Joe Mauer: Return of the Mack redux
Last year's "Return of the Mack" Mauer column herein discussed the reasons why Joe would win his second batting title in three years. This year's version may be more aptly titled, "Return of the Back." Multiple meanings ensue, with health and Twins' stability of course taking the forefront.
With soundtrack again in tow, here are four reasons why Mauer's scheduled Friday return from back issues and his rehab assignment will behoove a Twins club that, at times, has looked in true need of some leadership both at the plate and in the field.
Heading into the week's set with American League champ Tampa Bay (all numbers herein are as of 4/27), the Twins' ranked 9th in the A.L. in attendance/per, with about 4,000 fewer butts in the seats than their 2008 average. This doesn't come as a huge shock as the club has ranked in the A.L.'s top-5 in attendance just twice since moving inside; yet, perhaps it does speak to a tepid degree of nostalgia for "Last chance to see the Twins at the Dome!" Regardless, Mauer's return to the lineup will no doubt solidify the fan base - Do you see any jersey's in the stands that outweigh #7?
2. On Base percentage and Batting Average
Last year's Twins club ranked 3rd in the American League in batting (.279) and 5th in On Base percentage (.340). Thus far through '09, the boys rank 10th and 11th in said categories, respectively. Mauer's return should alter that in short time - last season, his second batting title aside -- he also led the A.L. in Walk-to-Strikeout ratio at 1.68. Nobody else in the A.L. was even at 1. This year, the club has nary a baller in the top-25 in said category.
3. Staff Earned Run Average
Surely the presence of Mauer alone won't magically repair the disturbing collection of troubled arms on the Twins staff; yet, his CERA numbers over time suggest he'll whittle down the staff's 5.41 ERA over time. CERA marks the staff's Earned Run Average relative to a specific Catcher behind the plate. This year, Mike Redmond's CERA is 5.82; Jose Morales' is 5.16. Last year, Mauer sported a CERA of 4.23, which was actually the worst of his career by a longshot. Never before had he been higher than 3.93.
4. Caught Stealing percentage
This is a slippery stat as opposing base runners that get picked off by pitchers ultimately go down in the books as a "Caught Stealing." But heading into the week, Twins backup boys Redmond and Morales had actually tossed out just one damn would-be base stealing in 19 attempts. On a crazy five occasions, Twins pitchers have picked off a base runner. In the last four seasons, Gold Glover Mauer has never thrown out fewer than 36 percent, having ranked second or third in the A.L. in said category in each of those seasons.
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