Where does Mauer’s 2009 season stand among Twins greats?

With all of the excitement of the Twins’ late season comeback to overtake the Tigers, it has been easy to overlook the historic nature of the season that Joe Mauer posted in 2009. There will certainly be more time for this later, after what hopefully becomes a deep run into the playoffs, but it is worth taking an initial look at some numbers.

Twins single-season VORP leaders (taken partially from SBG’s work):
1. Chuck Knoblauch 1996 – 99.3
2. Rod Carew 1977 – 92.4
3. Joe Mauer 2009 – 91.0
4. Rod Carew 1974 – 75.4
5. Harmon Killebrew 1969 – 75.2
6. Kirby Puckett 1988 – 75.1

Mauer is in good company in a number that only measures offense. Knoblauch’s 1996 campaign was off the charts, and I still don’t think that he gets the credit for just how dominant he was that season (part of the reason, of course, is what happened after). One would guess that this list would be littered with Carews, Killebrews, and Pucketts. Now, some more traditional numbers:

OBP
1. Carew 1977 .449
2. Knoblauch 1996 .448
3. Mauer 2009 .444

SLG
1. Killebrew 1961 .606
2. Mauer 2009 .587
3. Killebrew 1969 .584

So not only is Mauer right up there with the two seasons you would expect on the OBP list, he is right up there in the all time great slugging seasons, eclipsed only by some guy named Killebrew. Interesting…

OPS
1. Mauer 2009 1.031
2. Carew 1977 1.019
3. Killebrew 1961 1.012
4. Killebrew 1969 1.011

I wasn’t aware that Joe Mauer’s 2009 season was the top OPS season in Twins history. I guess you won’t hear that from Dick and Bert. What about if you adjust those numbers relative to context.

Adjusted OPS+
1. Carew 1977 178
2t. Mauer 2009 177
2t. Killebrew 1969 177

Just about indistinguishable from the two seasons that are largely considered the best in Twins history.

So it is safe to say, then, that Joe Mauer’s 2009 season ranks right up there with the greatest in Twins history. Among the four that popped up in most of the lists above (Killer 1969, Carew 1977, Knoblauch 1996, Mauer 2009), Mauer had the fewest plate appearances, 88 fewer than the next closest due to missing the month of May:

PA
Killebrew 1960 709
Knoblauch 1996 701
Carew 1977 694
Mauer 2009 606

Some of Mauer’s counting stats, including VORP, are going to look a little less impressive due to the time off. Still, he stacks up favorably in many of those categories.

Still, none of the stats above take defensive value into account. Given that Mauer plays the most demanding position on the defensive spectrum, you would think that accounting for defense might put him over the top. WARP3 does account for defense (flawed as is might be):

WARP3
Killebrew 1969 8.7
Carew 1977 9.4
Puckett 1988 8.9
Knoblauch 1996 9.9
Mauer 2009 10.5

It is not hard, looking at these numbers, to jump to the conclusion that we just witnessed the greatest individual season by a position player in Twins history. I would imagine that Mauer in 2009 compares favorably to the greatest pitching seasons in team history as well.

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3 Responses to Where does Mauer’s 2009 season stand among Twins greats?

  1. SBG says:

    I did know that Mauer’s OPS was a record. Of course, this a little bit bigger offensive era (as is reflected in the OPS+ numbers). I do believe it is the best season of any Twin, ever. But yeah, that 1996 Knoblauch season was incredible.

  2. Scot says:

    Right- and Knoblauch’s season looks a little less impressive when you consider that it was in the heart of the live-ball era (some might call it the juiced era, not that Knoblauch was your classic slugger).

  3. Foefpiple says:

    Premium article, good looking website, added it to my favs!

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