2019 Game 69: Joe Mauer Was Very Good At Baseball

On Joe Mauer's player page, Baseball Reference lists two transactions:

  • June 5, 2001: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1st round (1st pick) of the 2001 amateur draft. Player signed July 17, 2001.
  • October 29, 2018: Granted Free Agency.

This community did not exist before Joe Mauer became a major leaguer. Mauer made his debut on 05 April 2004; SBG started posting at the Old Basement in July 2004. Granted, there were isolated pockets of Twins fans online before Mauer crouched behind the plate, but every one of the well-established communities of Twins fans came into being during Mauer's career. The Mauer Era is the era of critical mass for Twins fans online. The retirement of Joe's number is something of a milestone for all of us.

The seeds of the ongoing revolution in the evaluation of baseball players' performance stretch back to before Joe Mauer was born. By the time Mauer was swinging the bat on St. Paul's sandlots, a few forward-thinking executives had started kicking around these new approaches. By the time Joe Mauer signed with the Twins, those approaches had already jumped from theory to application in the most forward-thinking front office in the game. (That front office was not in Minnesota.)

Joe Mauer's career unfolded in a period in which enlightened baseball executives, baseball bloggers, and a few sportswriters were capable of perceiving how legendarily good Mauer was, but in which traditional executives, old school players, and (especially) sports-writing newspapermen simply lacked the curiosity, imagination, or willingness to appreciate him. The Twins' front office remained so hidebound in its approach that Mauer's own organization was simply not capable of articulating the special abilities of its franchise catcher. In Mauer's own home state, some newspapermen conspired to poison the well, turning a huge percentage of fans against the best pure hitter they might ever see play for their favorite team. Nothing in Joe Mauer's personality suggests he brought this treatment on himself. His "crime" was to be judged a good enough ballplayer to be made a multi-millionaire by the children of a billionaire banker.

Had Mauer's career unfolded exactly as it had, but a decade later, we would know with much greater certainty how amazing he was behind the plate. We know a few things. He threw out 33% of runners attempting to steal against a cumulative league average of 27% during his catching years. Baseball Info Solutions judges him about 17 runs above average in pitch calling. Johan Santana, the best pitcher to toe the rubber for the Twins since Bert Blyleven's heyday and likely the best pitcher in the American League during his own peak, threw more innings to Joe Mauer than any other catcher in his career. The only catcher with whom Johan had a lower OPS+ allowed was Ramon Castro, who caught less than a quarter of the total innings Mauer caught Johan. We can guess other things — Mauer certainly was a very good receiver, and possibly inner-circle great at framing — but we'll simply never know how he compares to the excellent catchers who came after him.

But we do know this: very, very few catchers could hit like Joe Mauer in his prime. Joe Mauer had the fifth-highest peak, judged by rWAR, of any catcher, ever. In ten seasons, from 2004–2013, Joe Mauer hit .323/.405/.468, good for an 135 OPS+. Over that span, which included a debut season derailed by a knee injury, he ripped an average of 28 doubles every year. He got an extra-base hit in 8% of his plate appearances over that stretch, but struck out just 11.2% of the time. He totaled 2051 total bases in a decade of hitting, often banged-up from his duties on the back side of the plate. Of players who caught at least 750 games and had at least 3000 plate appearances, Mauer is 3rd in Batting Runs, 7th in WAR Runs Batting, and 8th in Runs Created.

Joe Mauer was ours. He arrived just as we were gaining the ability to follow baseball with new friends we had never met, who lived far away from the territory reached by the 50,000 watts of WCCO that then still carried Herb's voice. His career was, with the exception of the disappointments his team suffered in the postseason, the career of all of our dreams when we were growing up. Nobody — especially not the cranks at the Star Tribune and their sycophants online — can take Joe Mauer's greatness away from us. We knew it, and we shared it.

Happy Joe Mauer Day, friends.

204 thoughts on “2019 Game 69: Joe Mauer Was Very Good At Baseball”

    1. I'm actually glad they're giving him the night off, and I wouldn't mind if they gave him a few more. As I said in the recap, wrist injuries can linger all year if you don't give them time to heal properly. You can play with a wrist injury, you just can't necessarily play well, especially at bat.

      1. True; I don’t mind them giving him the night off for exactly that reason. It’s more disappointing that we won’t get treated to 2Byron 2Buxton ripping doubles on Joe Mauer Night.

      2. and given the injury issues he had with a wrist(??) last year? they definitely should be careful.

    1. It just makes no sense. Still so much improvement to be made on the digital subscription side of things.

      1. It's like they're specifically telling people giving them the money directly that they're less valued customers than the cable company carrying FSN.

        1. Well yeah. The RSNs fork over billions to the teams. They don't want to upset that for a better experience for the small, but growing, percentage that don't view via the RSN. I wouldn't be surprised if the teams don't allow it too.

          1. Yeah, I know. But this literally requires zero additional infrastructure or effort on their part. All they have to do is turn the stream on. It feels like a deliberate middle finger, right in the face.

            Kansas City's video stream is now carrying of the ceremony, FFS. Still audio-only if you're following a Twins stream.

            1. Wow - if it is a team based decision - than fuck RSN North and fuck the Twins front office. Thanks for the heads up I switched over to the KC stream.

          2. But it's not a financial issue and Im certain it isn't a team level decision. Anyone in the footprint of RSN North is blacked out on MLB.tv. So effectively all MLB.tv subscribers are not being shown something that they have no way to legally access anyway. Maybe the TV based MLB package is showing it - but IIRC when I had the DirecTV MLB package rather than the online only - I didn't get any pre-game or post game shows there either.

            1. Thanks, Chaps. I hope nibbish doesn’t mind; I didn’t see a draft in the works late this afternoon, so I assumed it might be open for a pinch-hit.

              1. It was a nice read. I love the "just 2 transactions" observation. That right there is something so unique. Drafted by his hometown team and stays for an entire career? I don't know too many other players in history for whom that is true, and when it comes to HOF-worthy players? In the free agent era, I only know of Ripken Jr. who would also qualify.

                    1. I missed the "hometown team" part but got lucky he was a fan despite living in Michigan.

                      Chipper Jones is a candidate. I can't figure out his hometown team but he's from Florida so following the Braves in the 80s makes sense.

                      Same with Barry Larkin. He lived in Cincinnati until college.

              2. All good. Newbish's birthday party was today, and I didn't get home from the concert until 2am last night. I was kind of dreading the half baked job I was going to do on a pretty important day in twins history.

                What I'm saying is, thanks for the pinch hit, and great job.

  1. TheAthletic article by Jim Bowden today - Five trades AL contenders should make:

    "They are going to walk away with this division whether they make trades or not. What they need to do is concentrate on the playoffs. Thanks to the easiest schedule of any AL contending team and an offense that can pound every night, it’s realistic to think they could hold home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Therefore, with this unique window, they need to go all in. Some one-stop shopping with the Giants might help put them in the best possible position: They should be targeting the package of starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner and closer Will Smith. The Twins are not on Bumgarner’s no-trade list, so no approval would be required there. Of course, a deal of this magnitude will be painful and costly for the Twins’ farm system, but the time is now to make a splash and give Minnesota the best chance it has had of winning it all in almost three decades."

    I agree with this 100%. The Twins have lost 13 consecutive post season games dating back to 2004 and are 6-22 since winning the title in 1991. This is a roster that could win it all and I'd much rather have a real shot in October with a Bumbarner and Smith rental than to hear this cheap ass ownership group tell me how we can't mortgage the future.

    1. I don’t agree with Bowden here. Yes, the Twins’ schedule seems to have them on a glide path to the postseason, and if they are strong the rest of the way, they could be advantageously positioned. But it sounds like he’s basically saying they should trade anyone it takes to get Bumgarner & Smith, both of whole are free agents in 2020. Does he really suggest the Twins should trade Alex Kirilloff? Or Royce Lewis? I’m all for trading to get the players they need to make a World Series run, but not at the potential expense of running the division for the next several years, which should include additional postseason opportunities.

      1. Yeah - I see your logic - but I am the exact opposite. I would trade the run of AL championships but October failure from 2002-2006 for a single World Series run every day and twice on Sunday. Losing to the Yankees in the ALDS but keeping prospects that might allow us to continue losing to the Yankees for the next 4 or 5 Octobers isn't appealing to me at all. Im all for riding a rental ace and a rental bullpen arm for a real shot this year.

        1. I get where you’re coming from, and the missed opportunity from those years still feels sore to me, too. I think it is possible for a team to hold its prospects too tightly at the expense of fielding a successful team.

          In 2002 Derek Lowe was the same age Bumgarner is now, and Kevin Millwood was a couple years younger. I’m trying to imagine how I’d feel if the Twins had traded Mauer (Royce Lewis) or Morneau (Kirilloff) to get either of them, but beat the Angels in the ALCS.

          In 2004, Chris Carpenter and Livan Hernandez were the same age Bumgarner is now, and Tim Hudson and Carl Pavano were a year younger. If the Twins had traded Liriano (Graterol) or Kubel (Kirilloff) to get any of them, beaten the Yankmes in the ALDS, and gone on to the World Series I would be fine with that today.

          They should’ve spent more on relief pitching during the off-season. Fixing that mistake could be doubly expensive now.

          1. Great historical comparisons.

            I don't get anyone who speaks well of the team ownership or front office. The owners are cheap and the front office hasn't shown my any results (until this season) to give them any benefit of any doubt.

            1. This is only the third season of the front office. I don't think poor opinions of the previous regime should carry over. It takes time to change an organization and they've done a lot of positive things

          2. As frustrating as it is to see them lose in the playoffs, I still believe that the playoffs are mostly a crap shoot. I'd rather have multiple seasons where they are good and have a chance than to sell the farm to get a few extra Lotto tickets for one postseason.

      2. Does he really suggest the Twins should trade Alex Kirilloff? Or Royce Lewis?

        If it's the same article, Bowden started with saying the Twins should keep them untouchable.

    2. You can't evaluate a trade until it happens, and sometimes not even then, but in principle I agree with Bowden. We'd like to think the Twins are building a foundation that will make them contenders for several years to come, but there's no guarantee it will work out that way. They have a real chance to win it all this year, and I'd like to see them make the most of that chance.

    3. Where would Bumgarner and Smith fit into the Twins? #3 starter and #2 reliever? That would be nice but I don't see that really changing the odds much in the playoffs.

      If they're going "all in" and considering depleting the farm system, it better be for a #1 starting pitcher.

      I think they should look at what the Astros have done with adding players that can help this year and into the future.

      1. Imaginary Mauer: “Angel, I’m retired, had multiple concussions, and I still have better eyes than you!”

        Reality Mauer: “I’m going to go with ‘Ball.’”

  2. A general gambling rule is to avoid betting on the home team when they have a ceremony - whether getting championship rings or like today a jersey retirement. The historical numbers show that the home team actually underperforms from the distraction rather than using the additional emotion to add to their game.

    KC might be bad enough and Odorizzi might be good enough to overrule that trend.

  3. Yep - this sure looks like a heavily favored home team that is distracted and not like a heavily favored home team riding high on the emotions of the Mauer ceremony.

    1. for a pussy singles hitter...he is 58th all-time in IBBs. 9 seasons in the top 10. 8th in JAWS for catchers all-time (there are 15 in the Hall).

      He SHOULD be a no-brainer. My guess is that it will take him 5-6 years to make it.

      1. I'm betting he gets in in 3, and I'd even put some money down on a first-year induction. His is the kind of case that just about everyone who matters seems to come around on.

        1. I hope you’re right. Seeing C. Trent Rosecrans — who has watched Votto (who was drafted as a catcher but couldn’t stick) all these years — on the fence has me wondering.

  4. I think Mr Bench has had some liquid help before joining the boys in the booth. A lot of fun.

    1. Since they are in teardown mode, do the M's have any good relievers the Twins can get on the cheap

    1. Somehow they found room for Hamilton and Terrance Gore on their roster. I guess they’re going for the parsimonious man’s Lorenzo Cain & Jarrod Dyson?

      1. Huh. Signed as a FA for $4.25M and a mutual option for 2020 at $7.5M.

        I'ma thinking he's gonna get his $1 million buy-out. No way they pay him $7.5M next year.

      1. following up from cocktail hour. I muddled (err, pounded) cucumber, basil, and ginger with some sugar. Added juice of a lime, two shots of some fancy cocktail mix The Boy's girlfriend gave us (With Company "Hey Girl"), two (ok, 3) shots of vodka, stir and pour over ice in a tall glass. Fill with tonic. (made 2 cocktails from this btw)

        super refreshing. Would be more elegant strained, but the bits were tasty.

        1. That libation sounds delicious, Doc. Mrs. Hayes’ favorite restaurant here in town used to have a Corpse Reviver with house-made cucumber-infused gin on their drinks menu. Subbing cucumber-infused vodka for the gin and adding basil & ginger to that would be amazing.

          1. it really is delicious.

            the mixer has cucumber, lime and mint (subtle, which is good, because the Mrs does not like mint).

            I've never had a Corpse Reviver, but that sounds tasty.

    1. Was doing my part with an Old Rasputin.

      Today was also bottling day for an orange-infused Belgian. Took a drink while bottling and it seems like a winner.

  5. shitcrap. At least it wasn't a double play.

    2-0 count and you get a hittable pitch in the zone, you gotta square it up, man.

        1. Ive made more money than I should have fading the TWolves the last couple of seasons. Such a poorly run franchise.

    1. I loved Mauer's look at the beer when he didn't realize the camera was still on. He clearly had no interest in drinking that crap.

            1. I still have getting over to NorCal to visit my brother and his family and then stopping over to have some crafts with you on my to do list sir.

              1. If you get out that way, in addition to wherever Doc suggests for drinks, make time to stop at Queen Sheba for supper, Gunther’s for dessert, and Marie’s for post-midnight doughnuts.

  6. DW just got home from work walks in and sees me watching the game and asks "Whats the deal with Mauer?" (She is not a sports fan at all and only knows what she does peripherally through me)

    Me - "They retired his number"

    DW - "Wow, we are old. When did Mauer get old enough to have his jersey retired?"

  7. Hey Carter, that was a very nice write up. However, I wouldn’t restrict your calling out media critics to just the Strib. Talk radio played a big part in the turning against Mauer, specifically the troglodytes at KFAN. I would argue they have a
    just as much reach as the writers.

    1. I don’t doubt it. Thankfully, I don’t know who any of those idiots are, but I kinda hope Twins/baseball podcasts give us alternatives similar to what Twins blogs were starting to give us when Mauer arrived.

      And thanks, free.

  8. The technology to fix this problem is already in place. There is no reason to not make the change.

    1. I'll give him a (very, very) slight pass on that one and that one only, since it was one of those 69 mph slowpitch softball style curve that looked high, but actually crossed through the zone at the perfect spot.

  9. So anyway, I missed most of this game because I picked up Captain Marvel today (and Into the Spiderverse for just $10!) and thought my daughter would enjoy it. Alas, 7 year olds are incapable of watching a whole movie.

      1. She was super excited from looking at the DVD cover, but I think it took too long for her to get all glowy. Also, it's pretty late and it's been a long day.

                    1. Yeah, it’s kind of an industry joke. They had to pay Sony a ton (plus royalties) to include it since Sony started Blu-Ray and 4K. But the PS4 isn’t a 4K disc player because it stifles the potential of the game developers too much.

    1. As part of Newbish's birthday, we're bringing him to Toy Story 4 at some point shortly after it comes out. I am a little apprehensive about this, but I'm sure it'll be fine.

      1. Movie theaters are better. At least at the theater there aren't ipads to cause distractions.

        1. My brother and I taped it years ago despite owning it because of the laughs.

          “And every time I pitch against you, I’m gonna stick it up your fuckin’ ass to ya, Mr. Brown!”

      1. Definitely a top five redacted TV scene.

        Up there with Larry Sellers being asked "Do you see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?"

    1. Not true. Berrios, Gibson, Pineda, Odorozzi and Perez all have at least one PA without yet getting on base. 🙂

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