In looking at FanGraphs of How Star Hitters Age they sited players like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder and showed how these good hitters peak earlier than average hitters do at age 25 or 26 as opposed the average age of 27. They provide the argument that Albert Pujols is on a standard decline for how star hitters age and for someone who peaked even earlier than 25 it is very normal to have his drastic decline once he got on the other side of 30.
Now obviously, Albert Pujols is a Hall of Famer and there is no question about that – but my argument is that if you apply that same aging principle to Joe Mauer, I believe that you arrive at the same conclusion.
The thing that’s unique with Albert Pujols is that one could argue he peaked at 21 because when he burst onto the scene he hit 37 home runs while batting .329 with an OPS of 1.013. Unreal. Now looking at Joe Mauer, he set himself apart from Catchers at age 21 and joined the MVP conversation when he was 23 when he won his first batting title (.347) AS A CATCHER. And in 2009 he won the MVP conversation by batting .365 with an OPS of 1.031 (26 years old).
With 2009 being the very peak of Joe Mauer’s career, he continued his solid defense behind the plate complimenting his .300+ hitting. Even at age 30 he bat .324 and it was at age 31 where we began to see his decline when he bat .277.
So the decline is there as it is for all hitters, but based off the early production of Joe Mauer’s career, this decline fits the mold for star hitters. To quote FanGraphs, “great players age differently” and any team looking to lock up a player in a long term contract, need to be well aware of the risks of locking up a player at age 30. In Joe Mauer’s case, you are dealing with a guy in a much more taxing position of Catcher as opposed to 1st Base where Albert Pujols played his entire career. And despite concussions and other physical injuries, Joe Mauer stayed on the same trajectory of other star hitters.
Now am I saying that Joe Mauer is the equivalent of Albert Pujols? Absolutely not. But based off the trajectory of Mauer and other star hitters, his case for being in the Hall of Fame may not be too far out of the question and Minnesota sports fans can take comfort in the fact that “this behavior” is very normal for our 34 year old Minnesota native. Our boy is just fine.
– Joey Almars