…. Kicking sand on your beach towel

I don't want to throw a wet blanket on all the fun and games, but whenever I read stuff like this, I worry about our RoY:

…. Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, according to a club source, has been injected with Supartz, a solution that helps lubricate and create cushion in knee joints.

General Manager Bill Smith confirmed that Mauer received a shot after Tuesday’s workout.

Mauer had his left knee scoped in December, and there was some hope he would be ready for the start of spring training. But Mauer has reported for camp needing some more time before he can take part in all phases of practice. And there’s no telling when the Twins will start Mauer behind the plate in a spring training game.

I've already written about the impact full-time catching has on elite hitters. You can always find a guy who can catch, throw out 30% of the hitters, and run out .240/.320/.410 line. It's much harder to find guys who have the potential to run out a .300/.400/.500 line. Here's hoping either Posey bucks all the trends, or the Giants find somewhere else to play him. Mauer, by the way, just signed a $180 million dollar contract with the Twins, so basically, they're stuck with him.

Here's Mauer's games played since he came up in '04. 35, 131, 140, 109, 146, 138, 137. His OPS has gone up and down like a yo-yo: .939, .783, .936, .808, .864, .1.031, .871.

This is standard production for a catcher. It is virtually impossible to stay healthy and catch full-time. So catchers have great years, their managers play them too much, because they're going so great, and the following year, they struggle to stay healthy. The down time spent not catching allows them to somewhat get healthy, and then they bounce back. But they never fully get healthy, and the cycle trends downward at a much faster rate than a normal ballplayers.

Bill James has had to revise many of his different statistical programs to make allowances for how few career games great catchers play versus great outfielders or first baseman, because of just this point.

Joe Mauer is 27 years old, about to enter his peak, being paid like a perennial MVP-candidate, and he's already dealing with knee issues. This does not bode well for him, or for Buster. There's no doubt that the handling of Posey's playing time is delicate and extremely important part of his career expectations. Last year Posey played all but 7 of the 114 games the team played after he was called up. During the run to the title, he was behind the plate for the last 35 consecutive games, and 45 of the last 46.

In fact, after he was called up, Bochy penciled his name in the lineup for 17 consecutive games, 17 games in 18 days, to be precise. Of course, he started out red-hot, but what no one seemed to notice was his plummeting production as the kid went from being coddled to ridden like the only horse in the corral. After 13 games, his OPS was a scorching 1.074. Exhausted and obviously worn down, Posey then went 7 for his next 45, all singles, as his OPS dropped all the way down to .693.

That kind of heedless management cannot continue if the team is going to protect his –and their– future with the budding superstar. His playing time must be monitored carefully, not haphazardly. Sabean and Bochy should already have looked at the schedule and decided when he was going to be give days off. Anytime a day off can give him multiple days off, he should be rested on that day.

For instance, the Giants play a night game with the Dodgers on April 13th, then have a travel day, and play the D'backs, again at night, on the 15th. Give Posey the 15th off, and he gets two days in a row right there. Or how about the first week in May. The Giants play in Washington at 1:05 on Sunday the 1st, and

then again at 7:05 the next night, before flying to NY to play the Mets on the 3rd at 7:05. Have Posey skip the Monday night game, and he gets two full nights off in a row.

This kind of planning would represent a long-term commitment to his health, something that would go along way towards earning the kind of loyalty that teams crave from their superstars. I'd like to see the Giants think outside the box with this kid, because he has a chance to be really special.

Hat tip, again, to Baseball Musings.


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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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