Joe Mauer is among the league leaders in getting on base. Byung Ho Park is among the league leaders in home runs.
Yet Park has driven in Mauer only twice through Saturday, in part because there are usually at least three lesser-performing hitters between Mauer and Park.
Lineup construction was a frequent topic around the Twins last week because Mauer has been hitting leadoff for a few days. Mauer lacks the speed one traditionally expects of a leadoff man, but he has the on-base percentage today's strategists demand of the leadoff guy.
Paul Molitor had it right when he revealed Mauer's new role early last week: Mauer is the best leadoff hitter on the team. He's also the best No. 2 hitter and the best No. 3 hitter. Molitor can only use Mauer in one of those slots per game, however.
Managers have no shortage of variables to consider when devising their batting orders. But in my opinion, the two key concepts are:
■ Maximize the at-bats of your best hitters;
■ Bunch those best hitters together to take advantage of their production.
Identifying those best hitters can be a challenge, especially since it can vary from day to day. (This is one of the justifications for platoons.) Given Park's lack of a big league track record, Molitor was justified early on in putting more weight on the likes of Mauer, Miguel Sano, Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe. He was less justified in using Danny Santana as the leadoff man in roughly a quarter of the Twins games so far.
Park entered Sunday's game with nine homers and 15 RBIs. That projects to about 45 homers and 75 RBIs over a full season. That kind of absurd homer-to-RBI ratio isn't without precedent (see Brook Jacoby's 1987 season), but it certainly isn't normal.
That oddity is unlikely to persist. Park entered Saturday with just 44 plate appearances with anybody on base — about 40 percent of his plate appearances — and was hitting just .139 in those trips to the plate. (In comparison, roughly half of Sano's plate appearances —71 — have come with men on, but Sano has spent the season hitting within two lineup slots of Mauer.) For Park, it's been a vicious combination: a shortage of RBI opportunities and a failure to cash in the ones he's had.
Park's relative lack of RBI opportunities may be more on the players than on Molitor. But unless and until some other hitters start performing to expectations, it would probably behoove Molitor to move Mauer and Park closer together.