If someone were to ask, “Who’s better, Joe Mauer or Matt Treanor?”, you’d either hear disgusted cackles or maybe even get smacked in the face. And both of those responses would be justified. However, to Treanor’s credit, both he and Mauer are having very similar seasons.
At age 35, Matt Treanor is arguably enjoying his finest campaign in the Major Leagues. The currently DL’d Kansas City Royals catcher has posted an overall .226/.351/.306 line with 3 homeruns, 21 RBI, 24 runs, and 2 stolen bases in 230 plate appearances. By no stretch of the imagination are those statistics head-turning, but then again, we are talking about career-back-up catcher, Matt Treanor. Joking aside, some of Treanor’s peripherals indicate he’s actually having a pretty good season–at least for the catching-deprived American League.
For starters, Treanor has been one of the most patient-hitting catchers so far in 2011. While one can point to his relatively high 21.3 K% to debunk the “patient” argument, the righty has also posted the second best BB% (14.3%), right behind Carlos Santana–and far better than Joe Mauer’s 8.8 BB%. In addition, Treanor has only swung at 23.7% of pitches outside the zone (fifth best), and has boasted a very good 80.2% contact rate. It’s possible his high K% could be linked to his low non-strike contact rate (62.3%), considering he also sports a very low swinging strike rate (7.7%) and has a very respectable 87.9% contact rate for strikes. And in regards to his basement .226 batting average, his .287 BABIP suggests it should be slightly higher.
In comparison, the oft-injured Joe Mauer has been experiencing one of his worst career seasons. After teasing fans with a 28 homerun season in 2009, the native Minnesotan only smacked 9 diners in 2010, and just 1 so far this season. His Treanor-esq .357 OBP is by far his career low, which has been fueled by (again his career low) 8.8 BB%. He still owns an elite 24.1 LD% (line-drive percentage), but it’s actually bested by Treanor’s 24.6 LD%. While Mauer strikes out at a lower clip (11.8 K%) than Treanor (21.3%), they have similar non-strike swinging percentages (23.3% versus 23.7%), whiff rates (4.1% versus 7.7%), and contact percentages (87.5% versus 80.2%).
Even in terms of overall value, FanGraphs calculates Mauer’s WAR at 1.1, and Treanor’s at an about equal 0.9. Mauer’s overall .290/.357/.350 line with 1 homerun, 23 RBI, 27 runs, and 0 stolen bases in 238 plate appearances is only superior on the surface to Treanor’s 2011 showing, but not by much–and certainly not enough so to be smacked in the head by your Mauer-fanboy friends.