Watching Joe Mauer at the start of Friday night's game got me to thinking about 2009, when he was the American League MVP, was named an All-Star and won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. That was also the year of the superhuman start that, along with the opening of Target Field and the increased financial resources coming with the new ballpark, were among the things leading the Twins to sign Mauer to a contract that pays $23 million per year until many current high school juniors and seniors turn 21.
As you ponder what's to follow, please keep in mind the anti-ownership insurrection that would have followed if Mauer had been allowed to leave through free agency.
Through 27 games in 2009, Mauer had a .417 average, .500 on-base percentage and an .844 slugging percentage. That's .417/.500/.844 in what we sometimes call a "slash line." His OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) through those 27 games was 1.344. Seriously, friends, that was superhuman and unsustainable, although his end-of-season numbers were still an incredible .365/.444/.587.
Through 27 games in 2014, Mauer's slash line is .282/.385/.336 -- quite good for a singles hitter. It should be noted that Mauer, currently batting second more often than not, has never in his career had a slugging percentage lower than his on-base percentage. The closest he came was in 2011, the season of general soreness and the like, when he had a .360 OBP and .368 slugging percentage in 88 games.
The career numbers for Mauer: .404 OBP and .465 slugging percentage. So if you have an expectation for Mauer to do more, you can base it on career stats that include all of those years when Mauer was hitting only a handful of home runs but still showing the extra-base power that has been on leave so far in 2014.
One more thing. Through 27 games in 2006, the Twins player who batted second more often than anyone else on the roster that season had a slash line through 27 games of .293/.379/.362, and an OPS of .741. (Those were numbers the player pretty much kept up for the entire season, by the way.)
The 27-game slugging percentage was 26 points higher than Mauer's right now and the OPS was 20 points higher.
Any guesses who that was?
It was THIS GUY.