Joe Mauer isn't playing well. There I said it and it's permissible to say so. Joe Mauer should not be beyond reproach, but some fans and members of the media would disagree -- now there is a heated debate whether Joe Mauer can be criticized.
You have the sabermetric fans who point to his high batting average, high on base percentage and past accolades. The other side sees Joe Mauer as the monotone All-Star with a vanilla personality who has never delivered a game-winning hit.
You don't have to take either side because there is the reality of the situation. Joe Mauer hasn't hit well with runners on base or in scoring position in over a year. He does get on base in those situations, but without support he's usually stranded. In 2013, with runners in scoring position Joe Mauer hit .239/.389/.273 (batting avg/on base %/slugging) and with runners on base he hit a very pedestrian .262/.388/.375.
Of course he got his walks in those situations and he may have been pitched around some, but he wasn't making contact in any meaningful way that would drive in runs. This same pattern has continued into the 2014 season. In eight plate appearances this season with runners in scoring position he is hitless with three walks. With runners on base he's struggled as well, hitting .182/.438/.273 in 16 plate appearances.
Joe Mauer will get his hits this year and likely have a fine season, but saying he isn't playing well shouldn't be considered sacrilege. As the best hitter on the Twins, his job is to drive in runs and he hasn't done that in over a year. Asking more of him shouldn't be considered the sign of an uninformed fan as some want you to believe.
The Hunters, Cuddyers, and Morneaus aren't batting behind him anymore. The spotlight and added responsibility is on him now along with increased expectations. He will never be Kirby Puckett in style or at the plate, but he at least needs to regain what he used to be, an excellent hitter with runners on base.
Photos via: Keith Allison
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