Thursday, October 21, 2010

How dare they play Joe Mauer at Catcher.

I haven't done this in a while, so let's take this piece by Howard Sinker and look at it, FJM-style.

Joe C. offered his perspective on Joe Mauer's 2010 season and it brought out the cyberthugs who launched into their accusations about Mauer's lack of heart, soul and might. (Yes, I'm sampling some Old Testament verse. That's Deuteronomy, Ch. 6, ft. the Lord.)

Clever use of a bible joke there.  I would have gone with a "new musical group" joke myself, but that's just splitting hairs.  Additionally, I love the reference to cyberthugs, basically an admission that we aren't going to pay too much attention to the facts here.  What are we, nerds?  Nerds who live in their mother's basement?

Look at the numbers and the level of sourness is unwarranted.

3-12 for the series, all three hits singles, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts.  I'm not inclined to bust his balls when we're looking at such a small sample-size, but I would say the level of sourness about Mauer in the playoffs is closer to warranted than unwarranted.  And for his career he's been significantly worse in the playoffs than in the regular season, not to mention being 0-9 in winning.

Watch the way that Josh Hamilton has recovered from his late season injuries and jealousy is understandable.

Call me crazy, but I think we're being set up for a thinly veiled article that's letting Mauer off the hook for his poor performance, and excusing it because he's a catcher.

Mauer is going to be a Twin for the next eight years and -- at this point -- if you think that's not a good thing, I think you're very, very wrong.

Probably true and maybe true.  In 2018, he will be making $23 million as a 35-year old, which is pretty dicey, especially when you consider that $23 million was a significant overpayment for the offensive production you got out of him this year.  Luckily, a lot of his value comes from the fact that he can put up those numbers while playing above average defense as a catcher, which gives the Twins a big advantage over pretty much every other team.  Good thing everybody seems to recognize that.

That being said, 2011 is the time to begin transitioning him to another position. By the midpoint of his contract, he should no longer be catching.

I KNEW IT!!!!!!!

As good a defensive catcher as Mauer is, the Twins didn't sign him for $23 million per season because of his defensive skills. They signed him for his batting prowess, which would be considered extraordinary under any circumstances and has been otherworldly because of the numbers he's compiled while catching.

I would argue they signed him first and foremost because of his value to the franchise as, well, the face of the franchise, not to mention sending a positive message to the fans, reassuring them that every star doesn't end up leaving our cute little team.  Secondly, they probably signed him because of his great value as a catcher who can hit.  If you really want to look at offensive statistics only, he was behind both Luke Scott and Sin-Soo Choo in OPS this year.  Once again, incredible for a catcher, merely good for a first baseman or outfielder.

Keep in mind that his contract was enhanced by a few million per year based on his off-the-charts 2009 numbers. As cordial looking as those negotiations appeared last winter, if the Twins hadn't shown Mauer the money, we'd be preparing to watch a free-agent frenzy play out and the population would be outraged. Bet on it.
That Mauer got hot at the right time and forced the Pohlads to dig deeper into their vault bothers me not one bit. If Mauer's contract causes the Twins to do business differently (read: more cheaply), it will be because the Pohlads will have changed their operating philosophy and that would be shameful.

Actually, I think if the Twins do business differently it will because Mauer's new contract chews up such a huge chunk of the payroll.  If they can budget $100 million for payroll each year, things are going to be significantly different with one player taking up 23% of that.  This is like saying if I have $100 to spend on alcohol, and I buy Grey Goose vodka instead of Karkov, I should still be able to get a bunch of Newcastle or Red Stripe instead of having to get Schlitz.

OK, enough preamble.

This, I can agree with.

In seven seasons with the Twins, Mauer has been significantly hampered by injuries in four of them. He missed almost his entire rookie season in 2004 with knee injuries, a month in the '07 and '09 seasons and chunks of  this season despite the fact that he didn't go on the disabled list. He was sidelined enough last season that he actually had 22 fewer plate appearances in 2010 than he did in '09.

This is true.  It's funny how lots of players are injury-prone where others never seem to get hurt.  In 2004, a scientist from Belgium and one from South Africa teamed up to study the phenomenon and came to the conclusion that some athletes are simply more prone to injury due to the way they move.  Seems like Mauer might be one of these, seeing as how his injuries are usually of the "severe" kind and not usually of the "nagging" kind.  I'm actually not even sure there is such a thing as "injury-prone", particularly when one injury has nothing to do with the other.  What do you think, Howard?

That track record is enough evidence for me that the Twins can expect more of the same -- if not even more problems -- as Mauer gets older.

Oh, right.  Got it.  But is this really true?  Grant Hill was labeled as injury prone, but he's played every game the last two seasons.  Fred Taylor has actually played almost every game in more seasons than not.  Our very own Carl Pavano went through this when he was with New York, but has now pitched 200 innings, more or less, two straight years.  But of course, for every one of these guys who seem to break free, you have a Brian Westbrook or a Tracy McGrady who continue along the injury-laden path.  So, to me, it would seem that past injuries are not necessarily an indicator of future results.

In addition, his career month-by-month regular-season statistics show a significant decline in September/October in on base-plus-slugging percentage (.846) compared with any month from May through August (.880 to .959 for those four months). I'll use that as evidence that the demands of catching wear him down when the Twins need him most. A statistic wrinkle here is that his 2009 September was excellent (.958 OPS), but because he missed the first month of the season (as well as spring training), that was still "August" on Mauer's baseball calendar.

This actually sounds good, but he neglects to mention how brutal Mauer was in September of his freaking rookie year (OPS = .562), and if you take that out of the calculation you get an OPS of .893, right in line with his career numbers and making September his third best month.  And since August is his second best month, I'm having real trouble with this "wearing down" angle we seem to be going after here.

Oh, and if you want to throw September of 2009 out as well, for some odd reason relating to some sort of baseball calendar, which I picture as baseball shaped and hanging on Mauer's fridge with pictures of various former Twins' catchers on it, his OPS for September is still .871, right in line with his career mark of .888.

Boom.  Lawyered.

And if you want to accuse me of cherry-picking a statistic, I'll counter that OPS is disproportionately significant for the third batter in your order.

Of course you're cherry picking a stat.  By definition.  You also chose a good one to cherry pick, the same one I would have in fact.  This seems like a really weird thing to be defending yourself about, especially with some of the other things going on in this article.

I don't want Mauer to be durable by catching standards; I want 700 plate appearances every season without him wearing down more than other players.

# of players who reached 700 plate appearances last year:  11
# of these players who were NOT leadoff hitters:  6
# of players who qualified for the batting title (aka "regulars"):  151

So the new goal for Mauer is to do something that only 4% of non-leadoff hitters who start regularly were able to do last year.  And would also be an 11% increase over his career high.  Oh and since he wants 700 PAs EVERY year, I looked it up and since 2000 only 32 players have managed 700 plate appearances in back-to-back seasons.

I want to see Mauer be like Josh Hamilton in the postseason, not Nick Punto. (Mauer in the postseason: .286/.359/.314; Punto in the postseason: .286/.375/.333.)

This guy really likes Josh Hamilton.  Also, that Mauer/Punto thing is pretty sad.  Also, they have the same number of extra base hits - one - but Mauer has 39 plate appearances and Punto 25.  Ouch.  Though I'm not entirely sure what this has to do with being a catcher, since Brian McCann had two extra base hits and Buster Posey has three just this year.

And this winter -- when the Twins are facing a combination of interesting roster decisions and uncertainty -- is prime time for the hard discussions to take place and the options to be vetted. If you want to lose sleep over the second-base situation, that's your option. But that's way down on my list.

You know what's way down on my list?  Trying to move Joe Mauer to a new position.

A few options, in quick-hit form:

As you read each of these, keep in mind that moving Mauer from catcher to another position requires someone else to play catcher, somebody who likely hits like Drew Butera.    

*If the Twins are as (privately) pessimistic about Justin Morneau as I am, Mauer and Michael Cuddyer would make a fine first-base share for 2011. Cuddyer would be a better trade candidate if he wasn't making $10.5 million in 2011, but that's another story. Have Mauer catch 90 games and play first base in 60.

Whole lot of Ifs there, not to mention the implied insider knowledge that the Twins are pessimistic about Morneau.  I don't doubt Mauer could play first base, at least as well as Cuddyer (which is terribly), but again, you're nullifying one of the biggest advantages of having him on the team - his advantage over another catcher.  No matter what you think of Cuddy, do you prefer Mauer and Cuddy or Mauer and Butera?  Exactly.

Let's put this another way with a little back of the envelope math.  The average 1B starter in the American League OPSed .828 this year.  Mauer was at .871, so he would be slightly above average as a starting first baseman in the AL - about 5% better.  The average starting catcher in the AL OPSed .754, so Mauer was 16% better than average.  So his bat is 3 times more effective when he's a catcher, and that's just his bat, not to mention turning him from a good defender to, best case, an average one.

I hope that made sense.  And if it didn't, just use some common sense, dummy.

*Corner outfield. That would have to be part of an overall outfield overhaul. If a Delmon Young/ Jason Kubel combo is in left field and Mauer in right, the Twins would have to expect significant defensive improvement from Denard Span (unlikely) or get a center fielder who can truly run the outfield and make up for the shortcoming/inexperience in the corner outfield positions.

So we're going to platoon Young and Kubel now?  The more I read this, the more I think it was put together by somebody playing Baseball Stars.  And, again, you lose a big part of the advantage of having Joe Mauer on your team.  Although he's about twice as good as your average starting outfielder, you're still losing out in the end.

*Third base. That's if Danny Valencia isn't nearly as good over time as his excellent half-season. If Valencia levels off to a .275 hitter with a .325 OBP and 12 to 15 home runs, is that good enough for the future?

Yeah, third base is pretty simple to learn.  I hear that's why that wanker Brooks Robinson played there.

Of those three options, I hope I'm wrong about No. 1 and that Valencia answers No. 3 with continued solid play. That leaves No. 2 as the most likely outcome, and will require some additional moves to go with it.

Tough choices, but that's the price of the confluence of success and questions that are the story of the Twins today.

If the Twins go with any of these options I'm going to pack up shop and move my allegiances to a less retarded team.  Like the Pirates.  Or Gopher football.

I want to see Mauer batting third and playing regularly when he's 40.

I want a PS3 and a full night of sleep.  Also, who bats third when they're 40 outside of Barry Bonds?  Or is this whole thing just an elaborate scheme to try to convince Mauer to get on the roids?

I want to see his 3,000th hit ... and his 3,500th hit.

I want a lap dance from Allison Brie.......and Katy Perry (but she's not allowed to talk or sing).

I want to see Mauer in the second car (behind the manager) in a World Series parade or three over the next few years.

I want my very own dinosaur, the alchemical formula for turning lead into gold, and the complete cast of Mad Men to come over and sing me the complete works of Neil Diamond while Salma Hayek jumps on a trampoline.

I want the Twins to figure out the Mauer issue as they figure out the other puzzle pieces they need to transcend the divide from winners of a weak division to World Series contender.

I want Alan Rickman to follow me around all day, in character as Professor Snape, and say Snape-like things in his awesome Snape voice.  ("I can teach you how to bottle spreadsheets, brew data analysis, even stopper killer powerpoint presentations")

I want, I want, I want.

Gimme gimme gimme....I need....I need!

But I'm not wanting anything unreasonable.

Maybe not unreasonable.  Nonsensical, knee-jerk, and reactionary with a nice bit of panic thrown in, but not at all unreasonable.


Anonymous said...


Worried in my moms basement said...

I think there is a reason you haven't done an article like this in a sucks. How much time did you waste last night typing this sleeping pill of an article up? You should try more humping of your lady and less humping of the keyboard. I am starting to worry about you. Also, nice dominoes add on the site. I would have never guessed the two of you would partner up.

get a clue said...

Hey Worried, perhaps you should have your mom fix you up a sald yourself? You do realize that the ads on the site are keyed to the websites you've visited on your computer right? For example, I've been looking up hotels for a trip to Vegas recently, and the ads are all about Vegas for me right now. Domino's appeared for you because your fat ass orders off of their site so much. Fucking hypocrite.

Loretta8 said...

Hahahaha, owned