The Twins have played better than expected (12-11) in 2014 and the team is ranked third in the league in runs scored with 127 runs in 23 games for an average of 5.52 runs per game. Everyone is excited about the Twins offensive display this season but so far nobody is talking about the elephant in the room, Joe Mauer and his slow start as the teams new first baseman.
The Twins $23 million first baseman in 111 plate appearances is hitting .266 with two doubles, one home run and 6 RBI. On the plus side Mauer has scored 19 runs and appeared in every Twins game this season (20 games at 1B and 3 at DH).
So what ails Joe? With the Twins offense in high gear no one is complaining about Mauer’s poor start with the bat but the Twins are going to need production from their highest paid player as the season moves along. In his 11th big league season the 31-year-old Mauer has a career batting mark of .322 and he has struck out once every 8.76 plate appearances and walked once every 8.17 plate appearances. So far this season he is striking out once every 4.27 plate appearances and walking only once every 6.53 plate appearances. What I would like to know is why Mauer’s strikeouts have jumped so dramatically the last two seasons.
Joe Mauer’s strikeout rate over his career
|YEAR||Plate Appearances per KO|
So why the ever-increasing strikeout rate? Are umpires treating Mauer differently? Is age catching up with Joe? Is Mauer’s eyesight becoming an issue? Does Mauer miss catching? Does he miss getting two days a week off? Is the cold wet weather bothering Mauer? Or is it that married life has taken Mauer’s focus off baseball?
The Twins are going to be paying Mauer $23 million a year through at least 2018 and the team and we fans have a right to expect a lot more from Mr. Mauer. At the rate Mauer is hitting in 2014 he will finish the season with 6 home runs, 12 doubles and 36 RBI, these are Pedro Florimon numbers or for that matter any batter that hits 8th or 9th in the batting order not for a guy hitting as high in the line-up as Mauer hits.
Odds are that Mauer will catch fire pretty soon and put up the numbers we expect from here every year but there will come a time when that doesn’t happen and I sure hope we aren’t looking at that time here and now.