This week I've heard from a couple of different radio programs that something must be wrong with Joe Mauer. He must be injured and we don't know about it. He must be pressing too hard because of the new contract. He must be coasting because of the new contract. There's something wrong.
How about he's playing exactly the way we should expect? You didn't really think he'd hit .365 with 28 home runs every year, did you? Even though his career averages suggest he's more of a .325 hitter with 15 homers? You didn't really, did you? Oh my god, you did. How embarrassing for you.
He's hitting .312 this year at this exact moment as I type this thanks to his 1-2 so far tonight. That's not exactly terrible. That still ranks in the top 15 in the AL. And would you be happier if he was hitting .350? Do you know the difference between .312 and .350 at this point in the season? Seven hits. Or, one extra hit every seven games. That's it. And I've got news for you: Batting average will fluctuate wildly for a non-power hitter.
That one hit every seven games could be a liner hit at somebody, a diving catch, or a blooper that just doesn't quite fall in. At some point those are going to fall. His line drive percentage is up quite a bit this year (27.6% to 22.6%), and his BABIP is down from a ridiculous .373 last season (though still high at .337). He's going to be fine.
Oh. Wait. You probably thought he was suddenly going to turn into a power hitter thanks to that ridiculous stretch of games last year. Did you know that last year, according to hittracker.com (which is awesome) that 11 of Mauer's homers were classified as "just enough?" Meaning they barely cleared the wall. Did you also know that last year his HR per Fly Ball spiked to a ridiculous 20.4%, a number which ranked him with guys like Adam Dunn, Albert Pujols, and Alex Rodriguez? Did you know his career number is around 10%?
So process all that. Is it really realistic, in the least, to expect him to hit 30 homers? Or even 25? Using his career fly-ball rate and his career HR/FB rate (including last year's ridiculous number), you can expect Mauer to hit about 14 home runs per year. You can also expect him to hit around .325-.330 ever year.
And this is a disappointment? No, those numbers aren't worth the contract he just signed, but if you thought the contraction was just for his production, you probably think he'll hit 40 HRs in a season, too.
No, you're not dumb. You're a visionary.
- As long as I'm here, I might as well weigh in on Strasburg's debut. I watched the first six innings, and there is no doubt I came away impressed. He was hitting 97-98 with his fastball all game, and I expected the radar gun to be a little juiced, but the way some of those Pirates were swinging at the ball (and yes, granted they are the Pirates) I think I believe it. You can read more about Strasburg than his mom would even want to if you go to basically any website, so I won't belabor it here, but I'm going to make two points.
First, just this line: 7ip, 4 hits, 2 runs, 0 bb, 14k. 14 strikeouts, no walks. Wow.
Second, watching him strike out 5 of 6 batters in the fifth and sixth was like watching a dominant closer come in and shut the door. Except it was two innings, and it was his fifth and sixth frame of the night. Wow.
He had a lot of hype, and it's going to get worse, but for tonight at least (and I'm sure there will be rough patches) he absolutely lived up to it.
And he's on our fantasy team.
- By the way, those of you who thought I was an idiot for calling out that there was something wrong with Zack Greinke can suck it (Dharma Bum -> hi).
- Also Kobe Bryant is absolutely playing like a man possessed tonight. He has been so impressive in this postseason. Like, a whole new level. At this point, I have to say he's the fourth best guard I've ever seen behind Magic, Jordan, and Glen Rice.
- UPDATE: Celtics making a nice little run here, cutting the lead down to four. Getting murdered by the refs though. I didn't think the "Lakers must win" mandate would come down until Game 5, four at the earliest. Also, Rondo is very, very good with the ball, but he's passing up 15 footers out there. He should be in the gym four hours a day this offseason figuring out how to shoot. He'd be unstoppable. Like Big Baby is now, apparently. Wow did he come to play.
- UPDATE: These refs are just brutal either way. Baby goes up for a layup, a little bit of contact. He missed, and now there's a whistle and a foul on the Lakers. Really just terrible officiating. Story of the finals, unfortunately.
- UPDATE: Kobe in "Operation Chucker" mode. Fisher carrying the Lakers right now. Also, Kevin Garnett is not dead yet, having a monster game. If Ray Allen could hit anything (just missed another open three and I think he's 0-12 now) Celtics would have this.
- UPDATE: Garnett 25 points, 11-15 shooting.
- UPDATE: Ray Allen 0-13. Denzel Washington is sad.
- UPDATE: This constant reviewing of out-of-bounds calls is killing this game.
- UPDATE: Ray Allen just missed a layup, although it didn't count because KG was called for a moving pick. John Thompson would be so proud.
- UPDATE: Still hate the Lakers.