Tagged: injury

Shocking Development…Joe Mauer is important to the Twins

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Saying that Joe Mauer is an important part of the Twins both
offensively and defensively and that his injury will have a dramatic affect on
their season is perhaps the easiest and most obvious statement to make going
into the 2009 season.  He’s won two batting titles (2006 and 2008) in just
four full seasons, something no American League catcher had ever done before
even once and yet he only finished only 6th and 4th, respectively, in MVP
voting in those years. 

The year he won his first batting title, the first in history by an AL catcher, his own
teammate Justin Morneau won the award.  He was widely considered the
second best player on his own team even though he accomplished a feat no other
AL catcher in history had and HE WAS ONLY 23 YEARS OLD AND IN HIS SECOND FULL
SEASON!

Even casual fans recognize his name and perhaps the trademark sideburns, but it
still seems he’s somehow underappreciated despite the fact that he’s one of the
most gifted natural hitters to ever play the game, let alone the catcher
position.  Perhaps his lack of home run totals is what keeps him off the
front page.  That is the only offensive statistical category in which he
ranks outside the Top 5 catchers and he is in the Top 3 in 10 of 12 categories
for 2005-2008.

Rank among catchers with at least 800 AB from
2005-2008

Games: 4th behind A.J. Pierzynski, Jason Varitek, and Yadier Molina (2nd
in innings played)
Runs: 1st with 41 more than 2nd place
Doubles: 3rd behind Brian McCann and Victor Martinez
Triples: 2nd behind Ivan Rodriguez
HR: 16th
RBI: 3rd behind McCann and Martinez
Total Bases: 2nd behind Martinez
Walks: 1st with 50 more than 2nd place (over that period he has 281 BB
with only 219 K)
SB: 2nd behind Russell Martin (but Mauer’s success rate is 83% while Russell’s
is 71%)
OBP: 1st (.401)
SLG: 5th (.451)
AVG: 1st (.318)

Even though he lacks home run power, he still produces runs, reaches base, and
slugs at an elite level.  Add to this the fact that he’s a solid defensive
catcher who handles one of the best young staffs in baseball and it’s clear
that not only is he irreplaceable on the Twins, but he would be vital to any
team in baseball.  We’ll find out just how valuable he is on the open
market when he becomes a free agent after 2010, but it’s apparent now that he
is one of the elite catchers in baseball today and could become one of the
greats all time.

His mysterious injury continues to heal slowly and it appears he’ll miss at
least several more weeks as he rehabs, but if he can continue to play at his
customary level when he returns it will become more obvious just what a
superstar he is.  His quiet demeanor and the fact that he plays for the
Twins don’t help his Q rating, but that calm confidence leads to success in key
moments and the ability to stay even keeled over a long season.  Maybe if Boston, LA, or a New York team is able to buy him away from Minnesota he’ll receive
the attention he deserves, but until then he’ll continue to play and hit nearly
everyday. 

Fans and media need to focus even more on this incredibly talented young star
as he could one day be among the greatest backstops ever to play the game and
it would be a shame if continued to be considered only great, rather than
historically phenomenal as he has proven so far.

So in eight days, when Joe turns only 26, remember that he still has eight or
maybe ten years of prime production left in what could one day be called the
greatest catching career ever seen.  The Twins and their fans aren’t the
only ones missing out while he’s hurt.  Any fan of the game and especially
of its storied history is missing another chance to watch a true prodigy play
the game with talent and grit and character the way it should be played and at
a level that few players have ever played.