Saturday, January 28, 2012

Appreciating Joe Mauer.

Joe Mauer is widely regarded as one of the games best catcher in all of baseball. Just how good is he though? In this post I am going to see how Mauer stacks up against some of the greatest catchers to ever play the game.

When Joe Mauer attended Cretin Derham High School in St. Paul, Minnesota he was widely regarded as a three sport star. He was the quarterback for the varsity team, played varsity basketball as a sophomore and was also a pretty good baseball player. During the 2001 draft the Twins had the first pick and were debating between hometown hero Joe Mauer and a pitcher out of USC named Mark Prior. Prior told the Twins he didn't want to sign with them and the rest is history.

Since Mauer has started playing full time in 2005 he has been nothing short of incredible. He's won an MVP and a handful of batting titles. All of that and he's only entering his age 29 season. Going into his eighth season Mauer has already accumulated 35.7 fWAR. Compared to some of the all-time greats he is doing really well. By his eighth season of full playing time Yogi Berra had 42.3 fWAR. Johnny Bench had 50.7 fWAR but that was largely due to his incredible '72 season where he posted 10.2 fWAR. Those are just a few but the point is Mauer is really good.


This is a WAR graph from Fangraphs, it can be used to compare multiple players WAR by season. If you take a look Mauer is actually on a better pace than Piazza in terms of fWAR and on par with Carlton Fisk and Pudge Rodriguez when they were 29. Besides Mauer all of those catchers hit for power. Mauer did have 28 home runs in 2009 but for now that looks like an outlier. His career ISO is .148 essentially giving him average power.

Based on all catchers who logged at least 3,000 plate appearances, Mauer's 132 wRC+ already ranks as the fifth best of all-time. In terms of OBP his .403 mark comes in at second all-time. Mauer is also known to have an amazing eye at the plate. Mauer rarely swings and misses. For his career he only has a 4% SwgStr%. He also rarely swings at balls outside the zone, as evidence by his 19.9% career O-Swing%. We don't have a lot of information when it comes to catcher defense but the concensius around baseball is that Mauer is one of the better defensive catchers.

There are a few knocks when it comes to Mauer though. The main one is his injury past. In 2004 Mauer missed most of the season due to knee surgery and last year he suffered from a viral infection and bilateral leg weakness. That limited him to 82 games and only 1.8 fWAR. On the bright side, he was on pace to achieve over 3 WAR.

Mauer won't be going anywhere for a long time either, last March he signed an 8 year/$184m dollar contract which essentially makes him a Twin for life. In a few years it may be beneficial to move him to first base or a corner outfield spot

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I may be optimistic but if he can stay healthy he could potentially add another 29 WAR or so. For his career that'd put him at 64.7 WAR which would put him in the top 10 overall. All it takes is one monster season to change that and Mauer certainly can do that. Either way it's been a pleasure to watch potentially one of the greatest catchers to ever play this game.
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