Last year, Joe Mauer’s health limited him to 82 games, with only 52 games coming at catcher.
Not only that, but the lifetime .323 hitter hit just .287. Making matters worse, he had just 18 extra-base hits (three HRs) in 296 at-bats for a paltry .368 slugging percentage. He nearly hit that for average during two of his his three batting average titles.
Not exactly what you expect from a guy cashing in $23 million for the year. For the first time in his career, the fans turned on Mauer. In their minds, he wasn’t being paid that much to play a fraction of the games and show no semblance of the guy who hit 28 home runs in 2009, which seems like an eternity ago.
A lot of the blame can go to the lower body injuries, to steal a hockey term, that sapped his power. Without that core strength you can’t drive the baseball. He also battled pneumonia, which ultimately ended his season. Not only did that drain his energy, but it led to some serious weight loss.
Mauer is healthy once again and back to his playing weight. It is a bit of a gamble to say he is completely back to form, but he definitely appears to be in much better shape heading into the season.
He is also enjoying a solid time at the plate this spring. He still isn’t producing the extra-base hits, but if he stays healthy, they will come.
I wouldn’t expect 2009 to ever be anything more than a blip in his career, but at least the doubles should return.