As mentioned in an earlier post, Joe Mauer is now batting .287, a good mark for a lot of hitters, but not what we, or at least I, expected from him this year. To compare this season to last, I graphed his batting average in each season over the first 152 team games.
Looking at the graph, I don't think this season has really been all that much different from last year when he won the batting title. Obviously, in the beginning of the season his batting average fluctuated greatly both years, but then settled around the 25th game of the year, or at the end of April. Then, however, comes the difference. For the next month of 2007, Joe was injured and didn't play (in the green box), whereas in 2006, he played fantastically and his batting average skyrocketed. When he returned in 2007, his batting average took a precipitious fall, finally stalling around .310. After a minor upswing at this time in both years (yellow circles), his average bounced up and down a little bit, but generally maintained a downward trend.
To me, this says the only major difference was the time he spent on the bench in May and early June. When he was at his best last year, this year he wasn't playing, or he had just come back and was adjusting to playing live baseball again. Other than the area in the green and orange rectangle, the graphs have very similar shapes. Broken down by month, here are his batting averages:
|May||.386||.278 (4 games)|
His averages by month support this. In April he hit very well in both seasons, and then in May he did not play much this year while hitting .386 in 2006. In June, when he was playing practically flawlessly last year, he was coming back from an injury and hit only .229. Then in July and August the averages are very close. In September, however, there is a big difference which can also be attributed to the fact that he missed thirteen games and is again coming back from an injury.
I realize that, as a huge Joe Mauer and Minnesota Twins fan, I may be looking for reasons why he should hit as well as he did last year in the future and why this was a down season, and may be looking past things that say this year is more typical. But I also think the data I used and conclusions I subsequently made are reasonable. Still, I would like to make it clear that I don't think he will hit .347 every year, but I do think he should at least be around .320 most of the time.