Monday, September 3, 2007

Mauer to stop catching? Ugh.

More calls for Mauer to move
Each injury has same result: Position change

By Bullpen Catcher

Joey Mauer's latest leg injury (this one a hamstring issue) has everyone coming out of the woodwork to tell us Mauer needs to switch to third base. Even the honorable Jim Souhan shot this out today.

Most of these folks argue Mauer's bat is too potent to miss from the lineup due to the horrors of playing catcher. Some talk of Mauer's now 6-foot-6 frame being way to lanky to bend down. There are arguments the Twins need a solid third baseman more than they need a solid catcher.

They're wrong. For now.

What indication does anyone have that Mauer would be any good at third? Third base, from experience, is probably the toughest position next to catcher on the field. But it's different from catching. Third basemen are constantly throwing from odd angles and deep spots, the throw is a long one and an overly zealous arm can give up more bases quickly. The balls coming off bats when Boofie is pitching can be near deadly. It's not a paradise. It's not simple. Plus, guess what you need to do at third? That's right, crouch and bend down.

If Mauer were to move, third is not the place. Think about how crappy Michael Cuddyer fared at the plate when he tried to play there. He obviously was all messed up, because the bottom line is he's been consistent at the plate for the Twins. The Nina, The Punto and The Santa Maria played well at third, but he is one of the best fielders in the American League. Problem with Punto: he hits like my niece.

Is Mauer going to be another Punto? There's no sign of that in him. Would he be another Cuddyer (or, for a further statement of such difficulties, another Alex Rodriguez -- look at his stats the first year he played third)? Most likely.

Oh, I forgot. Who will play catcher for this team if Mauer moves to third? Redmond? Um, folks, he's nearing 40. He's been a backup for years because that's his role (see Punto, Nick, for further evidence of a fill-in player at full time).

I'll give you this: Mauer can't catch forever. The knee surgery and the other leg injuries and just being too darn tall will take its toll. He's not a third baseman, though. He has three options in my mind: first base, right field and left field. Of those, right field seems most agreeable. Good right fielders don't need to be too mobile, they should have cannons for arms, they typically are the better hitters in the lineup. Cuddyer has been in the outfield -- and done well for the Twins -- and should be able to adjust to left field. First base is just too much Justin Morneau's for Mauer to consider, but maybe Mauer could take a few ground balls there later.

Jason Kubel, the consummate left fielder of the future for the Twins, would fetch a nice player in return if traded. This leaves the Twins looking for a catcher and third baseman in free agency.

1 comment:

Robert said...

That was a poor arguement. History has shown that when a player moves from C to 3rd their bat improves (Joe Torre for one). Mauer has a great arm and a quickness that would lend to good defense at 3rd. Behind the plate, even when healthy Mauer plays only 2/3 of the games. In reality, with injuries, he plays about half. Finding any way to get the former batting champ more at bats is a GOOD thing. It would probably take him some time to learn, but given his athletic ability (recruited by Fl State for football), he will be able to do just fine.