May Twin of the Month: Joe Mauer
Joe Mauer's May return to baseball has been nothing short of inspired - and historic. Yet, after the Twins bumbled to an 11-11 April while Mauer recovered from his inflamed sacroiliac joint, the club as a whole -- still under .500 at 24-25 -- seems held by the haze of different joints. Nothing attached to that poor mark can be attributed to Mauer.
Since Joe's May 1st return, the Twins went from 4.22 run per game in April, to 5.92 per in May. Mauer's presence was also evidenced in his handling of the staff; the club ERA went from 5.26 in April, down to 4.44 in May since his return behind the dish. Furthermore, Mauer has yet to commit an error this year, although it is worthy of minor note that he has in fact allowed 2 passed balls (after just 4 all last year), and his caught stealing percentage (.154; just 2 of 11 runners) does not offer echo of the Gold Glove upon his mantle.
For his stated impact upon return from injury, Joe Mauer follows up our April selection of Jason Kubel, and is the May Twin of the Month.
While Mauer went hitless in yesterday's nooner loss to the Bo Sox, such deficiency has been nearly unheard of in the May that was Mauer. That doughnut represented just the fifth time in his 26 games in which the catcher went without a knock, and only the third game in which he failed to reach base.
For the month of May (thus far), Mauer leads the American League in batting (.407), RBI (32), on-base percentage (.496), slugging percentage (.607), and runs (26). He strung together a 14-game hit streak mid-month, and his 11 May long balls are second only to Yankee Mark Teixeira's May dozen. Mauer has engendered double-digit home run totals just once before in his career, that was back in '06 when he clubbed 13. In that storied season of yore it took him 121 games to get to 11 homers; this season he did it in just 23 contests.
Still at a clip above .400, much has, and will be discussed about Mauer's chances for a
third batting title run in '09. To crunch the numbers just a wee bit herein: 502 plate appearances are required to qualify; Mauer currently has accrued 113, averaging 4.34 plate appearances per game. The Twins have 113 games left this year, so Joe would justify with about 90 starts in those 113. Based on the 4.34 per (which includes walks, hit by pitch, catcher interference, etc.), that would bring him to about 503.
That the club is just 13-14 since Mauer's return is a perplexing matter that will require a concentrated weekend combination of rumination and gin. Poor road play can be attributed as a blanket statement, and tough May competition (Yanks, Boston, Milwaukee, first-place Detroit, Tampa) also paints a broad stroke.
But for a club that perennially seems to heat up with ascending summer temps, the Twins engender June with the Bread Basket's favorite boy of summer now in tow, just as the club re-welcomes a host of more measured competition. For his powerful, inspirited, and necessary return to play, Joe Mauer is our Twin of the Month. In recognition of the accomplishment, Joe receives a free basket of tomatoes from my friend Beau's garden. Man, those are sweet.
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