J.T. Realmuto Could Stand to Get out of Miami

The Marlins have an interesting relationship with J.T. Realmuto, who might well have blossomed into the best all-around catcher in baseball. The Marlins love Realmuto, and they’ve continued to insist that they want to sign him to a long-term contract extension, to keep him around as the centerpiece of the future core. Yet Realmuto has signed no long-term contract extension, and word has gotten out on more than one occasion that his side feels like he should be traded. You can understand why he might not trust that the Marlins are headed in a promising direction, given his own experiences with the team.

So even just from a psychological perspective, it’s clear why Realmuto might want a fresh start. But then, from a physical perspective, there’s also the matter of his home ballpark. It’s no secret that the Marlins play half of their games in a pitcher-friendly environment, but Realmuto himself has paid a particular price over his first few seasons.

Our leaderboards have splits that go back to 2002. There was a lot of baseball that happened before 2002, and toward all of that baseball I mean no disrespect, but let me just show you some splits from recent history. I looked at home wOBA, and I looked at road wOBA. There are 547 players in the sample with at least 1,000 plate appearances in each split. Here are the ten players who have performed the worst at home, relative to their road statistics:

Home-Field Disadvantage, 2002 – 2018
Player Home wOBA Road wOBA Difference
J.T. Realmuto 0.291 0.364 -0.073
Khalil Greene 0.284 0.337 -0.053
Derek Dietrich 0.306 0.352 -0.046
Kevin Kouzmanoff 0.294 0.334 -0.040
David Bell 0.298 0.337 -0.039
Desmond Jennings 0.298 0.335 -0.037
Marlon Anderson 0.287 0.324 -0.037
Logan Morrison 0.308 0.344 -0.036
James Loney 0.307 0.341 -0.034
Rod Barajas 0.283 0.315 -0.032
Minimum 1,000 plate appearances both home and away.

Khalil Greene was a righty who hit in the most run-suppressing version of Petco Park. The same goes for Kevin Kouzmanoff. By wOBA, for his career, Greene was 53 points worse at home. Realmuto, to this point, has been 73 points worse at home. Even though Realmuto already profiles as an above-average hitter, there’s reason to believe he’s even better than he seems, because Marlins Park has been so brutal.

It’s possible to split by direction. Realmuto hasn’t been hurt to all three fields. He has, though, been hurt to two of them:

J.T. Realmuto, Career
Direction Home wOBA Road wOBA Difference
Pull 0.410 0.415 -0.005
Center 0.298 0.459 -0.161
Opposite 0.211 0.375 -0.164

When playing in Miami, Realmuto has been productive only to the pull side. He hasn’t been a threat at all to the opposite field. And yet elsewhere, Realmuto has been a legitimate all-fields hitter, being his best going back up the middle. When hitting toward left, it hasn’t really mattered where Realmuto’s been playing. To center and to right, the stadium has made all the difference.

It’s interesting to look at what’s revealed by expected wOBA, via Baseball Savant. There exist just four years of splits, but still, here’s a table similar to the first one:

Home-Field Disadvantage, 2015 – 2018
Player Home xwOBA Road xwOBA Difference
Logan Morrison 0.322 0.372 -0.050
Jose Altuve 0.321 0.371 -0.050
Gary Sanchez 0.350 0.397 -0.047
Nick Markakis 0.309 0.355 -0.046
Tommy Pham 0.345 0.383 -0.038
Jonathan Villar 0.271 0.308 -0.037
J.T. Realmuto 0.302 0.338 -0.036
Mike Zunino 0.283 0.318 -0.035
Adam Duvall 0.301 0.333 -0.032
Domingo Santana 0.329 0.361 -0.032
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
Minimum 500 plate appearances both home and away.

Realmuto hasn’t just been less successful in Miami. He’s hit the ball worse in Miami, which hasn’t been a team-wide characteristic. Since the dawn of Statcast, Marlins righties have run a .303 xwOBA at home, and a .303 xwOBA on the road. Realmuto has that 36-point split. Some of it could be noise, absolutely, since we’re still dealing with somewhat smaller samples, but the evidence points to Marlins Park as being a less than optimal environment. Realmuto has blossomed into a great player even though his home ballpark has worked against him.

Without more research, I don’t know exactly how to explain it, so I don’t know exactly how this would be perceived and evaluated by a team like the Mets, looking to make an addition. It would take further digging to develop a sense of why Realmuto has the numbers he does. But, Realmuto’s regular numbers already get one park adjustment, which goes into wRC+ and WAR. If his own personal park adjustment ought to be stronger for whatever reason, that would only make Realmuto all the more valuable, were he to be playing somewhere else. His is a hell of a package of skills, and any trade would have to be a blockbuster.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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5 years ago

Maybe he’s been trying too hard to hit that stupid sculpture in left center.

5 years ago
Reply to  Hughes

Too little too late.