StaTuesday: Twins catchers chasing HR records of their own
The Minnesota Twins‘ record-smashing season has been a team effort.
A whopping eight players have hit at least 20 home runs for the Twins this season, while third baseman Miguel Sano needs just one more dinger to give Minnesota five 30-home run hitters.
And while home runs are up across the board, the Twins are getting some unexpected production from their catchers this year.
Catcher was famously a position of strength for the Twins throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, as Joe Mauer succeeded A.J. Pierzynski and went on a spectacular run behind the dish, but they’ve never gotten much power from the position.
Minnesota had gotten 20-plus home runs from their catchers just four times entering the 2019 season, most recently in 2013, the last time Mauer suited up (this tear-jerker aside).
Led by Mitch Garver, this year’s group has changed the conversation.
Garver, Jason Castro and Willians Astudillo have hit a combined 42 home runs during games in which they’ve appeared at catcher this season, and have a combined .904 OPS, the group’s highest since 2009, Joe Mauer’s MVP season.
They’re the only group of catchers in MLB to hit more than 40 this season, and blew past the previous Twins record — 26 home runs, set singlehandedly by Earl Battey in 1963 — earlier this summer.
They’re the first group of catchers to hit 40 home runs since the 2003 Atlanta Braves matched the MLB record with 43.
|New York Yankees||151||142||27||1||37||104|
|Chicago White Sox||150||140||27||0||24||70|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||151||118||24||1||23||72|
|Boston Red Sox||149||137||25||1||22||74|
|Tampa Bay Rays||151||114||24||1||20||77|
|Toronto Blue Jays||150||105||18||2||19||59|
|St. Louis Cardinals||150||139||28||0||19||78|
|San Diego Padres||150||111||16||2||18||53|
|New York Mets||150||148||21||0||17||81|
|Los Angeles Angels||150||107||18||1||14||53|
|San Francisco Giants||150||145||40||2||13||63|
|Kansas City Royals||151||115||30||0||11||42|
The source of this power surge has been a little surprising. Castro has been a reliable bat for years, but Garver has broken out in his third season as a major-leaguer.
The 28-year-old is hitting .279/.367/.645 with 30 home runs in 290 at-bats after batting .259/.329/.405 with just seven home runs in 348 at-bats during his first two seasons with the Twins.
Garver, who took 103 games to hit his seventh career home run, matched that number on May 7 this year.
He hit his 30th of the season last Tuesday, during a 5-0 win over the Washington Nationals, and is currently averaging a home run every 9.67 at-bats.
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout leads the majors with a 10.44 AB/HR, followed by Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich (11.11 AB/HR) and Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz (11.32 AB/HR).
Garver has hit them in bunches this season. He’s up to five multi-homer games this season, and needs just three more to match former Braves catcher Javy Lopez’s record, set in 2003. Lopez was the last catcher to have more than five such games.
And while Garver hasn’t played enough to qualify for the official leaderboards this year (3.1 plate appearances per team game), he’s helping turn catcher into a major strength for the Twins once again.