Joe Mauer, plate appearances, and hitting .400

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Joe Mauer won Player of the Month honors
for his ridiculous May performance, hitting .414 with 11 homers and 32
RBIs in 28 games after spending all of April on the disabled list with
a back injury. And he’s actually raised his batting average so far in

Mauer went 4-for-4 last night,
making him 26-for-57 (.456) this month while raising his overall
average to .429. Missing the first month of the season leaves him 20
plate appearances short of qualifying for the batting title, but Mauer
has been so amazing that even going 0-for-20 in those imaginary trips
to the plate would leave him with an MLB-leading .381 mark.

Three years ago Mauer became the first catcher in AL history to win
the batting title and the first catcher in MLB history to lead all of
baseball in batting average. Then last year Mauer became the first
catcher in AL history to win two batting titles. And this year he looks poised to become the first catcher, in either league, to win three batting titles.

Or maybe even make a run at .400. Of course, all you need to know about
how hard it is to hit .400 for an entire season is that Mauer has
batted .429 through mid-June and, if he continues to walk at the same
rate, would need to hit .382 over the remainder of the season to get
there with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.

He ultimately needs at least 317 more trips to the plate to qualify
for the batting title and the list of players who’ve hit .380 or higher
during a season in which they had 300 or more plate appearances over
the past 50 years looks like this: Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Rod Carew.
Of course, the list of highest career batting averages over the past 50
years also looks like this:

Tony Gwynn .338
Albert Pujols .334
Ichiro Suzuki .334
Roberto Clemente .329
Wade Boggs .328
Todd Helton .328
Rod Carew .328
Vladimir Guerrero .322
Kirby Puckett .318

With a .429 average in mid-June and a .325 career mark to go along with
the lack of April plate appearances, Mauer is as well-positioned to
make a serious run at hitting .400 as someone can be 66 games into the
season. And yet as Brett, Carew, Gwynn, Todd Helton, John Olerud,
Chipper Jones, Nomar Garciaparra, Larry Walker, and basically everyone
since Ted Williams in 1941 has learned he still has very little chance
of actually getting there.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.