Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Who'd You Rather: A.J. Pierzynski or Joe Mauer

The two players could hardly be more different.

  • Mauer has played his whole career in one place.
  • Pierzynski has played for four different teams, and is a free agent.
  • Mauer is regarded as one of the game’s class acts. You’d have to try very hard to find a reputable person that would say a bad word about him.
  • Pierzynski is booed more than just about any player in nearly visiting ballpark in the league. Oh, and he’s had issues with fellow players.

Heck, Mauer took Pierzynski’s job in Minnesota.

But that doesn’t answer the question, that’s actually not quite as simple as many probably believe? Who’d you rather? A.J. Pierzynski or Joe Mauer?


Mauer’s edge

You just can’t ignore the batting average. He’s a three-time batting champion and a career .323 hitter. That’s actually a higher career average than Miguel Cabrera, who’s almost universally seen as the best hitter in the world today.

If 2013 was any indicator, his average, and other slash stats aren’t slowing down any time soon.

  • 2013: .324 average/.404 OBP/.476 SLG
  • Career: .323 average/.405 OBP/.468 SLG

Looks pretty dang consistent to me.

By comparison, let’s take a look at Pierzynski.

  • 2013: .272 average/.297 OBP/.425 SLG
  • Career: .283 average/.322 OBP/.428 SLG

The fact is that Mauer is not only much better in those areas than Pierzynski, but he’s also much closer to his career averages. With the exception of slugging, Pierzynski is lagging in a pretty significant way across the board. That’s where another Mauer advantage really shines. Mauer will turn 31 in the first month of the 2014 season, while Pierzynski will be 37 in December.

As a result of getting on base more, Mauer will score more runs. Now, the Minnesota lineup isn’t exactly filled with guys who will drive Mauer in once he gets on base. But, when comparing these two, you only have to look at this stat. Despite the fact that Mauer played 21 fewer games, on a far inferior offensive team, in a much better pitcher’s park, he still scored 14 more runs than Pierzynski in 2013. That’s not exactly a small gap, especially given all the other factors that tilt towards A.J. in a big way.

It’s pretty simple. If you’re going to score, you have to get on base, and Mauer is far more adept at that. So, in typical fantasy scoring, Mauer has a big edge in runs and batting average.


A big edge in two of five offensive categories. Since they’re both catchers, neither steal any bases, so it’s really a big edge in two of four categories. First round knockout to Mauer, right? It’s not that simple.


Pierzyknski’s edge

It’s true that Pierzynski didn’t reach his potent 2012 home run total again in 2013. Actually regressed by a significant 10 longballs, slugging 27 in 2012 against only 17 in 2013. That was relatively predictable to anyone who really follows baseball, as Pierzynski is not a 25-30 homer type of guy.

But against Mauer, he doesn’t really have to be. Aside from his 28 homers in his MVP season of 2009, Mauer has never hit more than 13 dingers in a single season. The Twins have tried to move him around to give him fewer games behind the plate, but his HR totals aren’t really increasing in any big way.

Now, Mauer was always a good run producer, but that had a lot to do with the talent around him. The Twins have been one of the worst teams in baseball over the last two seasons, and it’s hard to see them getting much better in 2014. Yes, they have a few elite prospects, but those guys are a few years away from their big impact times.

We don’t know what kind of RBI chances Pierzynski will have in 2014 because we don’t know what team he’ll be on. But chances are that he’ll be on a much better offensive team than the Twins in 2014. As a result of that and his extra homers, the RBI edge goes to Pierzynski — but it doesn’t even stop there.

Mauer did play 147 games in 2012, but it was sandwiched by an 82 games played in 2011, and 113 games in 2013. Pierzynski on the other hand, has played 128 or more games every year since 2002. That offsets the age gap a little bit. Also, if the Twins are going to be bad in 2014, then they’re far more likely to take a minor injury and be very cautious with Mauer. Heck, he likely would have played more at the end of 2013 if the Twins were even remotely in contention. If Pierzynski does go to a good team, he’ll play a full slate of games (for a catcher, anyway).


Overall edge

The better player is Mauer, and he’s also the better fantasy player. His advantages are just too great to ignore. Pierzynski will need to be closer than his 2012 home run total than 2013 if we’re going to say he’s as good as Mauer from a fantasy perspective, and I don’t see that happening.

But here’s what I will say. I wouldn’t reach for Mauer, because he’s not that much better from a fantasy standpoint than Pierzynski, or a few other catchers. He doesn’t approach Buster Posey or Yadier Molina, and I’d actually take Wilin Rosario and probably Carlos Santana over him.

This is a situation where fantasy baseball differs from real baseball. On a real team, I’ll take Mauer over Pierzynski without even thinking. On a fantasy team, Mauer still gets the edge over A.J., but it’s far from a blowout.

Tags: A.J. Pierzynski Catcher Joe Mauer Who'd You Rather

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