Joe Mauer vs. Kirby Puckett: Who's the Better No. 3 Hitter?

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Joe Mauer vs. Kirby Puckett: Who's the Better No. 3 Hitter?
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Joe Mauer hit a three-run home run in the top of the ninth to propel the Twins to their third straight win

A funny thing happened as I was watching the Minnesota Twins play against the Red Sox in Boston on Saturday night. The Twins were down by a run in the top of the ninth, with two outs and runners on second and third.

Joe Mauer was at the plate, and like he does so often, he was having a "good at-bat." That's how the Twins' broadcast team continually describe a Mauer at-bat when he works the count to 3-2. 

Now here's the unusual part. Instead of working out a walk to load the bases and give Justin Morneau a shot to tie, or win the game, Mauer hits a three-run home run and the Twins go on to win 6-4—incredibly, their third straight win in Boston.

I know many of you are probably thinking, "Come on, give the guy a break, what do you want, he hit a home run and won the game." 

Sure, Mauer has been criticized, repeatedly, for his lack of power, his penchant for hitting into double plays and waiting until he has two strikes called before taking the bat off his shoulder. But he is still a great hitter.

There's a "feeling" out there that Mauer is under-performing as the Twins' No. 3 hitter, and that this is a position that demands more power and RBIs. That Mauer needs to be more like other great hitters that regularly batted third, such as Kirby Puckett.

When I started the research for this piece, my goal was to add to the pile of criticism thrown Mauer's way. The truth is, when you look at the numbers, Puckett and Mauer are incredibly similar.

While Puckett started his career as a lead-off hitter, he would very quickly wind up batting third for the Twins. On the other hand, Mauer was destined to be the third hitter in the order almost from the start.

Here's a head-to-head comparison between Puckett and Mauer on some of the key offensive statistics. 

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