted .325, which is pretty close to his career average. If you consider the first two months of the season a period where Mauer clearly wasn’t healthy and disregard those results, he appears to be returning to his old form.
However, the power and production Mauer needs to exhibit at the plate haven’t returned as of yet. Even if you take those two months where Mauer has started hitting near his career average, the run production is still lacking. If you expanded July 1-August 31st into a full season, Mauer would finish with 2 home runs, a .325 average, 63 RBI and 30 doubles. Those are exceptionally good numbers for a catcher, but certainly not worthy of a $23 million contract.
This could be Mauer’s bad season. Pretty much every player goes through at least one of them, even Hall of Famers such as Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk, widely regarded as two of the best catchers in MLB history. For example, Bench hit .234 in 1976 and Fisk had only 7 HR and a .263 average in 1981. Even famed Twin Kirby Puckett had a down year, in 1990 when he hit .298 and had only 12 home runs.
So I’ll wait until next year’s results before making any grandiose statements about Mauer and whether his status as the state’s Golden Boy should be revoked.
It’s been a tough season, marred by injury and inconsistency. However, if he finishes strong and comes back next year with his typical season, which has resulted in four times Mauer being voted in the Top 8 of MVP voting, the criticism Mauer has received this year might look a little unfair.