Is Twins' 1B Joe Mauer about to have a breakthrough season?

Joe Mauer, the Twins catcher-turned-first baseman because of the effects of a concussion, has just turned 34 years old and the usual pundits came out of the woodwork to say that Mauer is pretty much done.   But is this the case?    Mauer has signed a contract extension on 3/20/2010 up to and including his 2018 season, for $23 million a season.  According to the fangraphs, dollar's value equation, so far Mauer has provided the Twins a $291.3 million dollar value, while the Twins have paid about $150 million dollars, a close 2-1 bargain for the team. It is true that Mauer's performance the last three season has not been in par with his performance at his peak, and the value he has provided to the team has underperformed his contractual pay, which has been a big part of the sports show chatter in Minnesota the last few seasons, in par with the Twins' miserable showing.

But is this about to change?    In the previously mentioned article, the author suggests that "this spring, hitting the ball hard was very much an exception for Mauer, and there has been almost none of that to start the season".  Thankfully, modern technology has provided us with Statcast measures of exit velocity from a hitter's bat.  The up to date data is here.   Sorting by average exit velocity, Twins' fans will be thrilled that Miguel Sano is leading the league in hard hit balls with 98.1 mph, way ahead of the second place Joey Gallo with 95.8 mph.    Scrolling down a bit, once will see the who is who of the leagues power hitters, and tied with Joe Napoli at 90.9 mph, and ahead of sluggers like Bryce Harper, Yoenis Cespedes, Mike Trout, and Edwin Encarnacion among others,  is Twins' own first baseman Joe Mauer.   The average of his average exit velocity the last two seasons (Statcast was not previously available) was 89.8, a full mph plus lower; and average exit velocities are usually depressed early in the season when it is colder.  So that 90.9 mph will likely get higher.

The fact is that, unlike certain perceptions, Joe Mauer is hitting the ball very hard in this young season.  Add to this fact that, unlike the last few seasons,  Mauer's K% is only 7%, and this season has all the makings for a breakthrough season by Mauer.   How is this possible with a .224/.268/.254 slash line?   Looking at the batted ball date, his BABIP is .242 this season.  His career BABIP (that drives his batting average) is .339.  The previous three seasons (down seasons) his BABIP was averaging .317.   If someone assumes a regression to the last 3 season average BABIP, his current .224 batting average  projects to a .293 batting average.   His current isoD that drives OBP is at .044,  and current isoP that drives slugging percentage is at .030, while his last 3 year averages are at .086 and .119 respectively.  This indicates that upon regression to his last 3 (down) seasons, we are looking at a .293/.379/. 412 slash line for Mauer.  This is a .791 OPS something that we have not seen by Mauer since 2013, and this assumes that he will regress to the performance of the last 3 seasons,  not taking into account the dramatic decreases in strikeouts and increase in hard hit balls.  

Can Joe Mauer have an .850 or .900 OPS season for the Twins in 2017?   All the signs say that it is probable, regardless that being his "foreboding" age 34 season.


gil4 said...

This has been the hope every year since the concussion, but every year the hope becomes dimmer. This early in the season a 1 MPH difference in average exit velocity could just be 1 extra line drive to the left fielder replacing one slow roller to 2B. The K rate is encouraging, but I still think you're grasping at a couple of small sample size straws.

Jordan Wyatt said...

I don't believe any of this will lead to a good OPS. Teams are shifting him way more and it is working. If he cant adjust and pull the ball his BABIP will stay below average. line drives to left and left center are not hits for him anymore, the shift has ended him. I see his OPS topping out at .700-.720

Marv said...

A week into May is a SSS, but it's looking good so far.