It's no secret that the Twins lineup has been struggling as of late. Outside of the game where the Twins put up 12 runs on Oakland, and lost, the lineup that most thought would be a top unit in the American League has been dead silent. When the Twins were rolling in 2019, they did so with a lot of Bombas, breaking the MLB record. One player that helped the Twins achieve this milestone was Mitch Garver, who had a coming out party. Mitch hit 31 home runs, and OPS'd nearly 1.000, which is great for any position, but nearly MVP level for a catcher. However, in 2021, the 2019 version of Mitch Garver is nowhere to be found, and he may have just hit the lowest of lows, wearing the Golden Sombrero.
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What's Went Wrong?
When Garver broke out in 2019, he did so by crushing the fastball. However, in 2020 and thus far in 2021 we haven't seen him hitting fastballs hard, or at all. in his breakout year Garver hit fastballs at a .337 clip and only swung and missed at fastballs 15.7% of the time. However, in 2020 and 2021, he's swinging through the heater around 32% of the time. Swinging and missing at a pitch you crushed in your breakout year is a huge reason for regression. Even when he does hit the fastball, he isn't squaring it up. Garver's average launch angle on fastballs is 35 degrees, which is simply too much to get down for a base hit or over the fence for a homer. Garver had an expected slugging percentage of .723 in 2019, and an actual slugging percentage of .829. Either number you look at tells you he was dominant. However, his struggles have the slugging percentage on fastballs down to .359 and .375 in the past 2 seasons.
You may think that teams have started to throw Garver less fastballs, but that actually isn't true. He saw nearly the same percentage of fastballs in 2020 as he did in 2019, a 56.3 and 56.4% respectively. He's even seeing more in 2021, as nearly 60% of pitches Garver sees have been fastballs.
Garver has never been one to hit offspeed or breaking pitches well, but things have gotten even worse during Garver's slump. He's only seen 25 offspeed pitches thus far, but he's swung and missed on 50% of his swings. However, there is hope for Garver hitting offspeed pitches, as he has an expected slugging percentage of .787 on offspeed pitches in the short term. Take that stat with a grain of salt though, as he's only hit 5 offspeed pitches in 2021. Even when Garver was rolling, he had an expected slugging of .301 on the offspeed.
Breaking balls aren't any better for Mitch, as he's swinging and missing at 30% of them. Pitchers are also going to the breaking ball late in counts to get strike 3, as it's the putaway pitch 36.4% of the time. He's never hit breaking balls well, as 2019 he posted a 42.5 swing and miss rate, and 51.6 in 2020.
Obviously the clear answer here is to start hitting the fastball like he did in 2019. The whiff rate probably isn't going to go back to his career low of 15.7 that we saw in 2019, but it certainly doesn't have to be around the 32 percent mark that we've seen lately. It also may be a matter of timing, as a 35 degree launch angle isn't sustainable or realistic over 162 games. If the timing gets back on track on the fastball, everything will come from there. The small sample size of being able to hit the offspeed hard is a good step in the right direction. Going off the timing note, we've seen Garver pop up at an 11.5 percent rate in 2021, which is up 4% from 2019. If he starts squaring up the fastball, the pop-out numbers should fall. As a final note, Garvers pitch framing has stayed good despite the offensive struggles, as he rates in the 78th percentile of catchers.