Thursday, April 14, 2011

Joe Mauer Headed To DL

When word came out that Joe Mauer was going to be taking his second day off in a row, it perked the curiosity of many of my fellow writers. Mauer getting games off is nothing new - every catcher gets games off. But it's quite rare that he gets two of in a row, even with Carl Pavano scheduled to pitch (Pavano usually is caught by Drew Butera).

When asked about the abscence during pregame interviews Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire would only say that Mauer was, "sore," and declined to offer any other details beyond that, saying only that they'd, "re-evaluate him tomorrow."

As it turns out, it wouldn't take that that long.

Instead word came out immediately after the game that the Twins had placed Mauer on the 15-day disabled list with what is called bilateral leg weakness. Sports Illustrated's Will Carroll opined after the game that it could be related to Mauer's 2009 sacroiliac joint injury. It's possible that his issues with the SI joint could be related to his current issues. Or they could be completely unrelated.

For more information regarding the injury itself, I would recommend reading Carroll's most recent "Under The Knife" post which is headlined by the Mauer injury. I'll leave that to the experts.

As for how the injury effects what happens on the field however, that's more in my wheelhouse.

It's probably safe to start by saying that Mauer going down is essentially as bad an injury as there can be in baseball. That's true to some extent for great players at any position of course, but in the rare instance that you have a great hitting catcher, the problems are magnified because you can't find someone who can come anywhere close to replacing that lost production.

When the Twins lost Morneau in 2010 for example, they were simply able to get more at-bats for Jim Thome by shifting players around. The loss was mitigated/negated because first basemen are relatively easy to replaced, and the team could simply give more at-bats to Thome with Jason Kubel now in a full time fielding position.

In Mauer's case however, there are simply very few players who could step into his spot and produce like he can. The Twins at one point had options that could've helped mitigate such a loss like Wilson Ramos or Jose Morales. However the team traded Ramos for Matt Capps, and then were essentially forced to deal the out of options Morales due to a desire to keep Butera.

So now they will have to attempt to replace Mauer's career .880 OPS bat with Butera's - and they're likely to suffer a near 250 point OPS loss in that swap.

It's a massive blow to a team that's scuffling along with just three wins, and who's offense already ranks dead last in runs scored.

In Mauer's absence the Twins have called up Steve Holm from AAA who they brought in as a Minor League free agent this past off season. The 32 year old Holm has seen brief time with the Giants in the past, collecting just over 100 plate appearances. A career .242 hitter in the minors with a .716 OPS, Holm is better known for his defense but will still serve as the backup to Butera.

The Twins are off to a bad start, especially on offense, but it's extremely early. It's important to remember that this is essentially the exact same team that scored the 5th most runs in baseball in 2010 despite missing Morneau for half the year and suffering regression from numerous players. They're going to hit.

Still, if the Twins are running out the combination of Butera and Holm for too long - say, more than 30 days - the loss of Mauer could put their season in real jeopardy.

Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both,, and He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.

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