Entering tonight’s action the Twins have a 23-24 record and are just 3.5 games behind the first place White Sox. Though the 2008 season is still relatively young, I think it is safe to say most of us did not expect the Twinkies to be so close to .500, at any point this season. By trading the best pitcher in the game, Johan Santana, for a slew of prospects, the Twins seemed poised for a rebuilding phase; one that would not necessarily bring with it much success this year. Despite this, the Twins are no cakewalk and catcher Joe Mauer is a major reason why.
Though Joe is yet to hit his first home run, he is posting a .333/.404/.413 slash line, which gives him the highest catcher-OPS in the American League; only Geovany Soto and Brian McCann have higher OPS counts for catchers. Additionally, he has struck out just 13 times in 150 at-bats, the fifth lowest K% in the AL.
He leads the Twins with a 1.39 WPA, 1.09 REW, and 11.29 BRAA. His WPA surpasses everyone else on his team so much so that it would take the aggregate sum of Justin Morneau, Carlos Gomez, Craig Monroe, and Scott Baker to roughly equal Mauer’s contributions. He is hitting the same percentage of flyballs from a year ago but has replaced 5.5% of his grounders with line drives this year.
The area of Mauer’s statistics that fascinates me most is his selectivity. He has swung at a very low 16.2% of pitches outside of the strike zone yet has increased his out of zone contact by nearly ten percent. This increase has given him the highest percentage of contact out of the zone in the league.
In the strike zone, Mauer has an almost identical percentage of swings to last year, and only Bobby Abreu has swung at less in the zone in the AL. Despite his low frequency of swings in the zone he ranks 8th in zone contact.
A commonly accepted creed is for the batter to “wait for his pitch.” Well, Mauer not only waits for his pitches more often than the vast majority of the league, but he makes good use of them!