It was a beautiful Easter Sunday in Milwaukee for the Minnesota Twins as they pounded out eight runs against the Brewers. One notable takeaway was what backstop Mitch Garver did in sending a ball over the fence.
A season ago the Twins got just 23 games from their catcher that posted a .995 OPS a season prior. Garver dealt with an intercostal strain most of the year and he simply was not the same hitter. Typically pulverizing opposing fastballs, he saw 217 of them in 2020, and it resulted in little success. Of those offerings, he swung 86 times, whiffing 29 times, or nearly 34% of the time the bat left his shoulder. Beating him with heat was far too easy.
Rewinding for context, Garver saw a whopping 839 fastballs in 2019 and swung at 303 of them. Of those 303 swings, he missed just 48 times, or just north of 15%. A jump of over 50% year over year is substantial, and while the now 30-year-old backstop may not be the .995 OPS hitter he was in 2019, he’s also certainly not the .511 OPS hitter he was in 2020.
Now fast forward to that pitch from Adrian Houser in the 5th inning of Sunday’s game. The Brewers starter attacked Garver with a first pitch fastball registering at 94.3 mph, one of the hardest balls he threw all day. After taking a walk in his first plate appearance, Garver sat on the heat and clubbed the pitch 102 mph going the opposite field and leaving over the right field wall.
In 2019 when things were going right for Mitch, he posted a 47.3% hard hit rate and went up the middle or opposite field roughly 50% of the time. Last season the hard-hit rate dropped to 41% and he used the opposite field a measly 13.9% of the time becoming essentially a dead-pull hitter. That’s a logical strategy for someone dealing with core muscle issues, given the necessity to cheat and get the bat around.
At the end of the day, it was just one swing and maybe it ends up being a small footnote rather than indicative of what’s to come. I’d be willing to be however, that Mitch is in line for a season with an OPS back north of .800, and Minnesota will have two of the best hitting catches in baseball while being anchored by the man known as Sauce.