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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Joe Mauer and Runners in Scoring Position

Though he had 2 hits last night, Joe Mauer came up
short when it counted the most.
Regardless of what some people in Twins Territory might think, the fact of the matter is that Joe Mauer has been very solid in his career when there are runners in scoring position. You might even call him "clutch," if you are one who believes that such a thing as clutch hitting exists. For his career, Mauer is a .323 hitter. When there are runners in scoring position, he's a .339 hitter. When there are runners in scoring position and 2 outs, Mauer becomes a .348 hitter. There's data from 2004-2012 backing those stats up, so it's anything but a small sample size at this point.

Thus far in 2012, Mauer is batting .313, with 1 home run and 9 RBIs. He has played in every game this season, which is a great sign. It's an even better sign that he's playing, and being productive. Still, though, it's easy to remember a few occasions during the first month of 2012 where Mauer failed to get a runner home from third with less than two outs. One incident, of course, was last night, following Jamey Carroll's leadoff triple in the bottom of the 8th inning. The game was tied at 5, and I thought the Twins were going to win it. After working the count to 3-and-2, Mauer helplessly flailed at the next pitch and bounced out weakly to first base. I'm not sure how he didn't break his bat or throw his helmet in the dugout in disgust. But it had to be frustrating. The other game that comes to mind was the Twins' great come-from-behind victory over the Angels a couple weeks ago at Target Field, when both Mauer and Morneau failed to get a runner on third home. The Twins won that game, though, and Mauer and Morneau both homered, so presumably all was forgiven.

But still -- in this short sample size of April, 2012, doesn't it feel like Mauer has stranded a higher-than-normal percentage of runners in scoring position? After all, over the past 5 games, the team is batting .170 (8-for-47) with runners in scoring position. Well, it turns out that Mauer is consistent -- even this early in the season -- in that his average with runners in scoring position is higher than his batting average. He's batting .412 (7-for-17) with runners in scoring position this season, and an even .400 (2-for-5) with runners in scoring position and two outs. Small sample size, yes, but given the several years of career data, it seems that Mauer is doing what he always has done: perform better when it matters most. It's interesting, though, because I went to bed thinking about this question, and fully expected that his average with runners in scoring position would be very low this season. It's funny what your brain focuses on. Still, though, the Twins need Mauer to be consistently great when runners are on, and he wasn't last night. It cost them a run, and possibly the game. Despite having 2 hits and a walk before the failed 8th inning at-bat, hopefully Mauer will come back with a chip on his shoulder tonight.

A quick New Britain Rock Cats update. In chilly conditions last night, the Rock Cats lost the series opener to the Portland Sea Dogs 5-3, despite outhitting Portland 10-8 and being the recipient of 2 Sea Dogs errors. Starter Steve Hirschfeld took his first loss of the season -- in fact, the first loss of the season for a New Britain starter. He went 5 and 2/3 innings, gave up 5 earned runs on 5 hits, walked 3 and struck out 3. He's 2-1 on the season now, and his ERA stands at 2.78. Blake Martin, David Bromberg and Luis Perdomo were almost perfect out of the bullpen, which is a good sign. The trio allowed no hits, walked 3 and struck out two. On offense, Evan Bigley and Estarlin De Los Santos each had 2 hits, and Chris Herrmann, Aaron Hicks, Deibinson Romero, Pedro Florimon, Nathan Hanson and Mark Dolenc all tallied 1 hit. Hanson, who had a double, drove in 2 runs, and Romero was responsible for the other RBI with a sacrifice fly. Much like their parent club, the Rock Cats scuffled with runners in scoring position, going 2-for-12. They will be back in action tonight. I plan to attend the game, so expect a better re-cap and some pictures tomorrow.

Finally, it was also announced that the Rock Cats placed starter Alex Wimmers on the disabled list with a right elbow strain. When I heard the announcement on AM radio, I believe the organization referred to the 7 day disabled list. The DL trip is no surprise, as Wimmers has not pitched since April 9. Here is the press release. Hopefully it's just a minor strain, and he has a speedy recovery.

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