Playoff Perspective: Mauer vs Puckett

21 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Joe Mauer has taken a lot of abuse by many Twins fans since his 3-12 (with three singles, none terribly important) performance against the Yankees in the ALDS. At the time, I was frustrated by his lack of emotion, and the team’s lack of a big hit when needed.

Last night, Giants rookie catcher Buster Posey notched four hits and has really become a star in the playoffs. He has played pretty well, to be sure. And like Mauer (and Matt Wieters), there was no question when Posey came up that he would star.

I’ve received more text messages and Twitter messages and e-mails saying that Buster Posey is a better player than Joe Mauer and he can come through when it matters.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been tough at times on Mauer, wanting more, wanting to see emotion, hoping for something big. But taking a step back, he is the Twins most clutch hitter throughout his career with the Twins. He has come up with a ton of big hits when they matter. He has won games, and started huge rallies. He has also failed in a lot of situations. He’s about a career .325 hitter, and in big situations he is right around a .325 hitter. That still means he is going to fail over 60% of the time.

Michael Jordan is known for all the big shots he would hit at the end of games to give his team a win. We don’t mention all of the big shots he missed at the end of games.

What Joe Mauer needs is a defining playoff moment. Something that will let people forget the struggles. Something like a walk-off homer, or a bases-clearing double in the late innings of a playoff game.

If we know one thing, he will get plenty of opportunities in his time with the Twins and at some point, he’ll come through in a big way.

What he needs is a Kirby Puckett moment. Game 6 was Puckett’s time to shine in the World Series, wasn’t it? In 1987 against the Cardinals, he went 4-4 in game six. In 1991, he had the “carry the team on his back” game where he went 3-4 with stolen base, a triple and the walk-off, “we’ll see you tomorrow night” home run off of Charlie Liebrandt and the Braves.

But what if those series never got to six games? How would we view Puckett? Would he still be a Hall of Famer?

Here is a quick look at his four playoff series during his career, game by game:

1987 American League Championship Series versus the Detroit Tigers:

  • In Game 1, Puckett went 1-4.
  • In Game 2, Puckett went 0-4.
  • In Game 3, Puckett went 0-5.
    • Let’s stop there for a moment. Had that been the end of the series, he would have ended it 1-13 (.077).
  • In Game 4, he was 2-5 with a solo home run.
  • In Game 5, he went 2-6.

1987 World Series versus the St. Louis Cardinals:

  • In Game 1, Puckett went 1-5.
  • In Game 2, Puckett went 1-4.
  • In Game 3, Puckett went 1-3, with a walk and a triple.
  • In Game 4, Puckett went 1-4 and was hit by a pitch.
  • In Game 5, Puckett went 0-4.
    • So again, had the World Series ended in St. Louis after just five games, Puckett would have been 4-20 (.200) with one extra base hit.
  • Then came Game 6, back at the Metrodome, and he went 4-4 with a stolen base.
  • In Game 7, he was 2-4 with a double.

1991 American League Championship Series versus the Toronto Blue Jays:

  • In Game 1, Puckett was 0-4.
  • In Game 2, he went 1-3 with a walk.
    • I have to make my point quicker in this case because this was quite the series for Puckett. But through two games, he was 1-7 (.143).
  • In Game 3, Puckett went 2-5 with a double.
  • In Game 4, he went 3-4 with a home run.
  • In Game 5, he went 3-5 with a home run.

1991 World Series versus the Atlanta Braves:

  • In Game 1, Puckett went 0-4.
  • In Game 2, Puckett went 0-4.
  • In Game 3, Puckett was 1-4 with two walks and a solo home run.
  • In Game 4, Puckett was 1-4.
  • In Game 5, Puckett was 1-2 with A SACRIFICE BUNT!! Maybe someone can go back in Archives and find out what the likes of Patrick Reusse and Dan Barriero write about Puckett’s sacrifice bunt attempt in Game 5 of the World Series!!
    • So here we are, through five games of the World Series, and Kirby Puckett has gone just 3-18 (.167). How would Twitter be treating him!! Would Twins Nation have been calling for Jarvis Brown to be taking over centerfield duties!?
  • In Game 6, as we all recall as if it was yesterday, he went 3-4 with a stolen base, a sacrifice FLY, a triple and that walk-off home run to force a Game 7. Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Mr. Puckett.
  • In Game 7, he went 0-3 with a walk in the Twins 1-0, 10 inning win.

As I’ve said, I have no problem with people being disappointed with the playoff production of Joe Mauer to this point in his career. I have been greatly disappointed. But Puckett didn’t play Best of 5 series. Puckett got to play more than three games. Why? Because other guys stepped up when Puckett had an off game. People forget, these games are magnified, but they are the same game as the regular season games. You’re not going to  get two hits every single game. You are going to have 0-fers. Players can be in slumps.

So far, the playoffs have not been Joe Mauer’s time. But when you are that good of a hitter, it really is just a matter of time before it evens out. As long as Ron Gardenhire is at the helm, the Twins will find themselves in the postseason frequently, and at some point, Mauer will have his One Shining Moment too. People can talk about the $184 million contract that kicks in in 2011, but that doesn’t change the game, and thankfully, it won’t change Joe Mauer or his approach at the plate. That approach at the plate is what has made him one of baseball’s best players, and it is what will make him a Hall of Famer!

Feel free to Discuss and Comment here.

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15 Responses to “Playoff Perspective: Mauer vs Puckett”

  1. MnTwinFanInMo October 21, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Excellent reminder that baseball is far more of a game comprised of failure than it is success.

  2. Ben October 21, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    Don’t mention Mauer and Puckett in the same breath when it comes to the postseason. You can go ahead with all the what if’s you want but the bottom line is Puckett came up with some big time performances in the postseason which is something Mauer has yet to do.

    • Kunza October 21, 2010 at 9:27 am #

      Agree! Puckett is 100 times the player Mauer is right now. Heart. Passion. Desire. Underpaid. Take a day off? Kirby had “it”. He wouldn’t take no for answer. Teams feared him when he was at the plate. He would take you yard or hit a pitch into the gap.

      Mauer is soft spoken, not a leader, overpaid. Mauer takes more days off than Nick Punto. Teams fear Mauer because he might “rope” one to right field. Ooooh… dangerous he is!!!

      • gobbledy October 21, 2010 at 10:54 am #

        everytime i see these mauer/puckett comments i think how stupid it is. mauer is a very good player may over time make the hof but we have never seen a “jump on my back” mauer. until such time as he shows he is the man and the leader of this team and the team makes a run in the playoffs stop making these comments.
        i think this to be true, joe mauer has never played in a playoff win. that doesn’t make it his fault but his record is weak at this point.

  3. TB October 21, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    More emotion? What is this, a therapy session? I believe it was Tom Kelly who used to speak of the importance of keeping an even keel…

    • Kunza October 21, 2010 at 10:53 am #

      You must not have watched the Twins play in the playoffs the last few years. No emotion. No leader.

  4. mike wants wins October 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    SEth, didn’t Mauer admit he was pressing earlier this yeat because of the contract? If so, then yes, it did effect him.

    And, that contract will likely keep the Twins from having other great players around him consistently, so he’ll have to carry the team more (as a singles and doubles hitter, that’s tough, but for $23MM per year, you need to do it).

  5. Eric B. B. October 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Game 5 in 1991 (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ATL/ATL199110240.shtml) was a blowout. I’m sure they didn’t really care about Puckett bunting.

  6. Mark October 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm #

    Here is the problem, pure and simple: The Yankees are a much better team than the Twins.

    A position by position analysis, or a player by player analysis, it is the Yankees all the way. The only positional “match-ups” favoring the Twins would be catcher (Mauer over Posada), maybe 1B with Morneau over Texaira, and LF Delmon Young over Gardener. But even then, the Yankees have solid players at these “weak” positions relative to the Twins.

    And at the other positions the Yankees are clearly superior to the Twins: Jeter vs Hardy, Cano vs Hudson, ARod vs. Valencia.

    The only way possible for the Twins to beat such a team is to get the $15-25 million ace pitcher and take a game from them at the beginning.

    • Ed Bast October 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

      Mark, this is just another excuse for this club, and the last thing they need is another one of those. Do the positional comparison of the Yankees to the Rangers. Hell, compare the Rangers to the Twins. This is not an excuse; in the playoffs, the theoretical “better team” doesn’t necessarily win.

      Want more proof? During Gardy’s tenure, the Yankees have won exactly 3 playoff series against teams other than the Twins.

      Quit making excuses. The Twins choked, they failed, they embarrassed yet again. No excuses.

  7. SoCalTwinsfan October 21, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    Could you imagine how fans would feel about Mauer if he backed up an MVP season by hitting .417/.500/.500 in a series against the Yankees? Oh wait. He did! And he even lost a base on Cuzzi’s blown call. He would have had a leadoff double in a tied extra-inning game in New York and would have scored the go-ahead run on the subsequent singles. And we really have no idea how much his knee was hurting him this season. At the least, he had a week off and didn’t get many at-bats to get prepared for the playoffs.

    • Kunza October 21, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

      Really? How about his 2006 stats?

      .182/.250/.182

      Or how about his 2010 stats?

      .250/.308/.250

      Those numbers are horrible.

      Overall his numbers (even with a good series last year that only included 1 double, by the way)

      .286/.359/.314

      Do you know what Nick Punto’s career playoff starts are?
      .286/.375/.333

      You can’t tell Mauer was clutch!

  8. Jack Steal October 21, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    Seth,

    Great analysis!!! Mauer has now played in three series and done absolutely nothing. Puckett only made the playoffs twice and did absolutely everything the team needed him to do to win. Does Mauer take the playoffs for granted because if he does he is just plain wrong? The Twins might not make it back to the playoffs for the next five years because of the upcoming roster shakeup. He is going to wish he would have done more to help the team.

  9. Ben November 8, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    Whenever I hear someone talk about clutch hitting like it’s an actual skill that exists, I want to grab them, shake them violently, and slap the stupid out of them.

  10. Rhubarb_Runner November 8, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    The current plethora of LH hitters in the Twins lineup make it pretty tough for Mauer to face his share of RH pitchers. Kirby had Hrbek et. al. to keep the opposing starters honest, plus a longer series, so that he didn’t face nasty righties for 2/3 of the series, like Mauer vs. lefties. I’d be willing to bet that the handness and the level of pitching that Kirby faced was much weaker than the pitchers Mauer faced.

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