Welcome back to the Phillies Beat newsletter! I’m Paul Casella, pinch-hitting for Todd Zolecki on this edition.
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 an 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% 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%, 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.
Who holds the Phillies’ franchise record for most home runs in a 25-game span?
A.) Rhys Hoskins
B.) Ryan Howard
C.) Bryce Harper
D.) Mike Schmidt
E.) None of the above
In his second start with the Phillies on Wednesday night, Noah Syndergaard showcased a bit of a new-look slider -- and he showcased it a lot.
Syndergaard threw 37 sliders, making it his most-used pitch of the night. That’s also his second-most in any of his 138 career outings (41 on Aug. 12, 2018).
But it wasn’t his typical slider.
Syndergaard’s slider averaged 87.0 mph on Wednesday -- up significantly from his season average of 83.9 mph. It also featured less break, both vertically and horizontally, giving it more of a cutter appearance, though he said it was just a tweak to his slider after working with pitching coach Caleb Cotham.
“Caleb and I got to work quite a lot in between starts this time and made quite a few adjustments, especially with my slider and my delivery,” Syndergaard said. “I think part of it is just like getting the comfort and confidence in where my slider used to be. Once I get the feel for it, just got to keep on running [with it] after that. I look forward to continuing to work with him.”
Have you ever wanted to golf with any of your favorite Phillies players? Well, now’s your chance.
Phillies pitchers Kyle Gibson and Zach Eflin are hosting a fan event at Topgolf Mount Laurel on Aug. 21 to raise money for Kisses for Kyle, which supports families in the Delaware Valley whose children are battling cancer. It will also help support Help One Now’s Ferrier School.
Gibson and Eflin will be joined by teammates Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, Brad Hand, Corey Knebel, and Matt Vierling, while play-by-play announcer Tom McCarthy will emcee the event.
With just 50 games to go, let’s take a look at a few potential milestones to monitor down the stretch.
Realmuto goes for 20-20: Even with his recent surge, Realmuto will still need a strong finish to notch the Phillies’ first 20-20 season since Jimmy Rollins in 2012. Realmuto entered Saturday with 13 home runs and 13 stolen bases, putting him on pace for 19 apiece. He would be just the second catcher with a 20-20 season in MLB history (Ivan Rodriguez, 1999).
Realmuto (965 hits entering Saturday) could also join the 1,000-hit club.
Schwarber homers vs. singles: Schwarber entered Saturday with an NL-leading 34 home runs -- and just 36 singles. He has a chance to become just the fourth player in AL/NL history to have more home runs than singles in a 35-homer season. The only players to do so are Joey Gallo (2017-18), Barry Bonds (2001) and Mark McGwire (1995, '98, '99).
And while Schwarber may not break Ryan Howard's single-season record of 58 homers, he does have a chance to hit the most by any player in his debut season with the Phillies. That mark currently belongs to Jim Thome, who hit 47 in 2003. Schwarber is on pace for 49, but his right calf injury could cost him some games.
Franchise single-season home run record: The Phillies went into Saturday's game with 148 home runs in 112 games, putting them on pace for 214. That would fall just shy of the franchise record of 224 in 2009.
E.) None of the above
The Phillies’ record for most home runs in a 25-game span belongs to Cy Williams, who hit 16 in a 25-game span in 1923, on his way to hitting an MLB-leading 41 home runs. Hoskins, Howard and Schmidt have each hit 15 in a 25-game span, while Harper's most is 12.
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