Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Case for Joe Mauer 11/15/18

Hey baseball fans!

Last weekend, longtime Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer announced his retirement from the MLB after 15 seasons. I can understand if some of the younger folk don't know who this is, but my mini-generation of baseball fans can definitely recognize the former All Star. Mauer was something rare in baseball, a contact-hitting catcher, and this anomaly might hinder his Hall of Fame case. I, however, think his rare talent enhances his chances.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mauer's career accomplishments, let me tell you a little bit about him. Mauer grew up in Minnesota and played his entire career with the Twins. In that career, he batted .306 with 2,123 hits, and an OBP of .388. He's a three-time batting champ, two-time OBP champ, a six-time All Star, five-time Silver Slugger, and three-time Gold Glover. He was also the 2009 AL MVP, helping his Twins with the AL Central in the process.

It's important to note that Mauer played for 15 years and was a Hall of Fame-worthy player for his first ten. Because of injuries, he tailed off in his last five years in baseball. I am a firm believer that starting off a career as a Hall of Famer and then going through a prolonged and significant decline in talent and production does not give a player the worthiness of being a Hall of Famer, but injuries are a different story. There are some Hall of Famers that had their careers completely cut short due to injuries (think Ralph Kiner and Sandy Koufax) who are in the Hall, while Mauer just had to move to first base for his last couple of years, so the fact that Mauer wasn't as good as when he started shouldn't hurt his Hall of Fame credibility. In addition, Hall of Fame catchers Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza saw similar declines to their numbers later in their careers, so Mauer's decline isn't something abnormal for catchers. Yes, Bench's and Piazza's declines weren't as severe as Mauer's, but that's only because they're two of the best hitting catchers ever and it wouldn't be fair to compare Mauer's career to either Bench's or Piazza's.

If we're going to apply a fair edition of baseball's common law to Mauer's Hall of Fame case, let's look at Mickey Cochrane, a Hall of Fame catcher for the Tigers in the 1920s and 1930s. Cochrane's career abruptly ended due to a head injury he suffered in 1937, so he only played for 13 years in baseball. Cochrane had a lot of great years, but had subpar years sprinkled in here and there, so although he had some seasons in which he batted north of .335, he ended his career with a .320 batting average, 1,652 hits, and a .419 OBP. Now, I have already told you Mauer's career stats, but those stats include Mauer's later years. Mauer's stats in his first ten years are as follows: a .323 batting average, 1,414 hits, and a .405 OBP. The batting average and hits per season are both better than Cochrane's and although it's not by much and Cochrane's OBP is better, this is still very telling of just how good and how impactful Mauer was. In addition, Mauer's career WAR is better than Cochrane's (39.0 to 36.9) and is, in general, better than the average Hall of Fame catcher's career WAR.

My opinion alone might be biased, but based on the numbers, I don't see how Mauer doesn't at least eventually make it into the Hall. But what do you think? Is Joe Mauer a Hall of Famer? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

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