Joe Mauer is off to an incredible start to his 2009 season. This is his sixth big league season, and we all know he is one of the best catchers in the game. His two batting titles are two more than any other catcher has won in most of our lifetimes. He has amazing on-base skills. He is great defensively, finally winning a Gold Glove Award in 2008 (which of course is not a true indicator of how good he is behind the plate). What's not to like? So many have asked, "When will Mauer hit for power?" If you had "May 2009" as your answer, great job!

The power thing seemed to be what critics used to find fault of any kind in Mauer's game. Personally, I thought that he was pretty incredible before showing this power. This is just a bonus.

I wanted to take a look at Mauer's short career and put it up against the best. I looked at the Hall of Fame catchers, and added a couple more that I think we can all agree will make it there someday.

Joe Mauer    690    2,146 0.322 0.404 0.473 0.877   55    333
Mike Piazza    2,127    6,911 0.308 0.377 0.545 0.922    427    1,335
Ivan Rodriguez    2,640    8,780 0.301 0.338 0.475 0.813    300    1,238
Johnny Bench    2,048    7,658 0.267 0.342 0.476 0.818    389    1,376
Yogi Berra    2,150    7,555 0.285 0.348 0.482 0.830    358    1,430
Roy Campanella    1,161    4,205 0.276 0.360 0.500 0.860    242    856
Gary Carter    2,092    7,971 0.262 0.335 0.439 0.774    324    1,225
Carlton Fisk    2,356    8,756 0.269 0.341 0.451 0.792    376    1,330
Mickey Cochrane    1,652    5,169 0.320 0.419 0.478 0.897    119    832

It's hard to look at these numbers and not at least acknowledge that Mauer has started his career very well. Now, these catchers all spent 13 to 19 seasons in the big leagues to accumulate these numbers. Carlton Fisk spent 24 seasons catching in the big leagues. These guys had a bunch of all star game appearances. Some were good glove types. Others were hitters only. Mauer puts together a combination of offense and defense that is pretty incredible. With Mauer's new-found power stroke, can he hit 25-30 homers a year for another decade?

Could Joe Mauer be a Hall of Famer? Well, a couple of things would have to happen. First, he has to stay healthy. That's an obvious one. But if we assume that he remains relatively healthy, his batting average (and the historic batting titles) and on-base percentage and defense probably make him a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. If he is able to maintain any semblance of power, the odds grow and grow. Another factor has to be the rate of decline that occurs in most catchers when they get on the wrong side of 30. Mauer still has several seasons before he gets there.

I'm not writing this to say that Joe Mauer is the greatest catcher of all time, only that we should really appreciate just how special he is. It is fun to project what he could do over the next six, eight, twelve seasons and what kind of historical context we could put him in at that time. For now, again, I think we need to appreciate exactly what Joe Mauer is as a baseball players.

The other thing we need to do is make it known that losing him to the Red Sox or Yankees would not be acceptable.

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