Friday, May 27, 2011

Three-Bagger: Posey, Home Cooking & Killer

* San Francisco's Buster Posey was crushed in a home plate collision on Wednesday night, and yesterday it was revealed that the catcher sustained a broken bone and sprained ligaments in his leg. It's a very sad situation for the 24-year-old star, who will miss the rest of the season and face a difficult rehab.

This is the second time in the past year we've seen a top young catcher suffer a catastrophic leg injury in a collision (last year Carlos Santana of the Indians, himself 24, busted his knee up on a similar play). It's also another tally against the logic of keeping Joe Mauer at catcher. On top of the exerting routine for his already battered legs, Mauer is at increased risk for this type of mishap as long as he's behind the plate.

While he's been able to avoid any major incidents up to this point in his career, Mauer has hung in there and taken his hits. Disastrous situations like the ones experienced by Santana and Posey have to weigh on the minds of Twins brass as they contemplate their $184 million investment.

* After falling to the Mariners 3-0 on Wednesday afternoon, the Twins dropped to 5-13 at Target Field this season. They've been outscored by 49 runs in 18 home games. Many have pointed to the team's home-heavy remaining schedule as a beacon of light, but the team has actually played worse in front of their own fans than on the road.

This is a shocking development for a franchise that has historically excelled at home . The Twins were notorious for their unique advantage in the Metrodome years and they carried that right over to Target Field last year, posting the league's best home record at 53-28.

You have to go back to the year 2000 to find the last time the Twins were under .500 at home. That team failed to win 70 games.

* The Twins haven't hit many home runs at Target Field this year, but last night's tribute to Harmon Killebrew certainly qualifies as one. Kudos to the organization for a classy memorial commemorating the man who embodies Twins history. Killebrew retired 10 years before I was born and I never had the chance to meet him, but his reputation speaks for itself. I can honestly say I don't think I've ever heard a negative thing about him from anyone who encountered him. That's pretty rare.

Killebrew is a big reason why, even in these darkest of times, I am proud to call myself a Twins fan. May he rest in peace.


cy1time said...

While the Twins have disappointed, Nick, you are still consistently crushing it. I saw the Posey play, listened to his agent whine, listened to the talking heads talk about whether or not we should have a rule change, and not once did I think about Santana's injury last year or how it related to the Mauer position situation. I was never a catcher, and I don't know what technique a catcher should use in that situation, but it seemed to me that he was completely blocking the plate before he had the ball. In other words, he was asking for it, and Cousins brought it. Case closed, no rule changes, get on with life. If it had been Butera instead of Posey, nobody would have thought twice about it. Then again, there might have been a few Twins fans that wouldn't mind if Butera's bat was sidelined for the rest of the year.

Anonymous said...

If anyone thinks The Pillow would block the plate on a close play like Posey did they don't know Joe Mauer. Catcher might be Joe's safest position. We should find out in August when he guts out this "general soreness" and botghers to return to the team.

Displaced Twins Fan said...

Great post Nick, and I agree with cy1time that you are knockin 'em out of the park.

However, I am tired of listening to the Posey/Mauer position change argument. I have said before that I firmly believe that the bulk of Mauer's value comes from the fact that he is a catcher. He has the ability to impact the game on all three levels: pitching, defense, and offense. That is why he is worth $184 million. If you move him to the outfield, first base, whatever - you have just taken away his value. While preserving him for the length of the contract, you will be settling for a $184 million position player who will give you above average offense. Pardon me, but above average is not worth $184 million. The fact that you get such production from behind the plate, with superb management of the pitching staff and great defense IS worth $184 million. Let's not forget that the hometown backstop would fight you tooth and nail if you tried to move him - why? Because he knows, just as Posey knows, that the catcher is arguably the most important position on the field. Is it a risk? Absolutely, I will not argue that. Why do you think you don't see long term deals for catchers? But the potential for reward is so much higher with Mauer behind the plate. Move him, and you preserve his offensive ability but you will substitute his command of the game and management of the pitching staff for a slow footed, below average outfielder.

Displaced Twins Fan said...

As an added note: I was at the Twins/Diamondbacks series last week and the Killebrew family was present. The entire stadium rose to their feet and applauded when they played the memorial video on the big screen. Only a class act would get that kind of response from another team and its fans - it was wonderful to see and I was proud to be there.

BuddyG said...

A pretty genuine question related to Posey's injury...
How come there is an assumption in news reports that the Giants will at least *try* to find a new replacement catcher after losing Posey, while I can't recall that kind of discussion taking place when Mauer went down (or was hurting throughout spring training).

Is it simply because Posey is out for a much longer period of time or is this something a little more complex, like...
1. Twins gave up on the season early this year.
2. Twins brass genuinely thought Butera and the motley crowd of AAAA backstop vets in AAA would be good enough for a long term (but not full season) replacement duty.
3. Twins did not have a budget for *any* additional salary costs at the catcher slot.
4. The Twins F.O. was simply too lazy or uncreative/stupid to bother to look for better options.
5. The Twins F.O. tried very hard to find better catcher replacement options, but they were so secretive that even Bill Smith knew nothing about it.

Matt said...

My dad genuinely shed tears while watching the ceremony on TV. Very touching for Twins fans old and young.
RIP Killer!
The fact that you get such production from behind the plate, with superb management of the pitching staff and great defense IS worth $184 million.
You're correct. But sitting out with "soreness" (something else HAS to be going on here, this length of time he's been out is getting nutty) or busted knees for 20, 30, 40, 80 games isn't worth anywhere close to that kind of cash.
My point is, he's worth more money on the field than off, no matter which type of glove he dons.

Nick N. said...

I have said before that I firmly believe that the bulk of Mauer's value comes from the fact that he is a catcher. He has the ability to impact the game on all three levels: pitching, defense, and offense. That is why he is worth $184 million.

I agree. If he could stay healthy while playing catcher that's obviously the ideal position for him. Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly clear that he can't stay healthy, though, and exposing his already battered body to the risk of taking a hit like the one Posey did borders on irresponsible. There's too much money invested, and this team is too limited without his bat in the mix.

USAFChief said...

The argument that Mauer is "worth" his salary only if he plays catcher is one of those arguments that only makes sense if you're fooled by the nonsense coming from Fangraphs.

TT said...

It looks to me like Mauer would be a liability defensively anywhere but catcher. If they want a chance at winning a world series, they leave Mauer at catcher. If they want to play if safe, they move him to the outfield and accept the fact that he is getting paid for his popularity, not his performance.

Anonymous said...

I don't even see how you can debate any more that Mauer needs to move to another position. With his athletic ability and throwing arm I think he could be a gold glove caliber Right Fielder. If he can hit .365 with 28HR's playing a partial season at catcher, what would he do as an every day player? I always think the best comparison is Dale Murphy who played for the Braves in the 80's. He moved to centerfield and excelled there for several seasons - and he wasn't Joe Mauer.

TT said...

"(Murphy) moved to centerfield and excelled there for several seasons - and he wasn't Joe Mauer."

No, he wasn't. Murphy was never a full time major league catcher and caught 85 games total in the major leagues. He had played more than twice as many games at first base than he had at catcher when he moved to the outfield.

Murphy as a lousy catcher, but he had the tools to win a gold glove as in center field. He was far more "athletic" than Mauer, stealing 30 bases one year. The only tool Mauer has that would help him in the outfield is his arm. His defense is going to be a liability anywhere but DH or maybe 1B.

USAFChief said...

He was far more "athletic" than Mauer

Mauer was the national HS football player of the year, and had a scholarship to play QB for a premier football program. He was an accomplished HS basketball player. He is, by all reports, pretty much a natural at any athletic competition he chooses to try.

I'm not suggesting Mauer play CF, but that all sounds pretty athletic to me. Certainly athletic enough to be an average corner OFer, and it's probable that he could learn to play 3b as well, athough fielding ground balls is much tougher than fielding fly balls, so that's something that would have to be experimented with, and learned over an offseason at least.

The time to do that is now, before those legs lose whatever athleticism is left in them.

Anonymous said...

Dale Murphy was not more athletic than Joe Mauer. He was a little faster but he was a .265 career hitter. The point is that he was a taller player who moved to save his career. Lots of catchers have moved to extend their careers and lots of RIght Fielders have been excellent fielders without being the fleetest of foot. E.g. Dwight Evans. Mauer has all the ability to be a very effective outfielder.