I knew better, but I couldn’t help myself. And to prove it, I’m going to make the same mistake again.
A little less than two weeks ago, Joe Mauer was in a slump. A gathering-up of short-term facts and numbers confirmed it, and I wrote about it:
“Through 25 games, Mauer was hitting .337 with an absurd .459 on-base percentage as of May 1, the key factors in a robust .920 OPS at the time. He also had struck out only nine times in those 25 games, which is vintage Mauer,” I wrote. “Since then, however, Mauer has gone just 7-for-50 in his last 14 games. Beyond that dismal .140 average, his strikeouts are also way up — 16 in the last 14 games.”
I went on to conclude that his overall numbers, at that point, looked awfully similar to how they looked in 2014 and 2015 — years in which Mauer tumbled from being one of the best hitters in the game to being average at best.
But seeing enough peaks and valleys over the years, and observing how placing too much emphasis on a short-term trend can make one look foolish, led me at the time to also write this caveat:
“That’s not to say Mauer won’t rebound — it’s dangerous to write things when a player is at the bottom of a slump or the peak of a hot streak, as things have a way of evening themselves out — but it’s at least troubling in the short term and has contributed to the Twins’ recent woes.”
And so here we are.
Between the moment those words first appeared online and the end of Sunday’s game at Seattle, Mauer had 36 official at-bats. During that span, he hit .361 with four home runs and a whopping 1.119 OPS.
He homered in all three games against the Mariners, part of a Twins sweep that, at least for a weekend, made people remember 1) how they thought the Twins would play all season and 2) how great a locked-in Mauer can be.
Suddenly, Mauer is on pace to hit around 20 home runs (which would easily be the second-highest total of his career behind his MVP season of 2009, when he hit 28) with a robust .826 OPS.
It’s impossible to point all of this out, though, without that caveat again — which starts to feel like an endless loop at times.
It’s dangerous to write things when a player is at the bottom of a slump or the peak of a hot streak, as these things have a way of evening themselves out.
Two weeks from now, if Mauer has cooled off, I could write this very same thing in the other direction. And so on.
Of course, it’s even more dangerous when numbers can be twisted any way we want them to be. Such as: Mauer entered Monday hitting just .233 since May 2 (Mauer is cold!) or Mauer entered Monday with four homers and a .440 batting average in his past 25 at-bats (Mauer is red-hot!).
Both of those sets of statistics are accurate, open to whichever narrative you choose.