Tagged: Joe Mauer

The Mauer Power Story: Further Evaluation

Bllomberg Sport’s blog here at MLBlogs evaluates the evidence surrounding Joe Mauer’s power outage.  

They pose two possible explanations–the home field he plays in and the notion that pitchers have altered their approaches–and they find that he probably won’t repeat his 2009 power binge, but that he also won’t continue in his 2010 power outage to date.  

As they put it:

Target Field’s low home run
rate and the new approach by pitchers may be hurting Mauer’s home run numbers.
But the statistical variation in his HR/FB rate also helps explains the drastic
difference between 2009 and 2010. That rate suggests that Mauer’s MVP-type
numbers may have been affected by a statistical outlier, and that fans and
teams may have to reassess their expectations for Mauer’s power numbers. In
regards to how pitchers are approaching Mauer, it seems unlikely that the
recent adjustments can explain this year’s low home run total, as he has been a
top player in the league since 2004, and pitchers have been adjusting to his
tendencies every year. Meanwhile, Target Field has been playing like a large shopping
mall – but it does not explain Mauer’s low road home run total, or the fact
that he has yet to hit any homers at home.

Expect a middle ground to
emerge between the home run binge Mauer showed last season and the drought he’s
experienced in 2010.

Regression to the mean, baby, regression to the mean.

Baker’s Tough Start Too Much to Overcome

Scott Baker’s flirtation with inconsistency continued Thursday night.  His start against the Royals was less than impressive and the Twins lost 8-9 despite a late comeback, dropping the final game of the series.  Nevertheless the Twins took 2 of 3 from Kansas City before opening up a weekend interleague series against the Atlanta Braves.

Baker was credited with the loss and a -.227 WPA, which is pretty much horrid for a starting pitcher.
Twinkie Talk has a recap here, and Twinkie Town recaps over here.
While I endured through Bakers’ innings, I was thoroughly disgusted, and I fled the room during Crain’s tenure in the game.  Granted, the runs he surrendered were “unearned” due to unusually wretched Twins’ fielding, but it may be the case that I’ve watched as much Jess Crain as I can endure in 2010.
Oh, and what was up with the Twins’ lapses i fundamentals last night?  Some wretched fielding a wildly horrible baserunning error by Denard Span, one that would have been laughable were I not a Twins fan.  Gadzooks! but it was hard to watch.  I sure hope they got those sorts of mistakes out of their systems for the season.
Parker Hageman suggest that Mauer should be shifted upwards in the lineup in the absence of Orlando Hudson and given the absolutely dreadful production the Twins have gotten from the 2-spot since Hudson was injured against the Rangers.  The piece he links to is pretty sold, though it is presented as managerial “gut” talk rather than talking a look at the numbers or, to put a finer point on the matter, the sabermetric logic behind the reasoning.  
Baseball researchers Tom Tango, Michael Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin argue in their book,The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball (TMA Press, 2006) that the #2 hitter in the lineup should be one of a team’s best 3 overall hitters.  After evaluating run values in the 24 base/out states (situations) on pages 121-127, they argue (page 128):
What if we compare the cleanup hitter to the #2 hitter?  Here, it gets interesting.  The cleanup hitter has a .02 run advantage per extra-base hit (double, triple, home run), while the #2 hitter has a .02 run advantage per walk or hit batter.  This is not much of a difference.  What does this mean?  This means that the overall quality (as measured by wOBA) of your #2 and #4 batters should be about the same!
That’s right.  The advantage that the cleanup hitter has over the #2 hitter (all those runners on base) is mitigated by the 5% extra P[late] A[ppearances] that the #2 hitter has.  Five percent may sound small, but everything we’ve seen so far shows that we’re dealing with small differences anyway.  
When deciding between the #2 and #4 slots, if you have two batters of similar overall quality, put the guy with more extra-base hits in the #4 slot, and the guy with more walks in the #2 slot.
Let’s compare the #2 and #3 hitters. The run values of each event favor the #2 hitter over the #3 hitter by .02 to .03 runs.  And this is across the board, except for the HR (which is even).  Likewise, the run values of the #4 hitter’s events are all higher than those of the #3 hitter.  This means that the #3 hitter should be worse than the #2 and #4 hitters.  For most teams, the gap in talent between the hitters in the #3 and #2 slots is enormous and that talent is concentrated in the #3 slot.  This is simply wrong. 
Yes, yes, the conventional wisdom/dogma is that the #3 hitter should be the best overall hitter on the team.  Joe Morgan says it all the time.   If we were ask John Kruk about whether putting a better hitter in the 2-hole than the 3-hole, he would growl that if it really worked, people would already be doing it.  So much for bitter old men appreciating innovation. This is yet another point at which I would like to point out how hidebound and absurd the baseball punditocacy is: they just won’t listen to ideas that haven’t been anointed with the oil of being done to death.
In the Twins’ case, this argues in favor of batting Mauer in the 2 slot.  Given the gaping wound that Gardenhire has been utilizing in the 2 slot since Hudson went down has been costing the Twins runs.  Since winning games…you know the rest.
Gardenhire and the Twins organization generally is sooo resistant to advanced statistical analysis–one reason Slama languishes in Triple-AAA–that I doubt they’ll make such a move.
Too much is made of the managerial gut (Grady Little, anyone?) and not enough is made of probability and its impact on the game.  Oh, well. 

Joe Mauer’s Power Outage

Nick notes that Joe Mauer’s power output is down from last season, at least in terms of his home run total.  On the other hand, his doubles are up, meaning that Mauer is still hitting long drives to the outfield, but they aren’t leaving the ‘yard.  He wisely observed that this might be the case when writing about Mauer before the start of the season.

The comments do a good job of discussing “causes”, but I thought I’d bring up three points.
(1) Joe’s 28 dingers last year was something of an aberration, an outlier, if you will, out of line with his previous career statistical profile.
(2) Joe got a bit lucky in 2009.  11 of his home runs were what Hit Tracker Online calls Just Enoughs, which are:

“Just Enough” home
run

 – Means the ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet,
OR that it landed less than one fence height past the fence. These are the ones
that barely made it over the fence
. [Emphasis added.]

In other words, 11 of those homers Joe hit could have very well stayed within the field of play and thus been either flyouts or doubles.
(3) Target Field.  It has been compared to CitiField, the Mets’ cavernous ballpark.  Early numbers bear this out, though sample size remains a concern.  2009 saw the Twins playing their home games in a ballpark with a “park factor” much more favorable to hitters in terms of home runs (higher numbers favor hitters).  The park factor of the ‘Dome (Mall of America Rield) in terms of home runs for 2009 was 1.111.  Target Field, however, has displayed a home run park factor that is much, much lower at

0.562.

To me, those explanations suffice.  Going forward, even if Target Field ends up being a good home run park for left-handed hitters, it will likely be due to the prevailing summer winds coming from the south and the fact that rightfield is the northern edge of the stadium.  However, as Nick noted, last season Mauer’s home runs were largely hit to left center, meaning he will probably not benefit from winds out of the south. 
The question then becomes whether Mauer was worth his contract extension.  I still say yes, since, (1) he’s the premier defensive catcher in the game; (2) he is the face of the franchise and the confidence of the fan base can’t be underestimated; (3) most importantly, his offensive contribution is not–unlike, say, Ryan Howard’s–reducible to his home run total.  Even with only two home runs thus far in the season, Mauer’s wOBA is still at .371.  
So, while Mauer probably won’t be putting up 25+ bombs this season, he still will be contributing to the Twins’ success in many other ways.
Take it easy on Joe, he’s still the franchise’s best player.

Justin Morneau: AL MVP of the 1st Quarter

BP Morneau Justin.jpg

Yeah, yeah, they don’t give out quarterly awards the way schools give out quarterly grade reports.  Nevertheless, the numbers say that the American League’s most valuable player of the first quarter of the season was Justin Morneau.

Morneau has been an OPS machine so far this season.
One of my fantasy teams is riding him.  But no one should care about that.
No, the thing to care about is that his performance thus far is way, way more impressive than his 2006 MVP season, and he is, unbelievably, overshadowing Joe Mauer.  
On the other hand, and I’ve said it before, Morneua plays first base while Mauer is a catcher for goodness’ sake!

Yankees Find Bats, Down Twins 8-4 (Updated)

Well, Yankees hitter recovered their bats, contributing a WPA of .602 in their 8-4 win over the Twins.  Joe Mauer actually had the highest WPA in the game (.386), but with the Yankees trailing 3-4, Alex Rodriguez smashed a grand slam in the 7th inning (.359 WPA) putting the Yankees up for good.

20100514_Twins_Yankees_0_79_lbig_WPA.png
For more depressing information, see this Star-Tribune story, “Bronx Bombed Again.”
A-Rod crushing Twins 10-0514.jpg

Scott Baker Looking Good Again; Mauer in Starting Lineup

Scott Baker was very effective Saturday night against the Orioles.  Facing their third loss in a four game series against the Major League worst Orioles, Baker was very sharp, going 8 innings and surrendering only three hits and one run; he posted a .407 WPA (win probability added) for the game.

Thanks to his gem, the Twins can salvage a split in the series.
More analysis of the Twins’ doubleheader split available here at the always interesting (for Twins fans) Twinkie Town.
More details on Baker’s performance here. That makes two very solid outings in a row following a couple of, er, marginal starts.
Joe Mauer returned to the Twins lineup Sunday, starting at DH.   

Good News for Joe, the Twins, and the Fans

Mauer’s heel is not seriously injured.  (By the way: Calcaterra’s shot at Nike is gratuitous yet still appropriate.)

My reaction: Whew!
More coverage available here, here, and here.