The Minnesota Twins haven’t gotten off to the start some expected. At 5-14, it’s mostly gloom and doom in the Twin Cities. If there’s one positive, though, it’s that first baseman Joe Mauer appears to be back to his raking ways. Through 84 plate appearances, Mauer has a .328/.452/.448 slash line.
That’s only 19 games of production, but the numbers are significant. After hitting for high averages and posting insane on-base numbers for most of his career, Mauer hasn’t been the same the past two seasons.
During that period, he’s hit just .270/.348/.376. His struggles have been attributed to a concussion he sustained in August 2013. That injury caused to Twins to move Mauer out from behind the plate.
This year represents a return to the past. Mauer’s current numbers are much closer to the .323/.405/.468 slash line he put up from 2004 to 2013.
While freaking out over 19 games isn’t normally the proper route, Mauer believes there’s another reason for his success this season: Magic glasses. Well … strobe glasses, actually, but the results of using them in drills have been magical thus far.
How the heck do they work? We’ll try to let San Diego Padres catcher Austin Hedges explain. The Padres’ catchers used strobe glasses during drills this spring.
If you can watch the video, you’ll notice the flashing glasses in the first shot. The flashes are strobe lights. As Hedges explains, the glasses give you a “blind, clear, blind, clear” view during drills. It’s probably similar to constantly blinking while trying to perform an athletic feat.
For catchers, Hedges says using the glasses during drills helps slow down the game. The glasses make it much harder for catchers to see the ball, so when you take them off, things are much easier.
“It makes it a lot tougher visually for you to see the ball because you only get pictures of it,” Mauer said. “The strobes can go faster or slower. We only do it off the tee or flips — short toss. When you take them off, it seems to slow it down actually so you can focus in on the ball.”
Mauer isn’t the only person on the Twins who developed an interest in the glasses. Hitting coach Tom Brunansky also tried them out, and agreed with Mauer’s assessment.
“I saw the effects of what Joe was doing and what it did for me and what I felt,” Brunansky said. “In an instant, it came to me as far as how it made you keep your head still. The instant application was, ‘OK, anybody that we’re working on when their head is moving a little bit, perfect.’ It makes you keep your head still and keep your head back.”
Berardino’s piece states that both Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton have experimented with the glasses. Some Tampa Bay Rays players also told Mauer they had been using a version of strobe glasses for years. He’s unsure how many other teams have adopted the practice.
It’s an interesting idea, and you can at least get a sense for how the glasses work by watching the Padres video. That said, it’s tough to really know how much they do without putting them on.
Of course, we’re still only 19 games into the season. Maybe Mauer’s resurgence is just small sample voodoo. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s finally recovered after a nasty concussion. Or maybe it’s the magic glasses. No matter what the reason, after a tough two years, Mauer, and Twins fans, will probably take it.
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