Catching is the most demanding everyday position in baseball, by a wide margin. What the position asks players to do, both physically and mentally, is torturous. The toll it takes on the knees, hips, ankles, the mind, the arm – no one really thinks about how many throws a catcher makes in a game – is nearly too much to ask.
J.T. Realmuto asks for it, every day. The only thing it seems he hates more than losing is a day off. He has caught more games, and more innings, than any big-league catcher this season. Whether he will admit it or not, whether he wants to or not, J.T. needs a break.
His slash numbers (.243/.317/.361) are his lowest for a full season in his career to date. His .679 OPS ranks 64th among 81 National League qualifiers. His hard hit percentage (amount of balls with exit velocity of 95 mph or higher) is 31%, by far his lowest in his four years in Philadelphia.
Unlike in years past, Realmuto as an every day catcher isn’t an absolute necessity. There is plenty of support up and down the lineup, including Realmuto’s backup, Garrett Stubbs, the hero of Wednesday’s win over the Marlins.
Even before his heroics, Stubbs has more than held his own stepping in behind the plate. He has a hit in nine of his 12 starts this season, and his catcher’s ERA (3.86) is right on par with Realmuto (3.95). The added pop at the bottom of the lineup doesn’t hurt either.
“I don’t know what our record is when he’s catching, but it seems like the last few times he’s caught, we’ve won,” said Phillies manager Rob Thomson after Stubbs’ walk-off Wednesday. “He does a great job. He takes a lot of pride in running the game for his pitchers. He’s had good at bats, he’s a good baserunner. You feel good when he’s in the lineup.”
Thomson has the Phillies winning, and feeling good about themselves. He likes what Stubbs brings when he’s called upon. Perhaps he can convince Realmuto to take more days off, to keep him fresh for a stretch run when he will surely be needed.
Realmuto and Stubbs shared a strong embrace after Stubbs crossed home plate Wednesday. It remains to be seen how strongly the Phillies catcher would embrace a few more days off.