An ode to FireJoeMorgan.com…

…At the expense of Kelly Thesier at MLB.com

I’m quite sure no one has ever frequented the now-defunct website www.firejoemorgan.com, but in it’s heyday it was the best website in the universe. However, many of you might know one of the authors of the site, Ken Tremendous, as being the pseudonym for ‘The Office’ and ‘Parks and Recreation’ writer/producer Michael Schur. Maybe of more importance, Schur also played Mose Schrute, Dwight’s beet farming cousin.

Anyways, over at FireJoeMorgan they would routinely dissect baseball articles written by such luminaries as Bill Plaschke and Richard Justice, as well as rip apart anything that would come out of Joe Morgan’s mouth, both on-air and during his now infamous Joe Chats on ESPN.com. It was fucking awesome. You can read  the archives all you want.

On to this ridiculous article over at mlb.com…

The problem with delivering a season like Joe Mauer did in 2009, when he batted .365 with a career-high 28 home runs while leading the Majors in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, is that expectations are raised.

Expectations? Maybe. I’m not quite sure anyone thought Joe Mauer would top his 1.031 OPS. Most smart baseball minds realized it was a pretty luck-driven, anomaly of a year, especially for Mauer’s power. We’ll touch on that.

 …there are many questions being asked about what might be wrong with the reigning American League MVP. According to his manager Ron Gardenhire, the answer is nothing.

You, Mr.Gardenhire, are correct. There is nothing wrong with Joe Mauer. There is only statistical,  luck-based corrections. Now if only the article ended here, I wouldn’t have to spend all this time talking about it.

When Mauer returned from a back injury that kept him out for all of April last season, he got off to a very hot start. It’s the kind of start that certainly would seem difficult to replicate, and that’s been the case so far this year for Mauer.

Well, here is one good reason why Joe Mauer is having a down year. Unfortunately for us, neither Kelly Thesier, or any of the Twins coaching staff have any real idea WHY Joe Mauer is having trouble replicating his 2009 MVP season. Don’t fret TCM readers, the only thing Warbucks enjoys more than drop-kicking premature babies is advanced baseball statistics.

So what has been the reason that Mauer’s numbers so far this season have gone down so drastically?

I’m glad you asked that question, Ms. Thesier. But, I don’t want to impede on your article, so why don’t we give others a crack at figuring out what’s wrong with Joe Mauer, shall we?

Mauer’s lack of power so far this season seems to be the most glaring difference from a year ago, as witnessed by his decrease in slugging percentage.

Well, a decrease in slugging percentage isn’t the REASON for his lack of power, that’s more of a correlation than a causation. If you aren’t hitting home runs, your slugging percentage will go down. That isn’t very insightful, Kelly.

Perhaps a reason for that is the change in Mauer’s home ballpark. With the Twins’ move into Target Field, all of the club’s players have needed to adapt to the new dimensions and particularly the fact that the ball isn’t traveling as well to the gaps like it did at the Metrodome.

Well, this just tickles my fancy. Try googling Park Factors, just try it. Don’t want to? Okay, I’ll do it.

The Metrodome ranked DEAD LAST in offensive production. That means it was completely and totally pitching friendly, behind even Petco Park and Oakland Coliseum. So far in 2010, Target Field’s inaugural season, it ranks 18thin park factor, showing slight favoritism to pitchers. I don’t think that’s why Mauer is struggling to hit home runs. Let’s see if Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra has any idea…

He’s still getting used to the ballpark, “Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra said of Mauer. “The Metrodome was very comfortable for him. He trusted the backdrop and all that stuff. He needs to learn to trust the new ballpark and what he can do with it. It’s going to take a little while, maybe a little longer than he thought, to figure it out.”

Interesting concept, Vavra suggests that Mauer isn’t seeing the ball as well, therefore can’t stroke the ball as much as he’d like. Lucky for us there’s two very useful statistics to measure Mauer’s ability to see the ball and make contact.

Mauer’s eye level (his ability to differentiate between balls and strikes) in 2010 is 1.20. This is extremely elite. Mauer’s eye levels the passed three years were as follows: 1.12, 1.68, 1.21. So, it looks like Joe Mauer’s is seeing the ball just fine. (On a side note, a 1.68 eye level is FUCKING RIDICULOUS). Maybe Joe Mauer is seeing the ball well, but is having trouble making contact? So what is Joe Mauer’s contact percentage in 2010? 90%. That’s just fine.

Thesier goes on to quote Mauer’s line drive percentage (which I dig) and his habit of swinging at more balls outside of the strike zone (up from 20.4 to 23.6 this year). Thesier also interviews Justin Morneau, as well as Vavra, and they both seem to skim the surface of Mauer not having balls drop in for hits. Although this has NOTHING to do with his lack of home runs, it would have been nice if Thesier touched on his BABIP (batting average on balls in play). Last year, when Mauer hit .365 his BABIP was .373. That is amazingly absurd. This year it’s down to .320, which falls more in line with 3-year average.

Still, no one touches on the real reason why Joe Mauer hasn’t been hitting any home runs: His hr/fb% was crazy inflated last year.  In his previous 4 seasons, before his 2009 campaign, his home run-to-fly ball percentage was 9%, 11%, 7% and 7%. His home run totals for those 4 seasons were 9, 13, 7 and 9, respectively. What was Joe Mauer’s hr/fb % in 2009 when he hit 28 home runs? TWENTY PERCENT.

Batters, as a whole, tend to regress to their 3-year mean levels. So, is it any surprise Mauer’s percentage this year is below 10%? Not at all.

There’s your reason, Kelly Thesier. An inflated home run to fly ball percentage.

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