In a September 19th article on Beyond the Boxscore, Justin Bopp analyzed Joe Mauer’s season against his career numbers and came to the conclusion that Mauer has peaked. Bopp said, “I’m going to go out on an easy limb here and say that we’ve already seen his best, and we’ll likely never see another 6+ WAR season from Mauer again. Perhaps his 5+ WAR days are behind him as well.”
While Bopp is a very good writer, and Beyond the Boxscore is a very good site, the conclusions being reached here are absurd. I am going to borrow the graphs they used, then perform my own analysis. Below are from Beyond the Boxscore:
Here’s my first problem: the 2011 numbers are drawn from only 333 plate appearances. That sample size is so small, any conclusions made would be skewed. For example, in the article Bopp indicates the 2004 ISO numbers should be taken with a grain of salt because they came from only 122 plate appearances. If we are to ignore, or set aside, the 2004 numbers because of the limited plate appearances, why are we putting so much weight in 2011?
Joe Mauer was not 100% to start this season. He ended up on the disabled list. He was rushed back. He underperformed. To truly evaluate Mauer’s future potential, I think he needs a pass for this year. But let’s take a closer look at the fluctuations in Mauer’s stats.
To say that he has already peaked would be to ignore 2006, 2008, 2010. Did he peak in ’06? Or was it in ’10? When a player sees as much fluctuation in his numbers as Joe Mauer does, it is irresponsible to declare him beyond his prime. Joe Mauer’s K% has remained pretty constant. His ISO has consistently been above 100 except for this season. If we look at his BB%, Mauer peaked in 2008. If that’s the case, why was he one of the most sought-after free agents before re-signing with the Twins?
By no means do I think Mauer is as good as Johnny Bench was, but let’s look at their WAR graphs (courtesy of Fangraphs, Bench – Green, Mauer – Orange):
By utilizing Bopp’s logic, it should have been declared that Bench reached his prime at 24. Yet, he had another up year at 26. Every player is going to have up and down years. Take another example (Piazza – Green, Mauer – Orange):
Mike Piazza had 5 seasons of 4 or more WAR after his 28th birthday. I think there’s hope for Mauer yet.
For all those jumping to conclusions about Joe Mauer, let me leave you with one final reminder: Albert Pujols. Earlier this season, most writers proclaimed the Pujols we all knew and loved was dead. They declared Pujols all but washed up and on the back end of his career. Then what happened? Pujols started hitting. He is two RBI away from continuing his already record streak of .300/30 HR/100 RBI seasons. An off year does not mean the end of a career. I’m sure Joe Mauer will prove this next season.