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Is Joe Mauer the best Twin ever?

 

While contemplating the value of Mauer in his upcoming years for contract negotiation purposes, I found myself wondering if Joe Mauer’s recent greatness was underrated historically. I’m already convinced he’s the best catcher the Twins have ever had; catchers just don’t win batting titles with regularity. However, what I really wanted to know is if Joe Mauer was the best player to ever wear a Twins uniform. I decided to use a “peak” measure because some of the better Twins have had some of their best seasons with other teams. Also, I didn’t want to reward a player for games played as a Twin, I wanted to see greatness.

 

In order to bound the discussion and create a starting point I decided to use the best 3 Twins seasons as defined by Chone’s WAR (http://www.baseballprojection.com/war/playerindex.htm). I used a separate database to sort out best Twins player seasons to speed things up. The conclusion I reached initially from this investigation is…

Rod Carew is the best Twin ever. Catchers who get batting titles are rare but second basemen who flirt with .400 are equally rare. Carew’s top3 score of 26.3 WAR is head and shoulders above everyone else. Carew was truly an elite hitter and baserunner and his stretch from 75-77 is the best anyone in Minnesota has ever seen. In fact in a standard deviation adjusted WAR calculator, Carew’s 1977, 1975, 1974 and 1973 are the four best seasons ever produced by a Twin.

 

But wait a second, Joe Mauer scores a 23.6 on the same scale, which is good for 2nd place. If you give Joe Mauer any kind of bonus for playing catcher, he’s going to move up quickly. If you look at the top 500 players in the Chone database, Bench and Berra come up much lower than most people would rank them. Part of this is due to the poor ability of a WAR system to measure catcher defense but the bulk of this is purely due to the limited innings a catcher can play. A 30% catcher playing time bonus for comparing with other players is not unreasonable, which would give Mauer a score of 30.7 and make him the best Twin ever. Also, Mauer is the only active player on the list and has the potential to put up a 2010 that bests his 2006 (the worst of his top 3 seasons). Carew’s 4th best season is just about as good as his top 3 which makes the tiebreaker even more interesting.

 

For the curious, here’s the whole (not comprehensive) list.

 

Player

top3

Carew

26.3

Mauer

23.6

Knoblauch

21.7

Santana

20.7

Blyleven

20.5

Oliva

20

Killebrew

19.2

Puckett

18.9

Viola

18.7

Allison

18.2

Radke

16.9

Pascual

15.5

Kaat

13.3

Gaetti

12.4

Smalley

12.1

Versailles

12

 

For another day – Is Joe Mauer the best player born in Minnesota?

 

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