The Miami Marlins made their first big move of the offseason with the signing of free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia to be their catcher. The signing results in a huge upgrade to the team’s catcher position which amassed an embarrassing .192/.249/.280 slash line in 2013. Marlins catchers were not only last in baseball in slugging (.280), but also in wOBA (.235), wRC+ (42) and ISO (.088). By comparison, the switch hitting Salty’s 2013 numbers were a .273/.338/.466 slash with a .349 wOBA and 117 RC+.
For the Marlins, however, he doesn’t just represent a boost to the catcher position. Saltalamacchia is a major improvement to their overall lineup in terms of power, which was their biggest need. The Marlins as a team were last in baseball in slugging with a .335 mark, a full 31 points less than their closest challenger, the offensively starved New York Mets. The problem was further exacerbated at spacious Marlins Park where the team slugged an even worse .329 and was last in baseball with just 36 home runs. The predicament gets darker still when you realize that 15 of those 36 homers were hit by just one player in Giancarlo Stanton and no other player hit more than 3.
Saltalamacchia played his home games in 2013 in cozy Fenway Park where he took full advantage of the inviting dimensions with a .282/.336/.500 slash line and 9 home runs. The question for the Marlins will be whether Saltalamacchia’s power will translate to spacious Marlins Park. A home run over the Green Monster in Fenway, after all, is a can of corn in Marlins Park.
So let’s use this MLB Gameday BIP Locator tool to take a look at Saltalamacchia’s balls in play data from his Fenway at bats in 2013 and overlay them into the Marlins Park dimensions to try to get an idea of how his power will translate:
The bad news is that of the 9 homers that Saltalamacchia hit in Fenway in 2013, only 3 would have left Marlins Park. All 3 of them were on balls hit to rightfield batting left handed. The 2 home runs he hit to leftfield in Fenway would not have even reached the warning track at Marlins Park.
There is good news, though, as it appears that 4 balls he hit for doubles into Fenway’s more spacious rightfield would have been long enough to be home runs at Marlins Park. That would bring Salty’s home run total to 7, had he hit all of these same balls at Marlins Park. A drop of just 2 home runs is much better than I would have expected. In addition, the 4 homers he hit to center and rightcenter in Fenway would have been fence distance at Marlins Park and likely turned into extra base hits.
Oversimplified as this analysis may be, I think we can reasonably presume that Saltalamacchia’s power will translate to Marlins Park…well, at least as a lefthanded hitter. Salty’s power is definitely legit. In any case, getting this type of power from the catcher position might go a long way towards getting the Marlins lineup to produce enough offense to take advantage of their solid pitching staff.