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Can the Twins Fix Mitch Garver?

Mitch Garver broke onto the scene in 2019 as he played in roughly half of the Twins games and that was still enough for him to win the Silver Slugger at his position in the American League. The 2020 season hasn’t come as easy to Garver as pitchers have honed in on some of his weaknesses and his production on the field has suffered. Minnesota’s line-up is deep, but fixing Garver could be a key for the team’s success this season.
Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Last season’s breakout was supposed to merge into Garver being one of the team’s most potent weapons in 2020. So far this season, that hasn’t been the case. Garver has struggled at the plate. His exit velocity is in the 45th percentile, his hard hit % is in the 27th percentile, and his K% is in the 1st percentile. It’s tough to ignore those numbers, so what has changed with Garver.

One of the biggest adjustments for opposing pitchers is the lack of fastballs Garver is seeing this season. Last year, he saw fastballs 56% of the time and this year the total has dropped to 51.2%. This means Garver is seeing a more frequent allotment of offspeed pitches. Last season, he saw offspeed pitches in 12.5% of at-bats, but now he is seeing them in 18.7% of at-bats.

While Garver might be seeing a steady diet of offspeed pitches, breaking pitches seem to be the biggest issue for him this season. During the 2019 campaign, his Whiff % on breaking pitches was 34.1%, but that number has jumped to 58.3% so far in 2020. He has struck out less on offspeed pitches as his Whiff % has dropped by 15.1%.

Garver is striking out at a much higher rate than his career numbers and that might be one of his biggest problems. Before this season, his highest K% in any full season was 24.2%. Entering play on Monday, he had a 45.5 K%, which ranked him in the first percentile among big-league hitters. He isn’t making consistent contact and that is certainly hurting his overall numbers.

Another aspect impacting Garver this season could be the turnover in the pitching staff. A majority of the starting pitching staff is new and that can put extra pressure on the backstop. He needs to be the leader behind the plate and this likely means learning the new tendencies of the starting pitchers. Could this be impacting his offensive approach at the plate?

There are some good signs among Garver’s offensive numbers. His exit velocity (91.7) and Sweet Spot % (33.3) are nearly identical to last year’s totals. He’s only put nine batted balls into play, so a bigger sample size could help to show that last year’s numbers weren’t a fluke. Garver might also be able to focus more on his role with the current Twins pitchers and then adjust his approach at the plate.

So far this season, Garver has been ahead in the count in 12 of his 22 plate appearances (54.5%). Last season, he finished the year at 41.5% of his plate appearances where he was ahead in the count. If he continues to be patient, the results will follow, especially with his exit velocity and Sweet Spot %.

How do you think Garver can break out of his early season slump? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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12 Comments

I’m not worried about his bat. He has a great swing and decent eye. I’m more worried about his throwing. The knee on the ground thing with runners on is not going to work. He is not nearly quick enough to throw anybody out
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VivaBomboRivera!
Aug 03 2020 09:43 PM

Are we so starved for stories that we're reduced to this after only 10 games?Noticing differences in his at-bats from last year is one thing, worrying about whether he can (or needs to) be "fixed" is hyperbolic.Of course, our truncated "season" is now over 15% complete, but a judgment that Garver is "broken" after only 21 ABs is laughable.Let's revisit this after we see another 3 games/10 ABs or so.

    • Steve Lein, dcswede, Craig Arko and 6 others like this
I do think, and hadn't thought about it previously, that working with so many new members of the staff could be having an affect as Garver takes real pride in his play behind the plate. It's at least worth considering.

But I think the question does remain, "is there a problem?" He has a good eye and a short, compact and powerful swing. He hit in college. He hit in the minors. He hit decently in his rookie season before exploding in 2019. But he hasn't really done anything so far in 2020 after 11 games.

Buxton and Sano are still feeling their way, as has been Donaldson, though for different reasons. I believe Arraez was hitting only .245 before Sunday, and was suddenly up to .270+ after Sunday. Kepler hasn't hit worth a darn, but has a huge slugging percentage and then also has a big day.

My whole point is it's a weird and short season. And numbers are going to be stilted for a lot of guys. Littell, for example, could return in a few days and pitch just as well for the rest of the year as he did last season and still never bring his ERA down to a decent number after that one bad 1st game performance.

Garver will probably not see as many FB as last year. Wasn't his HR the other day off a change? He has to make adjustments. And I'm sure he will. And he could absolutely rake the rest of 2020 and still never come close to the numbers be put up in 2019 as they were almost historic. So I'm not going to bummed out he has 3/4 of a productive year in an abbreviated short season. I just want him and the rest of the team to just relax, do what they do best, find their comfort levels and run with it.
    • mikelink45 likes this

Nothing to worry about. He was off to a slow start but put together much better at bats over the weekend. Nothing really to fix. He's working on some timing things, but he shouldn't do anything crazy. 

    • Steve Lein, Craig Arko, mikelink45 and 2 others like this

10 games.

So fickle. I guess content is the goal these days. 

Do you think that by the second half of last season the word was out about fastballs?

And 5% less fastballs (56 to 51.2%) is 1 in 20 pitches..... which I don't consider a lot.

 

Can Christian Yelich be "fixed"?

    • Steve Lein likes this

I think Garver is a SSS issue not a mechanical or approach one. I don't think the team is terribly worried about him either, especially considering how many players have struggled on offense across MLB so far.

 

It's an odd thing: people are 100% correct in saying "it's only 10 games, calm down" but at the same time, 10 games ain't 10 games this year.

 

But I think Garver will be fine and will get on track soon.

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Doctor Gast
Aug 04 2020 07:20 AM

Don`t fix anything that`s not broken. The pitchers are adjusting to him so he needs to adjust & he will, besides finding his groove. NP right now because we have plenty of talent to keep us in games until he comes around

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MMMordabito
Aug 04 2020 07:40 AM

Little early for an article like this.

 

I can't even read it after seeing the title.

    • Steve Lein and TFRazor like this

In a short season everything is magnified.I am not worried about Garver.But I am worried about Buxton and wondering if Jake Cave is the right choice for the fourth OF spot.I know it is hard to get the topics that fit every reader in a season like this.I think it was a good speculation and maybe we will all watch more closely now.

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TheLeviathan
Aug 04 2020 04:13 PM

The Twins can fix this!Keep giving him at-bats so a ridiculously small-sample size is no longer the primary basis of our worry.  

 

It could well be that Garver is going to have issues adjusting, but there isn't sufficient evidence anything has to be "fixed" at this point.

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Ebby Calvin Laloosh
Aug 05 2020 11:44 AM

Garver's eye at the plate has always impressed me. Seems like he only swings at strikes (pure eye test, I haven't looked at the numbers). This year so far he seems to take a lot of meaty strikes. The backwards K's are what concerns me, just a little bit. Seems like it might just be a major league hitter taking some time to get his eye at the plate dialed in. I have faith that he'll rake after building up a few more PAs.

After only 27 PA his BABIP is .182. Nothing to see here. Give a major league hitter some more time, to let things normalize a bit. He didn't forget how to hit.

 

(While I'm at it, Nelson Cruz's BABIP is .500 at the moment. He might "cool off" a bit, without anything really changing.)


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