This drew rapid responses from ESPN's Rob Neyer and all-around writin' bad ass Joe Posnanski. They both make good points, but I like the way Posnanski puts it best:
Joe Mauer is having a much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much better season than Mark Teixeira. I’m not sure I put enough muches in there. Mauer is on pace to win his THIRD batting title as a catcher — and no other American League catcher has ever won even one. He leads the league in on-base percentage AND slugging percentage, the two most important stats going, and the only catcher to ever do that in baseball history was … oh, wait, nobody. He throws out base runners and hits .395 with runners in scoring position (hits .457 with runners in scoring position and two outs) and even runs the bases well.
When those kinds of points come out and stab you, you backtrack a bit, as Kepner did. "Mauer is a compelling candidate. He leads the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, he’s batting .378, and he’s an outstanding defensive catcher on a team that is (sort of) contending. He’s a terrific candidate."
But take a second--Kepner tossed out that .378 as if isn't that big of a deal. No one hits .378 this late in the year, and certainly catchers don't. That stat alone should be eye-popping. Not "compelling". Eye-popping. OBP and Slugging? Just leading the league. Nice stats, but not definitive, or so Kepner makes it sound.
And in the end, he kind of stands his ground: "Teixeira is the most productive player on the team with baseball’s best record. He leads the league in total bases and extra-base hits. He won two games in June with his base running (June 2, with a takeout slide, and June 12, after Luis Castillo’s dropped pop-up), and his defense has been off the charts."
Let me just say that you start talking about takeout slides and base running thanks to a competing team's fielding error, you've lost the argument.
Kepner concludes with "Teixeira is having an exceptional season. There is no disputing that." Well, hold on--there is some dispute there--he's having a fine season, no doubt. Hitting almost .290 with 30 homeruns is a very good year from your first baseman. Is it "exceptional"? Because Justin Morneau is right there with him in just about every category. How exceptional can it be if two other players are right there with him? (Morneau and Miguel Cabrera are right there with him.)
I don't know what we have to do--make a new award? Call it "Best Player" and have the players vote on it? Because make no mistake--Joe Mauer is having a season that is for the ages, quite literally. Stat-head extraordinaire Aaron Gleeman has a great post with Top Catchers Offensive Stats. Joe Mauer is Top 5 in all of them, including Average, OPS, OBP, and Slugging. There is one other catcher from the late 20th century with him on some of those categories--Mike Piazza. Aside from him, there isn't a single catcher on the leaderboard for any of those categories who played after World War Two. This isn't a once in a generation season, it's a once in a century season for a catcher, or for any other position, really. Joe Mauer is going to win his third batting title, more than double his homeruns from his previous career best, and is behind the plate for a young, struggling rotation, complete with a knuckleballer in the bullpen for a good chunk of the season. And Joe is doing it for a team that is competing for a pennant, despite going more than half the year without anyone in the 2 hole with the best 3 hole hitter in the past decade or two. Writers might not notice it in flyover country, but I guarantee you Joe Mauer would get the vote of every pitcher and every catcher in the league for what he's done.
Hell, Mark Teixeira would probably vote for him if it were "Most Outstanding Player" instead of Most Valuable Player.