If you do a Google search on baseball's worst contracts and look them over, Joe Mauer's name comes up a lot. Heck, even Head and Shoulders gave up on him. And the famous, "Well played, Mauer," commercial seems far in the past. All of that is because of the contract Mauer signed. And that happens a lot. You heard it when Beltran played for the Mets. You have heard it with Soriano with the Cubs. And yet, I always believe you cannot blame the player for the money he makes. And often times, that money obscures how good a player still is. Joe Mauer is still one of the best catchers in the game. It just does not feel like it because of the money.
Quick, who led the American League in on-base percentage last year? No, it was not Cabrera or Trout. It was Joe Mauer. Mauer also suffers because of the one year when he hit 28 homers (2009). We all know now that was a fluke much like the year Wade Boggs hit that many homers with the Red Sox. But that did not mean that Boggs was a bust after that season, and neither is Joe Mauer.
Would you guess that Joe Mauer currently ranks second among catchers in the majors in fWAR according to Fangraphs.com's leaderboard? Would you guess that he is fourth in the American League in batting and third in on-base percentage? How about that he is sixth in wOBA and wRC+? The guy flat out rakes on a regular basis, but the picture is always clouded by the money.
Joe Mauer is only 30 years old. He has only played ten years. And yet he is already seventeenth among catchers all time in WAR. And he will be rising up that leaderboard quickly. I like to look at baseball-reference.com's way of parsing out a player's stats per 162 games. When they do that with Mauer, he averages 195 hits, 89 walks and 39 doubles.
He has already won three batting titles. He is a catcher. That just does not happen. And check out his lifetime triple slash line compared to this year:
- Lifetime: .323/.405/.469
- 2013: .330/.412/.492
First, you see the consistency. Then, you see that he is over his career numbers in all three. The guy is a stud. And here are two facts about that on-base percentage: First, his last two seasons have been over his career average. And secondly, he has more career walks than strikeouts. How many of today's players can say that?
And then there is the quality of his batted balls. Joe Mauer's line drive percentage this year is 28%! Wow. And that can hardly be called a fluke. Mauer has had a line drive rate over 22% in eight of his ten seasons. His career average is an incredible 23.4%.
I could go on and on. How about that he has thrown out 41% of base steal attempts this season? How about that he only has four passed balls in the last two seasons combined!?
Joe Mauer is judged by the money he makes and that is unfortunate. He will make $23 million a year until like forever. He was only worth $21.5 million last year. His season this year is already worth $15.5 million. The bum. Fault the Twins if you would like to fault anyone about his contract. But separate the player from the money and appreciate that Joe Mauer is one of the best catchers ever and is truly a special player by any of today's standards.