Joe Mauer Is the American League's Most Valuable Player
I almost can't believe I'm writing this. I'm a Yankees fan, so if anything, I should have decided last night that Mark Teixeira is the MVP of the American League.
Well, he's not. Neither is the power-hitting first baseman for the Twins, Justin Morneau. I'm going to talk about my Mauer in relation to Teixeira here, but nearly everything I write about him could be written about Morneau, (their numbers are virtually identical and they both play first) so Twins fans, don't accuse me of not knowing who he is.
Joe Mauer's got my vote. And you know, right now, it's not even close.
Everyone's got their own criteria for what makes a player "valuable." One of the things I look at is the position he plays.
This is an undeniable fact: It's not hard to find a power-hitting first baseman. They grow on trees. First-base is a power position. Power-hitting catchers are impossible to find.
Case in point: There are three catchers in Major League baseball with an OPS over .800. There are 18 first-baseman with OPS' over .800.
One way to think about this is to imagine you're an AL GM and you're building a team. If you decided you wanted power from your first baseman in the American League, you'd have five guys with an OPS between .988 and .928. You'd have options.
Miss out on your top guy, and there's going to be someone else you can take that will give you similar production.
Pass on Mauer in the AL, and you're seeing a drop off in OPS of 238 points in your catcher. That's the difference between Mauer and the next best catcher in the league. 238 points.
Think of it this way: The difference between the best catcher and second-best catcher in the American League is triple the difference between the best first baseman and fifth-best first baseman.
This gives Mauer added value to any team he's on. His numbers simply can't be duplicated by another catcher in the majors. If he goes down, he's irreplaceable. You can't just hide some guy with no glove at catcher. First? You can do that if need be. The Yankees shoved Gary Sheffield there for a time.
Ask a GM who the best first baseman in the AL is. You'd get some people saying Morneau, some might go with Teixeira, some might even say Miguel Cabrera or Kevin Youkilis. All those players have been given serious MVP consideration recently.
No one would even think twice before putting Mauer down. There's simply no argument that can be made for any other catcher in baseball.
Maybe you don't believe in positional value. Okay, not everyone does. But Mauer's numbers are better across the board.
Forget being better, these numbers aren't even close. You might say that Teixeira's defense is superb, and you'd be right. So is Mauer's. If you're a Yankees fan, you remember the play he made on Brett Gardner, racing back and diving to tag him at the plate. No other catcher is athletic enough to make that play.
Right now, there are two main arguments against Mauer for MVP. One is that the Twins will likely miss the playoffs while the Yankees won't. Everyone has their opinion on it. Most people can't be convinced to change their minds, so I'm not going to bother. I don't think it matters in this case, but if you do, okay. We'll have to agree to disagree.
The other argument is that Mauer missed a month of the season due to injury, and that missed time is too valuable. Essentially, you're talking about six months of Teixeira vs. five months of Mauer.
This one I can understand. You can't help your team when you're not playing, so missing a month really hurts your team, especially, as I pointed out, when there's a lack of options behind you.
But I still think the numbers that Mauer gives you at catcher are too good to ignore. Heck, his numbers period are too good to ignore.
Now, Mauer's a catcher, and catchers tend to wear down later in the year. So I'll be very interested to see if he can keep his average and power numbers up for the rest of the season. Right now, he's the winner in my mind.
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