Joe Mauer: Why His World Baseball Classic Appearance Will Not Haunt the Twins

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Joe Mauer: Why His World Baseball Classic Appearance Will Not Haunt the Twins
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

In Minnesota, there are a lot of people who seem to think that Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer is injury-prone.

With 95 games missed over the past two seasons, people have begun to criticize the highest-paid player in franchise history with questions like "How Long Would Mauer Milk It?" and a craze known as "Mauering."

Mauer's 2011 battle with bilateral leg weakness has become one of the most infamous phrases for the team, and the common perception of the five-time All-Star is that he's soft.

When Mauer was named to the United States' preliminary roster for the World Baseball Classic, eyebrows were raised all across Twins Territory.

Twins fans, fear not. Mauer's appearance in the WBC will not be a disaster waiting to happen.

The trying nature of the WBC is overblown because of rules that help prevent players from going too hard as their bodies are in spring training mode. For the Twins, the mercy rules and inclusion of the designated hitter in the tournament are hidden blessings for a team that is counting on its star player to be ready for Opening Day.

There's also that matter that Mauer will likely spend more time at first base rather than behind the plate.

The current roster for Team USA shows Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees as the only first baseman on the roster. This means that Mauer will be the team's backup first baseman, barring a late addition.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Mauer's heavy workload early in his career make it seem like the end is near, but an appearance in the World Baseball Classic shouldn't derail his 2013 season.

And with Jonathan Lucroy of the Milwaukee Brewers and J.P. Arencibia of the Toronto Blue Jays as the listed catchers, Team USA does not need Mauer to catch every game. 

That doesn't mean that he cannot catch every game if needed, though. This is because Mauer's injury issues are overblown.

At the beginning of the piece, I mentioned the fact that Mauer has missed 95 games over the past two seasons. Yet, 80 of those occurred in 2011. Meanwhile, he played in a career-high 147 games in 2012.

That has a lot to do with the Twins occasionally spelling him at first base and designated hitter. Still, Mauer has averaged 97 starts behind the plate in his eight full seasons at the major league level, including 135 in 2008.

His numbers also compare favorably with other heavily used catchers like Jason Kendall (130 starts at catcher per season prior to age 30) and Ivan Rodriguez (114 starts per season at catcher), who both experienced offensive drop-offs after hitting 31.

Player Stats before Age 30 Stats After Age 30
Ivan Rodriguez .305 AVG, 215 HR, 829 RBI (12 seasons) .285, 96 HR, 503 RBI (9 seasons)
Jason Kendall .306 AVG, 67 HR, 471 RBI (9 seasons) .260, 8 HR, 273 RBI (6 seasons)

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Players with large workloads are going to see a drop in numbers at age 30, especially when they are playing a demanding position such as catcher.

Mauer will turn 30 on April 19, but it likely won't effect him from a durability standpoint in 2013.

This is why his first appearance in the WBC is a non-factor. Unless something freakish happens (such as another bout with bilateral leg weakness), the face of the Twins will have an uneventful tournament and come back to Minnesota safe and sound.

 


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