In case you’re wondering -- you’re not -- I’m putting the overrated/underrated series off until the offseason. I think there’s better items to attend to in the interim.
Much digital ink has been spilled regarding the treatment of Joe Mauer by the Twins faithless so far this season. And while you can read all the stat sheets you want, for some reason, the golden boy is tarnished in the eye of what seems like a vocal majority, though a vocal minority can also be quite loud, which may be the case here.
But nonetheless, it almost all boils down to salary. If Mauer was making $16 million, would the ire be as high? And what’s with the argument that he’s being paid what he’s being paid to ‘hit for power’. Where does that even come from? Because everyone else who has ever made that much was a power hitter?
Personally, I think it's jealousy, mixed with the perception that the life of a major leaguer is easy. But I can't really tackle that issue from a psychology standpoint, because I'm not nearly smart enough. Rather, today I’m going to prove to you that no matter your flavor, Mauer’s is better.
If your flavor is batting average
Player A has been with his team for a long time. He’s among the best at his position, hits for a great average, and while he’s had his ups and downs with his home team, the fanbase would be devastated if he were to leave. In the major leagues today, he’s among the most valuable players in the entire game, and has been considered an excellent batting average guy for a long time.
Player B is considered among the best pure hitters in the game. His left-handed swing is renowned as one of the best in the game, and he smashes line drives all over the field. He’s very tough to strike out, and draws more than his share of walks.
Player C is also considered among the best pure hitters in the game. He walks as frequently as he strikes out, and is ninth in the major leagues in line drive rate.
Player A is David Wright (.310). Player B is Robinson Cano (.300). Player C is Mauer (.325).
If your flavor is on-base percentage
Player A leads the MLB in OBP, getting on base over 40 percent of the time. His isolated OBP is right around .100, so not only is he good at drawing walks, but he’s good at making contact, keeping his batting average up and his whiffs down.
Player B is arguably the best player in the entire game. He can hit, run, hit for power, and has a chance to be a Hall of Famer from the word go. He gets on base just under 40 percent of the time, with an OBP more driven by his batting average than anything.
Player C is a catcher, and gets on base over 40 percent of the time on an offense that doesn’t give him much help. He has a great walks-to-whiffs ratio, and despite injuries in his career, is a very well-rounded player.
Player A is Mauer (.419 OBP). Player B is Mike Trout (.396). Player C is Buster Posey (.409).
If your flavor is slugging percentage
Player A recently adorned the cover of a popular video game. He’s got a sweet left-handed swing, and was placed on waivers in July to the surprise of many. And while this season hasn’t measured up to some of the terrific campaigns he’s had, it’s still been plenty good even though his team was lousy.
Player B was also on the cover of the same video game. Injuries have cost him time in recent seasons, and since he’s had trouble putting together anything that can match his MVP-type seasons. He still plays a premium defensive position -- and does so well -- but plays on a lousy team. Relatively-speaking, his power comes more from doubles than home runs.
Player C is a left-handed swinger not typically known for his power, but his slugging percentage will typically surprise people in any given year. He’s good for a decent number of extra-base hits, but generally just gets hits in bunches. He was on the cover of a video game, and has a considerable amount of commercial appeal despite a seemingly lackluster personality.
Player A is Adrian Gonzalez (.454). Player B is Dustin Pedroia (.454). Player C is Mauer (.458).
If your flavor is OPS
Player A is 22nd among qualified hitters in OPS. And while player A isn’t known for his power, he’s got a very balanced overall skill set. Player A has considerable power during batting practice but doesn’t display it as much in games.
Player B plays in a park that has repressed offense as long as it has existed. He plays a premium defensive position, and has had a terrific season. There were brief trade whispers about him at midseason, but he might be in his hometown for the long haul regardless. Player B draws a considerable amount of walks, and in his career has been a much better player on the road. In a lot of years, player B would be a bona-fide MVP candidate with his numbers. Unfortunately, he plays on a lousy team.
Player C has been a versatile player for his time this season, including playing a decent amount of first base when his teammate was incapacitated. Player C is tall and slender, but a good hitter nonetheless. Player C has played in the Midwest his entire career, typically as the second or third-best power hitter on his own team.
Player A is Mauer (.878). Player B is Chase Headley (.860). Player C is Corey Hart (.855).
If your flavor is OPS+
Player A is sixth in OPS+ in his league. He’s a left-handed hitter, and a dang good one. This season is the second-best OPS+ season he’s ever amassed, sandwiched between an MVP-winning season and a batting title-winning season. He has the best OPS+ on his entire team.
Player B is considered one of the best overall hitters in the American League, and probably the most feared when he’s on. He’s a left-handed hitter with an uncertain future, but one thing's for sure, he’s going to get paid no matter what happens.
Player C is probably considered the best left-handed hitter in the American League. It’s hard to gauge for sure which hitter he is on his team’s totem pole, but he’s probably number one or two. He gets very timely hits in key situations, and is a tough out almost every single time out there.
Player A is Mauer (145). Player B is Josh Hamilton (142). Player C is Robinson Cano (142).
If your flavor is wOBA
Player A has been the offensive star on a Midwestern team that hasn’t lived up to its billing. While teammates around him have been beset by injuries, he’s been healthy and done a terrific job with the bat. Player A is tied for 18th among qualified hitters in wOBA this season. Player A is not a particularly fast baserunner.
Player B has been an offensive machine on a team that’s had a tough time scoring runs consistently in 2012. On the whole, he’s on a pretty good offense, but it’d be hard to tell by looking at the season stat sheet. Player B’s skill set is completely different from any other player on his team. Player B would fit hitting in any spot in the order, and in his career has hit just about everywhere but leadoff and ninth.
Player C has arguably the worst contract in all of baseball. He’s a good player now, but it may cripple his team’s chances to compete sooner rather than later. Player C is playing at a borderline MVP-caliber level, but not nearly as good as he was in his heyday. Still, he’s among the best players in the game, both at his position and in his league.
Player A is Matt Holliday (.377). Player B is Mauer (.381). Player C is Albert Pujols (.362).
If your flavor is fWAR
Player A is probably one of the best hitters in the AL Central, if not the AL on the whole. He has a contract that is borderline insane, and isn’t likely to be good toward the end of it. Player A has pretty good teammate support, but is the best or second-base player on his team at any given time, and is often mentioned in MVP talks on a yearly basis. Player A hits from the left side and has an amazing swing.
Player B is the golden boy in every sense of the word. He’s been very good this season, with plenty of hype along the way. He’s very likely to be playing in the same city for the next decade, and has tons of money coming his way. He’s got a sweet left-handed swing, and has been a huge prospect since he was a teenager.
Player C is arguably one of the better hitters in the AL Central, with a big contract and sweet left-handed swing. He plays a demanding position, but not necessarily all that well, and his bat has made up the slack this season. At least one, of his teammates has gotten a better perception as a hitter this season, but he’s clearly the best overall player on his team.
Player A is Prince Fielder (4.4 wins). Player B is Bryce Harper (4.0 wins). Player C is Joe Mauer (4.7 wins).
If your flavor is durability
Player A is well on pace for 600 plate appearances for only the fourth time in his career. Entering Tuesday, he’d played in 132 of his club’s 147 games (89.8 percent) with a good chance to play in the third-most games in a season in his career this season. At his position, only a handful of players are even within 100 plate appearances of him, and one of them is his teammate.
Player B has been considered a gritty, tough, play-through-injuries kind of guy since debuting a handful of seasons ago. He plays a premium defensive position, has an MVP award in his cupboard, and plays solid defense year in and year out (with more than one Gold Glove award). Injuries have cost him time in recent seasons, but he’s having a relatively healthy 2012.
Player C is one of the more outspoken players in all of baseball. At times he’s called out teammates for not playing through injuries, though in one season even he did succumb to a long-term injury. He’s been in the league for quite some time, and has quite a reputation as a popular player among teammates, coaches, and the media.
Player A is Joe Mauer (578 PA). Player B is Dustin Pedroia (573 PA). Player C is Torii Hunter (529 PA). This one was not as much "What’s behind door x?" as it was "Hey, these guys are widely known for being healthy and Mauer has played more than they have."
In a lot of seasons, Mauer’s 2012 is that of a top-10 MVP finisher. He’s currently at 4.7 wins, and he’d probably be closer to 5.0 or so if the season had any consequence, as Mauer would likely have not been held out of as many contests. Mauer’s had four of those 5.0 win or better seasons, meaning this is likely his fifth-best season in -- I don’t care what Joe Sheehan says -- a Hall of Fame career. In other words, when voters look at Joe’s career peak, this season will be a plus, rather than a minus, when determining how soon his bust will adorn the halls in Cooperstown.
So with that, Twins faithful, kindly get over yourselves. Mauer is very likely the best player the Twins have ever had -- possibly ever will have -- and you’re all* missing it. Too bad.
* If you count yourself among someone who has booed Mauer legitimately this year.