Recipe for a Jarrod Saltalamacchia Bounceback in 2015
Sep 5, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) connects for an RBI during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Going into 2014, the Miami Marlins felt they had secured the catcher position with the 3 year signing of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, for a reasonable $27 million. Coming off a successful 2013 where he slashed .273/.338/.446, with 14 bombs in 120 games for the Boston Red Sox.
The Marlins expected a similar performance over the next three years, but their lack of knowledge of advanced statistics hindered their ability to accurately assess his abilities.
Salty’s inflated line in 2013 was largely due to a high average on balls in play (BABIP). His BABIP of .372 in 2013 was 50 points higher than his career line of .321, accounting for his large regression in 2014. Speaking of 2014, he struggled during his first year in the National League, posting a line of .220/.320/.362. His below average offensive output, coupled with his painful-at-times defense, led to a WAR of 1.3.
Marlins’ team executives, as well as the fans, are left wondering: What can we expect from Salty in the future? How can he get back to the success he enjoyed in 2013?
Below is a graph of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s whiff percentage by zone, from his rookie season through 2013, from BrooksBasebal.net
Clearly there is a hole in his swing, on pitches up in the zone, and above the zone. Salty has an alarming tendency to swing and miss, especially when he sees high pitches. He’s always going to strike out, with a career 30% strikeout rate. But, if he becomes more selective, and doesn’t swing at as many pitches up in the zone, he could make more solid contact, and raise his BABIP closer to 2013 levels.
Below, the the same graph is shown, only focused on the 2014 season.
His swing and miss percentage on pitches up in the zone took a huge jump this season, as Marlins fans can remember what felt like a strikeout every time he came to the plate. Pitchers figured it out, and they started pounding him with the high stuff. Rather than make the necessary adjustments to his swing, Salty fell victim to a season-long slump starting in June.
His BABIP table is shown below, and he’s clearly a low ball hitter.
If Salty can find a way to lay off on the high cheese, and make more contact down in the zone, he could definitely have a bounce back 2015. I doubt he will ever duplicate his 3.5 WAR season from 2013, but anything close to that would be a bonus. A 2 win season is certainly within reach for Salty, but he will always be limited by his defense and the tendency to strikeout. I’m sure Jarrod and the coaches are aware of his glaring weakness, and it’s time to make some adjustments.
New year, Old Salty? that would be nice.