Over/under: Joe Mauer's batting average

OK, I'm back from vacation, all rested up for the next eight months of non-stop blogging and baseball watching.

Jayson Stark has a piece up on Joe Mauer and his move to first base, a move the Twins made in the hope it will get Mauer's bat in the lineup 150 games every season and minimize the time he misses with injuries or days off needed from catching.

The other potential benefit: Will Mauer hit better not having to squat behind the plate or focus as much on working with the pitching staff? Mauer is a three-time batting champion, although his last title came in 2009, his MVP season in which he hit .365. He hit .324 in 2013, when he finished second to Miguel Cabrera's .348 mark in the American League.

It appears as if catching hasn't had much negative effect on his batting averages, however. Mauer hit .330 when catching last season, .312 when not catching (he started 37 games at DH or first base). In 2012, he hit .365 when catching and .273 when not catching, when he split time between catcher and first base/DH. If we include his entire career, he's hit .328 when catching and .307 when not catching (971 at-bats). The data certainly suggests that we shouldn't expect Mauer to hit better just because he's relieved of his catching duties.

The projection systems don't foresee Mauer hitting .324 again. ZiPS has him at .294, Steamer at .300. I assume the systems still read him as a catcher and he's at the age when catchers often start declining. So in one sense, maybe Mauer will hit better because of the position move. I'm going a little higher and will set the over/under at .315.