Data Ball With Jason Ferrie

J.T. Realmuto is now a 2-time All-Star, and may keep getting better

J.T. Realmuto was the Phillies lone All-Star. (Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Tuesday evening, J.T. Realmuto will be the Philadelphia Phillies lone All-Star representative. Realmuto’s first half left some hoping for a bit more offensively after general manager Matt Klentak landed him in one of the biggest trades in franchise history in February. Still, Realmuto leads the club in fWAR (2.8) and seems poised for a big second-half.

When looking into the numbers, most will default to your standard batting line to check on the value Realmuto has provided to the Phillies thus far. If starting there, we see that Realmuto owns a .273/.328/.438 slash line. Obviously, the Phillies would like to see Realmuto closer to the full season .277/.340/.484 line he posted in Miami last season, but there are reasons to buy that he will get there.

Digging into the advanced numbers, we do find a few reasons to believe Realmuto have a bigger second-half offensively and that starts with a career-best 9.4 percent barrel rate. Realmuto has 22 barrels on the season and six of those have resulted in outs. Now, that will happen because baseball works that way, but he is hitting the ball better than ever. The average exit velocity for Realmuto this season is also a career-best 90.4 mph, which is another positive sign. His launch angle is slightly lower than last season, dropping from 14.4 degrees down to 12.6, but that’s not overly devastating.

At some point, you want to see these better-than-average hitting percentiles turn into actual results, but the strong peripherals are certainly a reason to buy in. In the past two weeks, Realmuto showed some positive signs slashing .340/.389/.500 with a 133 wRC+.

Here are the offensive percentiles for J.T. Realmuto to the All-Star Break:

Metric Percentile
Exit Velocity 73rd
Hard Hit % 69th
xBA 86th
xSLG 64th
xwOBA 70th

While the Phillies hope the batted ball results from the first-half show in the second-half, the one thing they can count on is All-Star defense. To this point in the season, Realmuto has logged 659 innings behind the dish and has 10 defensive runs saved, the second most among catchers behind Austin Hedges of the San Diego Padres.

The beautiful part of the analytics age we are in is there are actual metrics available to quantify how good a catcher has been, beyond just the eye test. It significantly increases the value of a catcher if they are able to frame pitches well, an area where Realmuto has thrived.

Realmuto has a 51.6 percent strike rate on non-swing pitches this season. The league average for non-swing called strikes is 48.7 percent, so he has been quite good when compared to the league average and even to the 48.3 percent mark he posted a season ago.

In terms of runs saved from extra strikes, Baseball Savant has Realmuto with five—which is tied with Buster Posey for fifth best.

When analyzing the outside of the strike zone, the Statcast metrics break it out into eight different zones—which are the four corners and then each respective zone leading to the corner. In four of the eight zones, Realmuto is better than league average and at least 10 percent better than league average in two of those. Those zones are Zone 14 and 17, which are middle-in and low-in to a right-handed hitter. Savant does not allow the image to be captured, but if you’re more of a visual person, you can see the zones here.

The one defensive tool that has stood out the most is Realmuto’s ability to throw out base runners, an area where he’s the best in baseball. No catcher this year has posted an average pop time better than Realmuto’s 1.88. The major league average pop time to second base is 2.01. Realmuto blows that number out of the water and it is a major reason the 28-year-old has thrown out 26 of 53 potential baserunners this season. Only Realmuto and Hedges have thrown out over 40 percent of potential basestealers, so it’s no shock they’re also one and two in defensive runs saved.

The one metric not captured by Baseball Savant is catcher blocking, but thankfully, Baseball Prospectus does capture this. Not all sites will align exactly on all defensive metrics, but they’re usually close. In terms of blocking, Realmuto has been the second best in baseball behind Roberto Perez of the Cleveland Indians with 3.8 blocking runs. This is another area of improvement since 2018, as Realmuto had 0.9 blocking runs last year according to Prospectus

With every team guaranteed to have an All-Star, there’s little doubt that Realmuto deserves to be representing the Phillies in Cleveland this week as he leads the club in Wins Above Replacement and has been dominant behind the plate this season. (Frankly, even if every team wasn’t guaranteed an All-Star, his defense probably made him worth a nod.) The Phillies are looking to make a playoff push when the second-half begins and will need Realmuto’s batted ball results to turn into actual results like they did in the two weeks leading up to the break. The one thing we know for sure: any new arms the Phillies may add in the coming weeks will be in good hands with Realmuto behind the plate.

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