Mauer for MVP

1926 – Bob O’Farrell

1928, 34 – Mickey Cochrane

1935 – Gabby Hartnett

1938 – Ernie Lombardi

1951, 53, 55 – Roy Campanella

1951, 54, 55 – Yogi Berra

1963 – Elston Howard

1970, 72 – Johnny Bench

1976 – Thurman Munson

1999 – Ivan Rodriguez

This is the list of catchers that have won MVP awards.  Should Joe Mauer be added to this list?  First, notice how illustrious this list truly is.  Only three non-hall of famers have won an MVP while catching.  (Ivan Rodriguez, while still active, does not count.)  But this bit of historical setting is irrelevant to the discussion at hand, and that fact is why Joe Mauer should win the MVP.

His primary rivals, at the moment, are Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and possibly Miguel Cabrera.  Let us start by eliminating Teixeira and Cabrera from the discussion.  Mauer is, as of 9/15, hitting .371 with a .436 OBP and a .607 slugging percentage.  Those lead the American League, and his batting average is tops in the majors.  His OBP and SLG trail only Albert Pujols.  Given that Teixeira and Cabrera are both primarily power hitters, the fact that they trail Mauer in slugging percentage (Teixeira, .551, and Cabrera, .553) should rule them out of the race.  Second, both play less difficult positions, giving Mauer an additional advantage.  However, both are on first place teams, a point to which we will return later.

Derek Jeter is a different case.  Jeter is not a power hitter, and he should be expected to trail Mauer in the power stats, as he does.  Unfortunately for Jeter, he trails Mauer in all of the other rate stats as well.  Jeter leads Mauer in stolen bases, runs, hits, and nothing else.  Jeter’s superior run totals come from playing on a superior team and playing more games.  At this point, it seems worth noting that no catcher has ever led either league in runs scored, a point surely contingent on the severe beating that catchers take and the subsequent fewer number of games they play.  Before we get too excited about Jeter’s lead in runs scored, he does not even lead the Yankees.  At the moment, Johnny Damon has scored 102 runs, to Jeter’s 101.

Given Mauer’s statistical superiority, why would anyone vote for any other player?  Because the Twins will not make the playoffs.  The Twins will almost certainly lose out to the Tigers for the Central Division title, while Cabrera’s Tigers and the Yankees of Jeter and Teixeira will likely proceed to the postseason.  MVP winners are almost always on teams that make the postseason.  Should that be the case?  No.  Given the extent of Mauer’s statistical prowess, no player in the American League has been more valuable to his team.  While his team is not as good as several others, he is nonetheless the single most valuable player.

Finally, a question about history.  Derek Jeter recently passed Luis Aparicio to become the all-time leader in hits among shortstops.  He followed that up by becoming the Yankees all-time hits leader, surpassing Lou Gehrig.  These are both tremendous accomplishments, proof that Jeter is an outstanding player that will go down as one of the five best shortstops to ever live and one of the ten best Yankees ever.  Neither should earn him an MVP.  Baseball has one career honor, the Hall of Fame.  Five years after his retirement, Jeter will be elected with ease.  The MVP, in contrast, rewards superior achievement in a single season.  That award belongs to Joe Mauer.

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3 Comments on “Mauer for MVP”

  1. verdun Says:

    Top 5 shortsop for Jeter? Maybe. I got Wagner, Ripken, Yount, Vaughan, and Banks. Who you got?

  2. sportsphd Says:

    Wagner Ripken, Vaughan, Banks, Jeter. I feel bad about leaving out Joe Cronin, and it won’t take a lot to talk me into Jeter ahead of Banks. Both Yount and Banks spend so little time at short that it hurts my consideration of them as shortstops.

  3. Good piece – as you saw on my Subway Squawkers blog, we share the samme sentiments.

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