Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Joe Mauer report: A health update and a little perspective

Posted by: Phil Miller under Twins offense Updated: October 19, 2010 - 1:40 PM

There's no question injuries affected Joe Mauer's performance this year. Besides a chronic lower-back injury that requires continued maintenance, Mauer had a right-shoulder issue and missed nine games in late-September with what was described as tissue inflammation in his surgically repaired left knee.

From what I've gathered, there are no current plans for Mauer to have surgery, but he's in a wait-and-see mode. In all their testing (MRI exams, etc.) doctors have yet to find anything they need to operate on, so the plan is to have Mauer rest for about two weeks to see if his aches and pains subside.

Not throwing every day, for example, should help the shoulder feel better. Not squatting in the catching position should help his knees. Like most players, Mauer takes his offseason conditioning program very seriously, so the goal is getting to a point where he can rebuild strength to be in optimal shape for spring training.

Obviously, if there are lingering concerns, they'll be addressed, but for now, the Twins say there is no reason for fans to be concerned. Of course, Mauer will make $23 million next season in the first year of his $184 million contract extension, and he turns 28 in April, so there always will be concerns.

Mauer went 3-for-12 with three singles, a walk and three strikeouts in three postseason losses to the Yankees. On Oct. 9, after the Twins ended their season with a 6-1 defeat at Yankee Stadium, Mauer was once again asked how he was feeling physically.

"I feel terrible [because] we're not playing anymore," Mauer said. "We'll assess everything later.''

Before everyone goes overboard with talk about Mauer needing to switch positions, etc., let's review. He came back from his lower-back injury in 2009 and won American League MVP honors with these otherworldly numbers: .365 AVG/.444 OBP/.587 SLG/1.031 OPS.

By those standards, he had a tough first half this year, batting .293/.368/.424/.792. But he quietly batted .373/.447/.527/.974 after the All-Star break, helping the Twins pull away for another division title.

Yes, his home run total plunged from 28 in 2009 to nine this season, and his RBI total dropped from 96 to 75, so there will be many who view it as a lost season, ignoring the Target Field factor.

How different was Mauer's overall production? Baseball-Reference.com has a statistic called OPS+, which adjusts for league and park averages. Basically, it helps level the playing field. There's a big difference, for example, between the .733 OPS Tom Haller produced as the Dodgers catcher in 1968 (when pitchers ruled) and the .689 OPS Henry Blanco produced as the Rockies catcher at Coors Field in 1999.

Haller's OPS+ was 128, and Blanco's was 58, with 100 reflecting the league average for that season. So consider this OPS+ breakdown for Mauer:

2009 overall: 170 (one of the greatest offensive seasons for a catcher)

2010 first half: 116 (right shoulder was killing him at the break)

2010 second half: 171 (helped team go on a 48-26 finish)

2010 overall: 137 (a step down from last season, yes)

Career entering 2010: 136 (a reminder that this year wasn't so bad after all)

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