Touching Up the Resume: The Hall of Fame Case for Joe Mauer
Joe Mauer, the longtime Minnesota Twin, has been with the Twins for fourteen years, and with Joe either you love him or you don't. He's played in an era with soon to be Hall of Fame talents Albert Pujols and Adrian Beltre, he's seen the end of careers like Bagwell, Biggio, and Griffey. He's been teammates with the likes of Jim Thome. He came into the league as the careers of Hall of Fame-bound backstops Pudge Rodriguez and Mike Piazza. While over the past couple seasons Mauer has fallen off the elite radar. While there is no question whether or not Mauer is a great player, but is he Hall of Fame bound?
The average JAWS for Hall of Fame catchers is 43.9, and Joe Mauer is well above this mark. HIs best 7 seasons in terms of WAR are comparable to Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, and Pudge Rodriguez. Mauer's JAWS sandwiches him in between Hall of Famer's Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey. Joe Mauer ranks 7th All-Time in JAWS, 5th in peak 7 WAR, and 8th in career WAR. In terms of these advanced metrics Mauer looks like a safe bet to make it to Cooperstown.
At the moment Joe Mauer is just short of 2,000 career hits, and he will reach this mark this season without a question. He ranks 11th all-time among qualified catchers and has a chance to pass both Johnny Bench and Gary Carter on the all-time list. Mauer penciled in to hit 140 hits next season by most projections which are pretty fair looking at his previous seasons. 115 alone gets Mauer to 7th all-time just behind Mike Piazza.
So what about those pesky and deceiving line scores. Mauer is sitting at 7th all-time, and that likely drops, but his career .308 batting average would put him 4th among Hall of Fame catchers, even if his numbers drop only 5 Hall of Fame catchers have a career batting average over .300.
Only one Hall of Fame Catcher has a higher OBP than Joe Mauer, Mauer's .391 OBP is simply elite for any position. Again, this number may drop by the time he retires, but again only 7 Hall of Fame catchers have an OBP which is .360+. Mauer's offensive numbers alone put him in a great position to receive the Hall call.
Mauer has never been known as a big power guy ranks 14th among all catchers in OPS, and this puts him ahead of the likes of Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, and Pudge Rodriguez. He also ranks 14th in OPS+.
So offensively we can see that Mauer is a great player, but catcher is a position which is a position which is defensively oriented, so how does Mauer stack up?
One of the best defensive metrics is defensive runs saved, and while Mauer did not have the defensive prowess of a Yadier Molina, Ivan Rodriguez, and such his 15 DRS indicates he was a serviceable option behind the plate for most of his career. In fact, his defensive numbers considerably improve when you plug him in a first base. Mauer in-terms of DRS is much closer to some of the best catchers of the modern age, keep in mind DRS is a newer statistic so some of the metrics on the greats are not available. However, to put into perspective Ivan Rodriquez DRS was 24, and not far behind is Mauer at 15. Among catchers who have played over 7,000 innings, Mauer ranks 9th in DRS. Mauer has three Gold Gloves to his name, but without a question will be his offensive numbers which allow him to enter the Hall.
While he may not stand out as a clear Hall of Fame candidate, his offensive prowess and serviceable defensive numbers should be enough to get him in. Mauer has been one of the best players since 2000, and the 2009 AL MVP has a strong resume to enter the Hall. He holds the records for highest single-season OBP at catcher, highest BA as a catcher, he's a 6-time All-Star, and holds an MLB record for most batting titles won by a catcher with 3. He won 5 silver sluggers and while he likely is not a first ballot selection, at the age of 34 appears to be a strong candidate to be the next primarily Minnesota Twin inducted into the Hall of Fame.