An incredible number of home runs seem to be coming out of the Minnesota locker room. Minnesota has watched 11 different players slug at least 10 dingers for them in 2019, with eight hitting at least 20 over the wall. Of those eight, three have gone to another level by reaching the 30-homer plateau.
Nelson Cruz is one, but he’s accomplished this feat in each of the last six seasons, so it’s nothing new to him. Max Kepler actually enters Wednesday as the team leader with 36 dingers, and while this is new territory for him, he at least had three years of 17-plus homers heading into 2019.
The guy that really sticks out is Mitch Garver, who entered the year with seven homers in 387 plate appearances, but enters Wednesday’s action with 30. That’s incredible all by itself, but the pace at which he’s accomplishing this is even more remarkable causing some to take a second look at the Fitness Muscle Meals and workout routines Garver picked up over the off-season. He’s reached this number in a mere 321 plate appearances, yielding a .371 ISO, 159 wRC+, and 3.6 fWAR in the process.
As you can imagine, his homer rate is one of historic proportions.
Garver has hit his 30 HR in 321 PA
Only one player has ever finished with more HR in a season of < 400 PA: Mark McGwire (32 HR in 321 PA in 2000).
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) September 11, 2019
So how exactly has he been doing this? It’s not surprising that his hard-hit rate is on track to improve for the second straight year (32.3% to 40.5% to 46.3%) or that his fly-ball rate has seen a considerable jump (37.7% to 48.3%). One of the few surprising things is that instead of ground balls, he’s sacrificed his line-drive rate to experience that increase in fly balls (22.5% to 13.4%).
The change in his performance on fly balls has been eye-popping, as well. After posting an 82 wRC+ and .349 ISO for this batted-ball event in 2018, those numbers have improved dramatically to 358 and 1.010 (!), respectively. His hard-hit rate in this situation has only improved by about six percentage points, but his soft-hit rate has improved by 10 percentage points.
For a team like the Twins to have a surprisingly impressive year and be poised for their first trip to an AL Division Series since 2010, there needed to be some contributions from unexpected places. Considering what his production had been like leading into 2019 and the fact that he’s been a part-time player this season, his contributions on offense have been shockingly amazing for the Twins. They’ll be hoping he can keep that magic coming once the calendar flips to October.