Monday, November 1, 2010

Value vs. Salary: Joe Mauer

I could sing the praises of FanGraphs for days, they are a daily visit of mine and most of the time, they have an answer to my statistical curiosities. Down near the bottom of every player page is a section labeled, "Value." Among the statistics in this section are WAR (wins above replacement) and RAR (runs above replacement) among other value measures of batting, fielding and positional factors. This section is probably missed by most, except for those looking for a WAR value perhaps. Anyway, the columns I want to focus on today are the "Dollars" and "Salary" columns as they relate to Joe Mauer. As every Twins fan knows, Joe Mauer signed a fat contract just before the season started, a $184M, 8-year deal. That new deal starts this coming season and will equal a $23M salary for Mauer, for the next 8 seasons.

What the "Dollars" column attempts to calculate is what a player's value would be if WAR was converted in a dollar figure. The table tell us that to this point, the Twins have clearly gotten the maximum out of Mauer with his value having been $133M over the past 7 season while they've only paid him ~$34M. That's not so much what I want to focus on though because with the salary structures being the way they are for new players, the Twins should have gotten more than their money's worth so far. I want to look at Mauer's last 6 seasons to find out what can be expected of him going forward.

Over the last 6 seasons (we'll throw out 2004 since he only played in 35 games), Mauer has averaged a healthy $21.52M in the "Dollars" column and over the past 3 seasons, only 4 players in the Major Leagues have more valuable, those being: Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, Evan Longoria and Hanley Ramirez. Getting back to that "$21.52M" figure, it basically says that if the Twins had paid Mauer $21.5M per year over that time they would have been getting their money's worth. Next year, his salary bumps up to $23M per, which is going to be a tough number to average in terms of value, especially considering that Mauer has missed an average of 28.5 games/season over the past 6 years.

I've seen other write-ups on how the Mauer deal was a bad one for the Twins. HERE, HERE, and HERE. I'm not going to sit here and say that because the "Mauer Deal" was bigger than Joe Mauer. The Twins had a new stadium opening, Mauer is the face of this young, exciting team, he was a hometown kid, the Twins had watched fan-favorites Torii Hunter and Johan Santana walk within the past 5 years....etc, etc, etc. If the deal hadn't gotten done, there would have been a revolt. Even if the deal is a bad one from the Twins standpoint, they had to make the deal, they didn't have a choice.

Getting back to the numbers, in 2006, Mauer was good for 5.9 WAR which computed to a $22.0M value. For the sake of argument, let's say that in order to be good for the money, he'd have to average a 6.0 WAR which is pretty close to that 2006 season, so what did that look like?

140 Games
608 Plate-Appearances
181 Hits
86 Runs
13 Home Runs
84 RBIs
.347 Batting Average
.936 OPS
79 Walks
54 Ks

At 27, Mauer is in his prime and will be until about age 31-32. There are definite concerns about his continuing role as full-time catcher, but offensively speaking, he should be at his most productive right now, and the statistics show that he is. I think that even if Mauer is hurt for a year out of the next coming 8, Mauer will still be able to produce at a value that matches his contract. Even if he is worth an average of 5.5 WAR, wouldn't that be worth it? No matter what happens, the Twins end up on the winning end because they start next season with a 133M to 34M advantage, a gap that won't be closed (crosses fingers, knocks on wood) over the next 8 seasons.


  1. I'm not sure "the Twins end up on the winning end because they start next season with a 133M to 34M advantage" works.

    It sounds good, but can you really look at it that way?

  2. With that comment in particular, I meant to point out that for as many years (3? 4?) that Joe Mauer will be overpaid towards the end of his 8-year deal, there are an equal number of years where he vastly outperformed what his salary.

    Eh, I agree that it's a weak statement, I could have polished (or at least clarified it) a bit.