Examining the impact of Omar Narváez, the Brewers unsung hero

September 13th, 2021

As the first-place team in the NL Central, the Brewers have several players generating national buzz this season.

The list includes their three Cy Young candidates (Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta), their two Reliever of the Month winners (Josh Hader and Devin Williams) and big trade acquisitions in Willy Adames and Eduardo Escobar.

But behind every contender, there’s always an unsung hero. And for this team, that hero might be catcher Omar Narváez.

The 29-year-old Venezuelan native has been a crucial ingredient in the Crew’s winning formula all season long despite not getting the same attention as some of his teammates. Here’s a look at Narvaez’ impact in 2021.

Offensive Omar

Heading into the 2020 season, the Brewers acquired Narváez from Seattle looking for an impact bat. After an up and down debut season in Milwaukee, Narváez’ offense has been as advertised (and more) in 2021.

Through Thursday’s game, Narváez ranks second among NL catchers in average (.282), fourth in on-base percentage (.361), fourth in slugging (.432), third in wRC+ (113), and fourth in fWAR (3.4).

Part of his resurgence may be a result of his 40.4 percent Sweet Spot % (Baseball Savant’s metric for a batted-ball event with a launch angle between 8 and 32 degrees), which ranks third among catchers and is nearly four percent higher than his 2020 clip of 36.2%.

Narváez is not just excelling amongst his catching peers, but also among his own team, as he’s currently second on the Crew in fWAR (3.4). That number is significant for a team leading its division, and it’s nearly double his previous career-high in Seattle (1.8 fWAR in 2019) – a testament to his growth this year.

Standout Defense

Not only has Narváez shined in most major offensive categories, but he’s also upgraded his already impressive defensive skills.

Narváez is on pace to notch yet another career-high with five defensive runs saved on the year thus far. Additionally, Baseball Savant ranks Narváez as the National League’s best in catcher framing this season with his eight runs saved from extra strikes.

On top of his excellent receiving, Narváez has a top-notch arm behind the plate. He currently ranks fourth best in the NL in throwing out baserunners, having gunned down 16 attempted thieves thus far.

When it comes to the catcher position in MLB, the expectation is that most will only excel on one side of the ball. With Narváez, it looks like the Brewers have found a rare two-way impact catcher.

Leading From the Backstop

Whether he’s at the plate or behind it, Omar has exceeded expectations while putting up impressive numbers across the board. But there’s even more to his game that makes him such an invaluable piece of the Brewers puzzle: his leadership and command of the pitching staff.

The Brewers have made waves this year with their historic rotation and elite bullpen, ranking second in the NL in pitching WAR (21.3 on Fangraphs) and third in ERA (3.38). On top of rostering a bevy of talented arms, the Brewers have one of the league’s best signal callers behind the plate.

With Narváez in the game, Brewers pitchers boast a sparkling combined 3.16 ERA – a mark that would rank second in all of baseball. That number becomes even more impressive when you factor in the Brewers have used 37 total pitchers so far this year, a single-season record under manager Craig Counsell.

Narváez’ expertise behind the plate shined on Saturday, when he caught a combined no hitter from Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader.

With the Brewers counting on their elite pitching and defense down the stretch and into October, Narváez’ presence remains one of the most vital in the Brewers clubhouse. Look for the Crew to keep leaning on their All-Star catcher as they chase the NL pennant.