Improved hitting, defense, and walk-up music
The phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” is often used to describe the nature of creation. Instead of a “eureka!” revelation or a flash of divine inspiration, all too often the best products or ideas come from simple need. That has certainly been the case thus far with Trevor Larnach’s Minnesota tenure.
In May of 2021, Larnach was called up to the big club when Twins outfielders were dropping like flies (pardon the quasi-pun). All told, he put up this line: 301 PA, 12 2B, 7 HR, .223 BA, 88 OPS+. Not a horrible start for a prospect, but further digging (month-by-month OPS+ breakdowns) reveal a tale as old as time:
- May (72 PA): 138 OPS+
- June (92 PA): 93 OPS+
- July (103 PA): 42 OPS+
I’m not sure a more clear-and-obvious example exists of a batter achieving initial success and then struggling when MLB pitchers adapt. For the Trekkies among us, this process is akin to being attacked by the Borg: after taking initial losses, they modulate their shield frequencies to prevent further similar damage. In baseball-speak: “you aren’t getting a fastball again until you prove you can hit the breaking stuff”. For Larnach, resistance proved to indeed be rather futile. Not only did he struggle mightily at the plate, but his Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Average score was -4. It’s little wonder he was demoted in early August.
Normally, a player like Larnach might have been sent back to the minors earlier to work on the holes on his game without having to do so under the bright lights and in front of the big crowds. But these were the Twins of 2021—where Rob Refsnyder & a far-too-young Gilberto Celestino roamed the green expanse in lieu of healthier or better options. To put it bluntly, the Twins kept penciling Larnach into the lineup because the season was lost by May and no other scenarios presented themselves. It was “sink or swim”.
Well, it seems as if Larnach has submerged. Thus far in 2022 (after the first SEA series contest), his offensive line—157 PA, 13 2B, 5 HR, .246 BA, 123 OPS+—is solid and the defensive TZF-RAA is 1. Essentially, he has dramatically improved every aspect of his game from 2021’s midseason low point. Not only that, but according to my younger sister—who is Gen-Z and thus still an arbiter of cool—he has good taste in walk-up music.
The other day, as part of a monthly season ticket holder survey, I was asked to identify my three favorite Twins players. After Jorge Polanco & Joe Ryan, Larnach made that short list. No, he doesn’t have the raw talent of a Buxton, Correa, or Arraez, but how can one not be endeared to a guy who—to steal a phrase from The Shawshank Redemption—“crawled through a river of @#$% and came out clean on the other side”. After a baptism by fire, of sorts, Trevor Larnach is proving he might have a spot on this roster for years to come.