|Mauer has regained All-Star form||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on August 08, 2012
Mauer missed half of 2011 with various injuries, the most debilitating of which was bilateral leg weakness. As a catcher, fully functional legs are vital to playing the position.
Photo by Jeramey Jannene, used under creative commons license.
He was on and off the disabled list and up and down from minor league rehab assignments. In a strange turn of events, he was shut down for the season in mid-September after coming down with pneumonia.
Each new year for a baseball player is a fresh start, and Mauer appears back on track. So what’s brought about his return to All-Star form?
Many hypothesize that Mauer’s return to form is a result of his catching less, which has taken the taxing toll off his legs. Through his first 100 games, he’s only caught roughly half, while playing first base or DH in the other half.
Mauer is too valuable a hitter to be catching 130-plus games per season like he did in the beginning of his career. The Twins have a ton of money invested in him (six more years and $138 million), so they’d be wise consider a permanent role for Mauer other than primary catcher.
As evidenced by his career statistics, a healthy Mauer is a productive Mauer. In his injury-plagued season last year, he hit a career-low .287 with only three home runs and 30 RBIs.
But now that he’s healthy, Mauer’s hitting .318 with a league-leading .415 on-base percentage. Usually, a player with good speed leads the league in on-base percentage since that player can turn some sure-outs into hits. However, it’s an even bigger accomplishment for Mauer, since he’s not exactly blessed with speed.
Mauer even has more walks (62) than strikeouts (59), so this proves the five-time All-Star is back.
On a team that is battling the Kansas City Royals to see who will finish in last place in the AL Central, Mauer is really the only offensive threat on the Twins. Justin Morneau has had a nice bounce back year and Josh Willingham has shown good power, but the team on the whole has been non-competitive.
That just adds more value to what Mauer has been able to do this year. Yes, he’s a Major League catcher, so he’s already in great shape. But catching too many games, especially when the Twins look at him as a hitter first, proved to be costly last season.
So at least for now, Mauer is back to All-Star form. Maybe he’ll be the starting AL first baseman in the 2013 All-Star Game. But even so, he’s a valuable commodity because he can still catch and catch well.