Something happened on Saturday afternoon that hasn’t happened in quite some time.
The Phillies had a J.T. Realmuto game.

In the team’s 5-2 win over the Washington Nationals, Realmuto went 2-4, changing the course of the game both at and behind the plate.

In the top of the 3rd inning, with two outs and two men on, Realmuto crushed a three-run homer to put the Phillies ahead 4-0. In the bottom of the 5th inning, with the Phillies up 4-2, Realmuto threw out Nationals’ shortstop Nasim Nunez in his attempt to steal second base. His pop time: 1.85. The ball left his hand at 85 mph, rocketing cleanly to Bryson Stott’s glove. 

Through eight games this year, Realmuto, the 33-year-old Iron Man, has posted a slash line of .300/.364/.500 with two home runs and four RBI.

So far he’s thrown out three of the six base runners attempting to steal second base.

Last season, albeit with larger bases and rules implemented to make stealing easier for the base runner, Realmuto’s numbers dropped precipitously from his Gold Glove campaign in 2023: his caught-stealing rate on runners attempting to swipe second base fell from a league-high 54% in 2022 to a mediocre 22% in 2023. While his pop time and exchange speed remained quite similar, the accuracy of his throws waned. In 2023, his throws to the second were too often A) one-hopped on the ground, B) to the wrong side of the bag, or C) both.

In 2022, Realmuto threw out 17 of 26 stolen base attempts when he made the throw to second fully in the air. He threw out just 8 of 20 attempts at second base when his throw hit the ground before arriving at second base. In 2023, when his caught-stealing percentage was down, more of his throws to second hit the ground (26) than made it there on the fly (19). He threw out 6 of those 19 base runners when the throw was in the air compared to just 7 of 26 when his throw hit the ground. 

A drastic fall off in framing ability–Realmuto was worth -12.2 framing runs last season, third worst in MLB–along with diminished effectiveness on the base paths and at the plate saw Realmuto’s WAR drop from a career-high 6.5 in 2022 to 1.5 in 2023. Yes, Realmuto caught a career-high 1,142 defensive innings and hit a respectable 21 home runs with a catcher-leading 16 stolen bases, but he wasn’t the superstar that he was in 2022. He didn’t impact the game in the same way. From a decreased aggression on the base paths–a career-low 30% extra-bases taken percentage, down from 54% in 2022–to waning accuracy on his throws to second base to a lackluster season at the plate, Realmuto perhaps finally showed his age. 

Or maybe he didn’t. Even at 33, Realmuto is still as athletic and spry as he ever was. His arm is just as strong, his hands just as quick, and his feet just as fast as they were two years ago. And his swing, the most crucial part of this equation, has been revamped. After hitting just .174 on pitches inside last season, Realmuto went to work in November at the Phillies’ complex in Clearwater, FL, making full use of their biomechanics lab to diagnose the holes in his swing. The main issue? His hands were arriving at their launching position too late, causing him to fly open and struggle to read where pitches were in the strike zone. 

So far, the changes seem to have helped. Realmuto is making more consistent, harder contact. His at-bats, just in the first eight games, have been better. It’s a long season, and if we know anything from his past, it’s that J.T. will be around for almost all of it.

If he can continue to make those improvements at the plate and behind the dish, however, there’s a higher possibility that the Phillies will see more and more of those signature J.T. Realmuto games.

With expectations higher than ever, they’re going to need them.

Photo: —

Comments are closed.

Check Also

Baseball’s Top Predictions for the Year

If you like a flutter at the races or to place a bet on who will score next in football, t…