WASHINGTON -- Don’t run on J.T. Realmuto.
But Realmuto just might run on you. He stole his 19th, 20th and 21st bases of the season in the Phillies' 5-1 victory over the Nationals on Friday at Nationals Park. Realmuto became just the second catcher in AL/NL history to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in a season. Ivan “Pudge" Rodriguez is the only other catcher to do it. He hit 35 home runs and stole 25 bases with the 1999 Rangers.
“He’s been everything for us,” Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson said. “Big hits, controlling the running game, the way he runs the game. I’ve said all along that he should be in the MVP conversation. I mean, that’s how important he is to this club.”
Realmuto stole his first two bases in the first inning and his third in the ninth to become only the ninth catcher since 1901 to steal three bases in a game. He is the first to do it since Pittsburgh’s Jason Kendall on April 19, 1999. He is the first Phillies catcher to do it since Red Dooin on Sept. 24, 1906.
Realmuto is a perfect 21-for-21 stealing bases this season, compared to Rodriguez, who got caught 12 times in 1999.
Realmuto is the first player to steal at least 20 bases in a season without being caught since Phillies second baseman Chase Utley went 23-for-23 in 2009. He is the first catcher to steal at least 20 bases without being caught since caught stealing became an official stat in the AL in 1920 and the NL in 1951.
Realmuto also threw out one Nationals base stealer on Friday. He leads baseball with 26 catchers caught stealing.
“He’s the best catcher in the game,” Phillies left-hander Bailey Falter said. “I don’t know why guys continue to run on him.”
Realmuto, 31, entered Friday with a 6.0 WAR, according to FanGraphs, which was tied for 10th among all position players. It is remarkable, considering he started the season slowly, batting just .236 with four homers, 27 RBIs and a .665 OPS through June 24. But Realmuto has been one of the best players in baseball since. From June 25 through Game 1 on Friday, he was batting .306 with 17 homers, 56 RBIs and a .945 OPS. He was tied for second in the Majors in that stretch with a 4.3 WAR. Only Aaron Judge (7.0) has been better.
“I know a lot was talked about his age at the beginning of the season,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “I get to see the work that guy does day in and day out to make sure that he’s ready to play. … Yeah, it literally is amazing. We’re getting to see a lot of really cool things in baseball this year. You’ve got a lot of milestones going on. But I hope this [20-20] doesn’t get swept under the rug, because anytime you have something where only two guys have done it ever in the game. … I know for J.T., it’s probably pretty cool to be coupled in a sentence with Pudge.”