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June 12, 2024

Can the Phillies survive without J.T. Realmuto for a month?

The Phillies have not put many resources into their backup catcher, and that's by design. Will it hurt them?

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JT_Realmuto_defense_Phillies_Blue_Jays_092022_KateFrese23.jpg Kate Frese/For PhillyVoice

Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto against the Blue Jays back on September 20, 2022.

Any list of the most indispensable Phillies players for this — or any other season — would surely have J.T. Realmuto somewhere near the top.

The Phillies catcher was called the (best catcher in baseball) BCIP for a reason when they traded for him in 2019, and he and Bryce Harper have represented a mercenary core that has quickly become Philadelphia's own. He routinely leads catchers in games played and in innings pitched, and over the five seasons he has been in Philly, he's played in a remarkable 85 percent of the team's games.

This season, prior to being placed on the IL to get a minor knee surgery meant to help him with nagging pain he's had for a while, Realmuto played in 51 of 65 games, roughly 78 percent. He recently turned 33, which is the start of old age for a catcher.

It's been estimated by Phillies president Dave Dombrowski that Realmuto should only miss about a month of games. With the Phillies boasting the best record in the NL, a 10-game lead over the Braves in the NL East, and with Trea Turner and others set to return to the roster, the front office clearly feels this is a luxury they can take to get Realmuto healthy come the fall.

But there could be a big drop off in performance behind the plate, and at it too.

Due to their having so many games played by Realmuto, the Phillies have had arguably the least important backup catcher situation in baseball. Garrett Stubbs will start most of the games in his stead, with minor leaguer Rafael Marchán tagged to back him up.

A look at the Phillies' current catchers:

Garrett Stubbs158.213/.289/.315
Rafael Marchán23.267/.323/.417

Stubbs has twice started 32 games at catcher, career highs he could match in 2024. Marchán is 25 and has started 339 times at backstop in the minors. Neither has flexed much power in their respective careers. There is inexperience here, even though Stubbs has been a locker room staple for the past few seasons.

The Phillies are 350-301 with Realmuto catching (54 percent). In 123 games with someone else catching, the win percentage is similar, 64-59 (52 percent). 

With the Phils starting pitching staff boasting the best stats in nearly every category in the National League, it's safe to wonder whether having a different man calling pitches will have a noticeable impact. The drop off in offense could be overcome with Turner back and a relatively short timeframe — 30 days or so. 

One has to think that a Phillies team that was less dominant might force Realmuto to take this injury day-by-day. But it's likely a vote of confidence in their World Series chances that the team is electing to fix the issue now rather than forcing their tough as nails catcher to deal with it.

With the All-Star game arriving in mid-July, the Phils should be able to ease Realmuto back into action with a target of their July 19 series against the Pirates. We'll see how much ground they've lost — or gained – in playoff positioning come that time.

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