Joe Mauer has been a shadow of his 2009 self this year. The power that allowed him to hit 28 homers and post a .587 slugging percentage has evaporated as the Twins' catcher has struggled with nicks and bruises all season.
That's not totally abnormal for Mauer, who has played over 140 games just twice in his career and will probably not hit that mark in 2010. Factor in the fact that the Twins have used him as a designated hitter fairly often, meaning he's only played more than 120 games at catcher once, and it becomes hard not to see Mauer as injury-prone. But Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan suggests that this year might be the most painful yet.
Mauer’s left heel nags him. His right shoulder aches. Two other injuries – his back and his hip, for which the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported he receives treatment – are something neither he nor the organization will address publicly. Because while the heel and shoulder are more pesky, anything having to do with a back or hip, let alone both, inspires a great deal of fear.
A back injury kept Mauer sidelined for the beginning of 2009, and that, combined with hip pain and the rest of his ailments, would certainly cast a pall on Mauer's ability to earn that $184 million contract he signed. Mauer, the tight-lipped, industrious type, will probably just play through the pain, and deal with the diminished production. The Twins, however, might not get what they paid for.
It's important to note that Mauer's 2010 line isn't all that different from his pre-2009 numbers—his career high in homers had been 13—and a catcher who can produce a .303/.377/.478 is no slouch. But if Mauer is worn down by the rigors of catching 120 games a year, a long-rumored move to a less strenuous position might be necessary sooner rather than later. And a first baseman who can put up a .400 OBP and might hit 20 homers isn't nearly as valuable as a catcher who can.