by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There was a time that Joe Mauer was one of the premier players in the game, even if it was for just a short period of time. Multiple things have changed his status, mainly injuries that have forced him to transition out from behind the plate and into first base full-time. The question is if there is still any value in investing in him, or has the time come that he’s completely unusable (outside of short bursts).
To try and answer that, let’s first look at the 2016 numbers:
494 At Bats
.261 Batting Average (129 Hits)
11 Home Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.363 On Base Percentage
.389 Slugging Percentage
.301 Batting Average on Balls in Play
We all know that his one big power season, 28 HR back in 2009, was an aberration. If you go into the season expecting to him to “slug” anything more than 10-12 HR, you are making a significant miscalculation.
The bigger issue, though, is his seemingly lack of average upside. During his prime, even without the power, he was a near lock to hit .300+. He’s now gone three straight seasons not coming close, with a .277 average being his best mark.
The problem hasn’t been that he hasn’t hit the ball hard, with a line drive rate of 26.8% last season. Even for a player with little speed we’d expect a bit better of a BABIP, which does offer some hope. Then you have the strikeout rate, which has also increased (16.1% in 2016 vs. 12.7% for his career). However, it’s not like he is swinging and missing a significant amount, with a 4.9% SwStr% (as well as a 23.2% O-Swing%).
Am elevated line drive rate and the potential for improvement in his strikeout rate… That certainly would appear like there’s a little bit more upside. Of course this trend has been going on long enough to make us think that any type of return isnt going to come.
Even if it did, and he hit .280 or .290, without the power and upside in the RBI department there’s simply not going to be value. At a different position it would be different, but as a first baseman it simply doesn’t play. There are simply too many alternatives with the potential to produce.
Source – Fangraphs
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