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Joe Mauer, one ink-stained fan’s appreciation

Joe Mauer, one fan’s appreciation
By Eric Black

Chalk this confession up to the release of tension after too many months of Franken/Coleman watching, but your humble ink-strained wretch has become — at least during the pendency of my son’s adolescence — embarrassingly devoted to our plucky Minnesota Twins. I promise not to write about baseball very often. Others do it better. But while awaiting the final outcome of the one obsession (Cole/Frank), I developed a balancing obsession with the incredible year that hometown hero and pretty darn good role model Joe Mauer has been having.

I’ve been waiting for Mr. Mauer to acquire enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, knowing that as soon as he does, he will immediately stand atop the batting average leaders — and, unless he falls completely apart and Mr. Ichiro Suzuki goes completely nuts — by a margin of more than 20 and possibly as much as 30 points.

Perhaps you knew that. Perhaps, if you are almost as obsessed as I, you know that this moment will occur within the next couple of days, assuming that Mr. Mauer, as expected, fully participates in the series versus the Hated New York Yankees (in Boston, where I come from, “Hated” is a semi-official part of that particular organization’s name).

But unless you are about as obsessed as I am, I’m guessing it has not been pointed out to you that on that day, when Mr. Mauer’s seasonal stats are listed with the league leaders, he will lead the American League not only in Batting Average, but also in On-Base Average (which takes account of his skill at drawing walks as well) and Slugging Percentage (which takes account of the considerable upsurge in Mr. Mauer’s power hitting so far this year) and also OPS (on-base-plus slugging is the baseball connoisseur’s currently fashionable best single statistic for comparing overall offensive excellence, as it takes into account hits, walks and power all at once). Also (I could be wrong on this because I don’t know a site that tracks it and had to calculate it myself, but it was a labor of love) Mauer will be leading the league in Number of Pitches per Plate Appearance. This last is a measure of Mr. Mauer’s skill at laying off swinging at bad pitches and therefore helping to tire out the opposing pitcher and although it is hopelessly obscure, is nonetheless something true obsessives wants to take into account in assessing the total impact of a batter. On top of everything else Mauer is tied with a few others for the league lead in Not Being a Jerk, at least in public (although the non-jerk routine does lead to boring, predictable interviews).

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I’ll defer to the excellent Aaron Gleeman, the best of Twins analysts, whose work often appears on MinnPost, on just how unusual it is for any one player to lead the league in so many categories that are supposed to measure so many different offensive skills. An analsysis of the categories in which the excellent Mr. Albert Pujols is leading the National League would also be jaw-dropping. But, and I learned this from Gleeman, in Mauer’s case it is definitely more amazing that it’s being done by a catcher.

Okay, back to regular programming. I have nothing to add about why Sarah Palin quit her day job. But this was more fun.