Joe Mauer and Fastballs

Yesterday when I was looking at Joe Mauer‘s numbers I noticed he sees a lot of fastballs. Generally the better the hitter the fewer the fastballs he sees, but Mauer, the second best hitter in baseball last year, saw more fastballs than anyone else in the top twenty. (Todd Helton, with the 21st best wOBA, is the player with the best wOBA who saw more fastballs than Mauer).

Part of this has to do with the fact that the true relationship is between power and fastballs seen. So it is not that good hitters see fewer fastballs, but that power hitters see fewer fastballs and good hitters are often power hitters. Dave Cameron showed us this relationship last year. Compared to other top hitters, Mauer is not as much of a power hitter, which explains, somewhat, why he sees more fastballs. Here is the relationship for 2009 with Mauer indicated with the filled circle.
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He is not the farthest from the trend line, but pretty far, meaning he sees more fastballs than you expect for a hitter with his power. Part of this is because Mauer’s power is so new, and pitchers have not changed their strategy. But pitchers rapidly changed their pitch usage against Ben Zobrist, who busted out this year and saw just 53% fastballs after seeing over 64% every previous year.

The excess of fastballs to Mauer is particularly interesting because he was the second best fastball hitter in baseball in 2009 (only Albert Pujols was better) and 25 of his 28 HRs were off fastballs. (That is based on the pitchf/x pitch classifications. The BIS classifications backs this up, saying he hit 24 HRs off of fastballs).

My guess is next year Mauer will not see 60%+ fastballs like he has so far in his career. Do you think that will have any effect on his game? Head over and project his 2010 performance.




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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


11 Responses to “Joe Mauer and Fastballs”

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  1. Nate says:

    “Generally the better the hitter, the fewer the fastballs he sees.”

    “power hitters see more fastballs and good hitters are often power hitters.”

    Can you explain these apparently contradictory statements?

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    • Dave Allen says:

      Yeah I made a mistake, ‘more’ in the second sentence should be ‘fewer.’ I changed it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      Just like teh doctor says below this comment.

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  2. doctor_teh says:

    I can explain them, the second one was a mistake, clearly that was not what he meant to say. I’m sure he will fix it up shortly.

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  3. zach says:

    Could you look at it by count? Mauer probably sees as many 3 ball pitches as anyone.

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  4. Steve says:

    Could this have anything to do with Mauer batting in a disproportionate number of situations with the bases empty (compared to other good players)?

    i noticed he hit 20 solo HRs.

    he had 55% of his PA’s with the bases empty.

    just picking another guy who mostly batted 3rd, Teixiera only had 47.5% of his PA’s with the bases empty.

    are pitchers just being more aggressive b/c there is no one on base?

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    • twinsfan says:

      Gardenhire should be ashamed of sticking so many awful hitters in front of Joe.

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      • adohaj says:

        I wouldn’t call Span/Cabrerra awful. The platoon of lineup placeholders that occupied the 2 hole before the allstar break on the other hand…

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      • twinsfan says:

        Span no, he’s fantastic at the top of the lineup.

        Cabrera? He certainly qualifies as awful and has no business at the top of anyone’s lineup.

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  5. PhD Brian says:

    The twins need some lead off hitters that can get on base.

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  6. Steve H says:

    part of that is the fact he NEVER swing on the first pitch of an-at bat and almost always seemingly gets ahead in a count

    so the pitcher often times HAS to come in with a fast-ball with Justin Mornea and Jason Kubel and the RED HOT Michael Cuddyer on deck and in the hole.

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