Why this Phillie is hitting better than ever

August 13th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki's Phillies Beat newsletter, with Paul Casella pinch-hitting on this edition. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

J.T. Realmuto isn’t just on a hot streak over the past month -- he might be in the midst of the best stretch of his entire career. 

Realmuto had put up a 1.131 OPS over his last 25 starts entering Friday’s series opener against the Mets, marking the best 25-game stretch in his nine big league seasons. He hit .352 with eight homers, 26 RBIs and three stolen bases during that stretch, making him the first catcher to hit at least .350 with eight homers, 25 RBIs and multiple steals over a 25-game span since Ivan Rodriguez in 2000. 

All of that comes after Realmuto entered that stretch hitting just .238 with a .672 OPS through 69 games. 

While Realmuto has said “nothing necessarily clicked,” let’s take a closer look at two key areas of improvement.

Making better contact

Realmuto has posted a hard-hit rate of just 39.7 percent through June. That would have been his lowest in a season since 2017 with the Marlins -- the year before he made the first of his three All-Star selections.

But since the start of July, Realmuto’s hard-hit rate has skyrocketed to 57.1 percent, seventh-best in the Majors during that span. In other words, more than half the time he puts the ball in play, it has an exit velocity of at least 95 mph.

Similarly, Realmuto has had an average exit velocity of 93.4 mph during his hot streak. That’s not only a sizable jump from his 87.7 mph through June, but it’s the fourth-highest among the 153 players with at least 75 batted balls since July 1. The only players with a higher average exit velocity during that stretch are Aaron Judge (95.8 mph), Austin Riley (93.8) and Teoscar Hernández (93.6).

No more trouble with the curve -- and destroying fastballs

Even during his slow start, Realmuto was still having some success against fastballs. It was breaking pitches that were really bringing his numbers down. 

Prior to July, Realmuto was hitting just .174 (16-for-92) with a .283 slugging percentage against breaking balls. He had more strikeouts (27) than hits (16) in at-bats ending on a breaking ball. But since July 1, Realmuto is hitting .364 with a .591 slugging percentage against breaking balls. 

By sitting on those breaking balls, it’s also allowing Realmuto to exploit fastballs even further. After hitting .290 with a .427 slugging percentage against fastballs to start the year, he’s hitting .323 (21-for-65) with a .721 slugging percentage against fastballs since July 1. Ten of those 21 hits have gone for extra bases, including seven homers.