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Joe Mauer, MVP voting, and historic awesomeness

Aug 19, 2009, 2:33 PM EST

There’s been lots of talk lately about Joe Mauer’s chances of winning the AL MVP, but let’s ignore how 28 newspaper writers might cast their ballots in six weeks and focus instead on the historically awesome season that the Twins’ catcher is having.
Mauer went 3-for-5 with two homers last night, making him 33-for-63 (.524) with seven homers, six doubles, and 19 RBIs in 15 games since his batting average dropped to a season-low .355 on August 1. He leads baseball with a .383 batting average overall and leads the AL in on-base percentage (.448), slugging percentage (.653), OPS (1.104), and Runs Above Replacement (65.0).
Despite spending all of April on the disabled list he’s up to 25 homers, 77 RBIs, and 237 total bases, each of which rank among the AL’s top 10. Oh, and he’s also the league’s reigning Gold Glove catcher and has thrown out 30 percent of steal attempts this year. He’s been the best, most valuable player in the AL this season whether the 28 people with an actual vote on such matters recognize it or not, but beyond that he’s having a truly historic season.
What makes Mauer’s performance so amazing is that throughout baseball history catcher has been the position with the worst offensive production. This year is no different, as MLB backstops have managed a measly .256/.321/.398 line and .719 OPS that rank as the worst from any position. In fact, shortstop is the only other spot with an OPS below .750. Not only is Mauer the best hitter in the league, he’s the best hitter in the league and a very good defender at the least-offensive position on the diamond.
Catchers just don’t hit like this, which is why Mauer is on track for his third batting title in five seasons after no catcher in the history of the American League ever managed even one before he came around. He’s also at or near the top of almost every all-time catcher leaderboard, including batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Here are the top five for each of those four categories:

                  YEAR      AVG                            YEAR      OBP
JOE MAUER         2009     .383          Mickey Cochrane   1933     .459
Babe Phelps       1936     .367          Mickey Cochrane   1935     .452
Mike Piazza       1997     .362          JOE MAUER         2009     .448
Bill Dickey       1936     .362          Johnny Bassler    1924     .441
Mickey Cochrane   1930     .357          Chief Meyers      1912     .441
YEAR      SLG                            YEAR      OPS
JOE MAUER         2009     .653          JOE MAUER         2009    1.101
Mike Piazza       1997     .638          Mike Piazza       1997    1.069
Gabby Hartnett    1930     .630          Bill Dickey       1936    1.045
Bill Dickey       1936     .617          Gabby Hartnett    1930    1.034
Mike Piazza       2000     .614          Mike Piazza       2000    1.012

Not only does Mauer have the highest batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS in baseball history for a catcher, Mike Piazza is the only guy from the past 70 years to even appear on those lists. Mauer is on track for one of the single greatest catcher seasons in baseball history and has clearly been the best player in the AL this year. If in six weeks the 28 newspaper writers with a ballot for the MVP don’t recognize just how amazing he’s been, then perhaps we should just stop caring so much about what they think.

  1. rdog - Aug 19, 2009 at 3:25 PM

    Javy Lopez slugged .687 for the Braves in 2003 (495 PAs).

  2. Aaron Gleeman - Aug 19, 2009 at 3:27 PM

    Right, but he didn’t qualify for the batting title or the other leaderboards.

  3. Jon - Aug 19, 2009 at 4:04 PM

    I think it would be real shame if Mauer didn’t win the MVP this year. It’s MVP (Most Valuable Player), not MVPOAPT (Most Valuable Player on a Playoff Team). Teixeira is good, but Mauer is obviously more valuable to his team, plays arguably the most difficult position on the field while Teixeira plays the easiest, and oh yeah, Mauer’s numbers are better.

  4. Jonah Falcon - Aug 19, 2009 at 4:25 PM

    Yeah, Joe Mauer’s leading his team to the playoffs.
    Oh, wait, right. They’re under .500.

  5. JoeK - Aug 19, 2009 at 4:33 PM

    Jonah, I guess because the other players on his team suck so much he shouldn’t win MVP? That makes alot of sense, as if he’s the reason they aren’t making the playoffs. He’s the only one holding the team up. He is the MVP. You are the LVP of comment writers.

  6. DJ - Aug 19, 2009 at 4:49 PM

    Jeter needs to get a look here for a top 3 MVP candidate – hes having a career year. Even improving his fielding and range. Plus his team is 30 games over .500.

  7. James - Aug 19, 2009 at 4:58 PM

    Sure, but even if you add the 7 PA’s needed so Lopez qualifies and make them all outs, he’s still slugging .677. You’d need to add 26 hitless PA’s to bring him down to .653. And it’s certainly not a given that Mauer will qualify himself (though he only needs to play about half the remaining games to do so). Lopez’s season was highly underrated at the time!
    That being said, Mauer is awesome :-)

  8. ecp - Aug 19, 2009 at 5:00 PM

    “If in six weeks the 28 newspaper writers with a ballot for the MVP don’t recognize just how amazing he’s been, then perhaps we should just stop caring so much about what they think.”
    I think that rather than not caring about what the writers think, if Mauer isn’t voted MVP then the writers should no longer be allowed to do the voting, or some other (read: smarter) voters need to be added to the mix.

  9. John Pileggi - Aug 19, 2009 at 5:10 PM

    The award for Most Valuable Player needs a companion (this has been discussed for years) called Most Outstanding Player. “Valuable” can be debated all day in terms of the relative position of a team to the rest of the league. A guy like Ralph Kiner was far and away the best player on some awful Pirate teams and could never get consideration for MVP. The flip side is a year like 1969, when Tom Seaver was clearly the most “Valuable” player, but Willie McCovey won it because guys who win the Home Run and RBI titles in the same year usually do. A Kiner should win the Outstanding award because it is sometimes IN SPITE of the lack of talent surrounding him that the accomplishments are so notable. A guy who puts up great numbers for a team that finishes last may not be considered “Valuable”, but deserves recognition if the stats and performance are Mauer-like.

  10. ecp - Aug 19, 2009 at 5:26 PM

    Not sure why Jeter should get consideration just simply because “he’s having a career year.” I don’t think that was ever among the criteria for MVP. Yeah, he’ll GET consideration, but he shouldn’t be anywhere near the top three.
    Actually I think 1999 was his career year: .349/.438/.552 with 24 HRs 102 RBIs. And that year he was sixth in MVP voting.

  11. Christian - Aug 19, 2009 at 6:15 PM

    If people want to argue that “valuable” should be in relation to playoff appearances, shouldn’t the MVP be the player to has the largest impact on his team’s chances to make the playoffs? If Mauer adds 8 wins to an 80 win team, wouldn’t that be more valuable than someone who adds 5 wins to a 90 win team?

  12. SayitJ - Aug 19, 2009 at 7:14 PM

    Hey Joe ? Get in the Box. Anybody hits 380 with under 400 AB’s.

  13. Big Blue Monkey - Aug 20, 2009 at 1:18 AM

    Hey, SayitJ? Your point is so transparently, completely untrue as to be a worthless comment. Congratulations.

  14. Damon Burkel - Nov 3, 2009 at 5:29 PM

    YEP! Joe mauer is on track, and I have NEVER seen those 15 game stats in my life. I do have to comment, the twins are not horrible!Maby their pitchings inconsistent but the rest are average(except Morneau, Cuddyer). Gice the twins time, their young, Kubel hits more homeruns every year, Cuddyers injuries are through, Span is the most consisten hitter on the team(arguably over Joe Mauer[CONSISTENT]). Oh yea, and they play the game the right way! No not homers and 800 games over .500, but they field the ball correctly, swing mechanics are correct, knowledgable ballplayers who give effort!!! :}
    This all happens because they play baseball for one reason, they love the game even at its highest level! So nothin against you guys but give the Minnesota Twins more credit, it’s all bout’ the “passion”!!!

  15. t shirt printing - Feb 8, 2010 at 10:56 PM

    Hey guys(fantastic blog by the way) I’m “blog hopping” asking different questions about the Super Bowl what was your favorite play last night?

  16. Bill Pay Free - Feb 9, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    Good one mate!! Thanks :)

  17. watch tv and movies - Mar 8, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    Thanks for this post

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