Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is Joe Mauer on the Roids?


Oh settle down. It's a legit question. I have no doubt you are currently swearing at your computer and calling me every simple minded insult your tiny brain can come up with, causing your co-workers to once again question your sanity and intelligence level, but stay with me here.

I'm not accusing your hero of anything, I'm just saying that if this entire state didn't worship Mauer to a level usually reserved for criminally insane cult leaders there would be some questions raised, but since nobody even dares hint at it, if falls on me to do the digging.

The numbers, simply put, are enough to raise the question, as any but the most hard-headed homer Mauer-loving fan would admit. This season, after hitting a pinch two-run home run yesterday, he has hit eleven ding dongs in just 81 at-bats. This is up against just nine all of last season in 536 at bats and a career high of just 13, back in 2006.

Before this season, Mauer hit a home run every 47 at bats. This year, he is hitting one every 7.4 at bats. That's about a 6.5 times increase in his home run rate. The most obvious example of a hitter taking the juice is always Brady Anderson, who hit fifty home runs in 1996 despite a career high of just 21 before that season, and never hitting more than 24 after that. Anderson came into 1996 with a home run rate of one HR every 49 at bats. In that season, he hit one every 11.6 at bats - a 4x increase. This means that so far this season, Juicin' Joe has increased his home run hitting ability MORESO even than Brady Anderson - the poster boy for a roid-aided season.

So what has changed? Simply put, Mauer is hitting more fly balls, and a higher percentage than normal of those fly balls are going over the fence. In his career, of the balls Mauer has put in play, 27.4% of them have been fly balls - this season he is at 36.6%. Of those fly balls, in his career 10.4% of them leave the yard - this year he is at a staggering 38.5%.

What does that mean? We can mostly ignore the fly ball percentages, as both the career number and this season's number fall in a normal range, and on the low end to boot. The home run/fly ball percentages are very interesting, however. His career number of 10.4% is on par with guys like A.J. Pierzynski (9.0), Russel Martin (9.6), and Johnny Damon (9.0) - nice, dependable mid-teen home run hitters who might rarely get to twenty. The 38.5% this season is more like Ryan Howard (33.0), Jim Thome (27.6), and Barry Bonds (25.1). Look at those two sets of names again. That my friends, is what we call, "a huge leap."

We only have data on HR/Fly ball going back to 2002, so we can't look at Brady. Luckily, we have another excellent candidate in Adrian Beltre. Beltre came into 2004 with a career high of 23 home runs, hit 48 that year (a contract year, no less), and then never hit more than 26 again. That year his HR/FB rate jumped from a career number of 13.5% all the way up to 23.3% - a huge jump, but no where near as high as Mauer. A-Rod, who has admitted to being on roids when he was with the Rangers, posted higher than his career HR/FB rates in both years with Texas we have data for.

Look, I'm not here saying Mauer is on steroids. I actually don't think he is, and tend to think more like this article from Fangraphs which thinks this month has just been a blip or this from Aaron Gleeman which compares Mauer to Wade Boggs. Then again, I didn't think A-Rod or Manny were on roids either, and was legitimately surprised when I heard the news.

So enjoy this from Mauer, chances are we won't see a power display like this from him again. But don't surprised if bad news comes at some point. You have been warned.

(I also find it pretty damn hilarious that now that Mauer is finally hitting like a #3 hitter, Gardy finally moves him to #2. It almost has to be intentional, doesn't it?)

16 comments:

catapult said...

you are a moron.

bogart said...

Does the article from Aaron Gleeman compare Mauer to Boggsy's ability to crush Miller Light?

WWWWWW said...

I believe the Boggs/Mauer comparison only extends to a sudden increase in power, not to the ability to crush Miller Light.

I also feel safe in saying that Boggsy had more Millers on an average flight from Boston to NY than Mauer has had in his entire sheltered life.

ILOVEBASEBALL said...

I have to believe with the stats he has had in May that he has been tested at least once and he must of passed.

jose said...

I agree, you are clearly a frickin' moron.

The Sidler said...

Maybe Mauer's crushing some fried chicken before the game now, Boggs style?

I was working on a similar post but ended up not making a point (shocking) and ended up having an extra drink instead. WWWWWW, can you see it as a saved post?

I think the flyball rates aren't as telling for Mauer--it is the combined flyball/line-drive rates. His numbers this year are saying fewer LDs, more FBs since more are going over the fence.

Mauer's GB rate has gone from 55%, to 50% last year, to 45% so far this year (small sample size warning). That's a pretty significant over the course of 500 at-bats.

Using HRs as a % of balls hit in the air, guys like Chipper Jones and Pujols were around 10-13% during a given year and Mauer has been around 3-4%. Mauer's crushing that (around 26%) so far, but just getting to 10% would be a huge improvement and get him to 25 HR if the lower GB rate holds.

Enjoy the run while we can, I've never watched a hitter locked in quite like this. But I think some of this power is real and not a Boggs-style spike, due to an evolving approach at the plate.

catapult said...

I was wondering if any of you morons would realize the guy just turned 26 years old and that both the "evolving approach" rationale and the fact that people routinely are continue to get stronger at that age (combined with him currently being at the "hot" end of the spectrum) is a pretty simple way to explain the whole thing. Oh, and there is this guy named Justin Morneau behind him that ensures he'll see good pitches too hit. It really isn't all that hard and you don't need all your fancy nerd stats. Unless the pitchers make a big adjustment and he has trouble keeping up (doubtful), expect him to hit 20-30 homers on a yearly basis now.

O. Canseco said...

I was with you until "expect him to hit 20-30 homers on a yearly basis now."

That might very well be the most absurd thing I've read on here, and that's saying a lot. Unless catapult = dawger, then it makes sense.

catapult said...

okay, that might be getting a little carried away 22 games into the year, but it would not shock me.

and there's no way that's the most absurd thing you've read on here, unless today is your first day reading the blog.

Tubtastic said...

I saw Mauer swear last game after he struck out. Clearly, this is 'roid rage Mauer style. If he keeps juicing like this he may even punch Ann Carroll in the face during a post game interview.

WWWWWW said...

Since he's never shown the slightest bit of emotion before and is now swearing, I'm going to have to agree with you. The facts are all falling into place people.

They better keep Jose Morales ready to be called up for a fifty-game stint. I actually hope he gets caught sooner rather than later so we can have the singles-hitting machine back for the playoffs.

weasel said...

You can see the hair growing from the back of his uniform and he is will suffer from acne everywhere too. Ann Carrol could use a nosejob anyways.

WWWWWW said...

Momentum gaining!

Keep spreading the word friends, we need to educate as many naive Minnesotans as possible that their hero is a fraud!

THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE!!

Z Budish said...

The guy has the arms of a 13 year old if he's on some PED's than he needs his money back....

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