Minnesota Twins: The Unnoticed Revival of Joe Mauer

MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 09: Joe Mauer /

As the Minnesota Twins’ young studs get most of the attention this season, one of their older stars, Joe Mauer, has began to shine brighter and brighter.

Remember 2009, when Joe Mauer was batting .365 and won the batting title? Or when he led the MLB in On Base, Slugging, and On Base plus Slugging percentage that same season? To top it all off, Mauer took home the AL MVP award and led the Minnesota Twins to a division championship. Do you remember those days?

I remember those days. When “Mauer Power” was a common phrase tossed around the Metrodome. When Joe Mauer, the hometown boy, was the king of Minnesota baseball, and perhaps Minnesota sports in general.

Mauer enjoyed other good campaigns after 2009, although none of them quite stacked up to that summer. He batted well over .300, and continued to lead the Twins to winning seasons. However, a dark gloom began to fall over Mauer after his historic 138 games in 2009.

Once Mauer signed an eight-year, $184 million deal with the Twins in 2010, he could not stay healthy. His arthroscopic knee surgery limited him to only 82 games in 2011 and was rather disappointing in those 82 contests.

Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins /

Minnesota Twins

Over the course of the next five seasons, Mauer saw his average drop to below .300, something unheard of to Twins fans.  He reached a career low by batting a measly .261 in 494 at bats in 2016. Mauer’s struggles led to unrest in the Twin Cities as fans wondered if their hometown boy was worth $23 million dollars per season. Especially if he was only batting .261 and the Twins were only winning 59 games.

I will openly raise my hand and say I was a part of that group who wrote off Mauer. Sure, it was all well and good when he was succeeding and so was the team. I even tolerated it when he began to slide statistically saying, “Why would the Twins ever get rid of Joe? He is the quintessential Twin! A native Minnesotan, he’s perfect for this team.”

Even that whimsical view of Joe Mauer faded by last season. Fans had about had it with Mr. Mauer. With his contract nearing expiration (the end of next season) it was vital that Mauer had a productive season with fans breathing down his neck.

Mauer has delivered, to say the least, and has gone unnoticed in a hot Twins lineup featuring youngsters Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco. However, fans have begun to take notice to their former hero and have even hopped back on Mauer’s bandwagon. Myself included.

As of Friday, Mauer is batting .306 and is coming off two solid hitting outings against Kansas City. Getting three hits and two walks on Thursday night and a hit with an RBI. His 451 at bats so far this season have already put him on pace to get far more chances at the plate than in 2016. All of his “telling” hitting statistics are up from last year. By that I mean, his On Base, Slugging, and On Base plus Slugging percentages.

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His six home runs may seem modest, but as even the most casual Twins fans knows, Mauer is not a power hitter. The only time his power has been an adequate illustration of his success was when he smacked 28 homers in, you guessed it, 2009.

However, his 57 RBIs to this point in the season is nothing to scoff at. Barring some unforeseen mega-slump, Mauer will rack up his highest RBI total since 2012 this season. The number he has to beat is 66 runs driven in, which he did in 2015. He has already eclipsed his RBI total from last season as well.

Speaking of possible mega-slumps, Mauer’s chance of catching a bad hitting bug is highly unlikely. He has torn through opponents at the plate over the last month or so. In the last 28 games, Mauer is hitting .426 with a .587 Slugging percentage (per baseball reference).

As if that were not enough, Mauer is highly touted for a Gold Glove award at first base. He is currently sporting a .999 fielding percentage, the highest for a first baseman this year.

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It’s safe to say this revival of Joe Mauer’s career warrants a possible contract extension come next off-season. At this point, Mauer and Twins fans should not expect another massive contract like the one we saw in 2010.

At 34, he does not command that much money, and he may even be inclined to give the Twins a “hometown discount” as it is clear he wants to play his entire career in Target Field. That loyalty to Minnesota and the surrounding area is noble and extremely respectable given the “go where the money is” culture that swallows professional sports.

Joe Mauer has captivated Minnesota once again and he certainly deserves our apologies because we wrote him off. However, it is clear that Joe Mauer can still play the game of baseball at an unbelievably high level.

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The Twins continue their chase for the Wild Card playoff spots this weekend in a series with the Kansas City Royals. Minnesota currently holds the second Wild Card spot, but is within striking distance of the first place Wild Card holding New York Yankees.