Milwaukee Brewers catcher Omar Narváez refuses to blame his batting battle last year for the unusual circumstances of the pandemic-delayed 2020 season.
"Everything got out of hand," Narváez said on Sunday from the Brewers' spring training complex in Phoenix. "To me it feels like there are no excuses. It was a short season. Everyone talks about that. I feel like a professional, I can't have any excuses. It didn't go well."
Narváez, 29, arrived in Milwaukee with a reputation as a quality batsman and not that good defensive. He was the exact opposite in his first season in the National League after the Brewers took him over from the Seattle Mariners in December 2019.
His batting average dropped from .278 in 2019 to .176 last year. His on-base percentage fell from 0.353 to 0.294. His OPS fell from .813 to .562.
After homing 22 times in 132 games in 2019, he had two homers in 40 games last year.
Running coach Andy Haines says that Narváez was one of the many batters who put himself under too much pressure because of the shortened season.
& # 39; You could see he was trying to do way too much, & # 39; Haines said. "I didn't (just) say about Omar, but a lot of batters I was watching, they literally try to have a good season with every hit they made. You can see it. And baseball can't be that way. It can't. If the game ever sent us a reminder that it can't be played that way, it sent us a pretty strong one in 2020. "
Narváez agrees that he didn't have the right approach on the plate last season.
"I just waved everywhere," said Narváez. “I put myself in a bad position to try and hit the ball. That's one of the adjustments I try to make out of season. I stick with it during the season. "
His hitting woes overshadowed the huge steps he took behind the record to upgrade his greatest weakness.
Narváez improved his pitch-framing skills to the point that he led all catches converting non-swing pitches adjacent to the strike zone into so-called strikes, according to statistics compiled by the Baseball Savant website. He had never ranked higher than 39th in that category last season.
He also didn't allow passed balls and threw 30% of potential base stealers, up from 18% in 2019.
"Everyone says it was a bad year for me," said Narváez. "I don't feel like it. Offensive, yes. But on the defensive side it was a good year for me. I am very proud of that."
The Brewers are confident that his battle battles last year were an outlier, while he was able to sustain his defense progress.
While his 2019 season in Seattle was his best year as a hitter, Narváez also was a relatively productive hitter in his three seasons with the Chicago White Sox before moving to Seattle. His career numbers on his way to last season include a .276 batting average, .361 on-base percentage and .411 slugging percentage.
"That's all you see in Omar is just a consistent offensive player," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. “We didn't get it last year. The low point for him, where the fight got real. But there's a track record there that's pretty solid, very solid, and there's every reason to believe he can go back there. come. "
Haines spent a few days in the Miami area in mid-January to work with Narváez and outfielder Avisaíl García to prepare for the season. Haines left Florida with a feeling of encouragement.
Narváez says he didn't make any mechanical changes to his swing but tried to get his head in the right place after thinking too much last year and feeling "mentally tired" last year. felt at the end of the season.
He is now refreshed and ready to bounce back.
"Right now I have faith in the sky," said Narváez. “Just the way I feel, how my body works, how well I think. We will see. We will see training games in the spring. I have a feeling that everything will go well this year. "