Realmuto has big fan in Hall of Fame catcher
This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki’s Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
Johnny Bench might be the greatest catcher in baseball history.
Consider the resume: Hall of Famer, two-time National League MVP, 14-time NL All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, the 1968 NL Rookie of the Year, two-time World Series champion and the 1976 World Series MVP. Bench, whom I sadly remember more from hosting “The Baseball Bunch” than for being a key cog in the Big Red Machine, hit 389 home runs and slashed .267/.342/.476 in his 17-year career with the Reds. His 75.1 WAR is the highest among all catchers in baseball history, according to Baseball Reference.
So, it was interesting last week to hear Bench gush about Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto, whom he considers the best catcher in baseball today.
“J.T. does so many good things, bats in the middle of the lineup, does what he has to do every day, but the durability, you also have to go with durability,” Bench said. “He caught 1,100 innings or something like that, that’s phenomenal. To try to see a guy catch 100 games, to think I caught 13 consecutive years of 100 games or more, you really didn’t have a day off.”
Realmuto caught 1,131 2/3 innings in the regular season last year, 127 2/3 more than second-ranked Sean Murphy.
Realmuto caught 1,281 1/3 innings overall, including the postseason. Only two catchers have caught more innings than that in the past 14 years: Salvador Perez (1,389 2/3 innings in 2014, and 1,334 1/3 innings in 2015) and Yadier Molina (1,309 innings in 2011).
Realmuto’s 29.7 career WAR ranks 38th all time among catchers. He averaged 4.7 WAR over the past five non-pandemic shortened seasons. If Realmuto, 31, maintains that level of production over the next five seasons -- it’s an "if" considering Realmuto’s age and the wear and tear at that position -- he would have 53.1 WAR. The average Hall of Fame catcher has 53.7 WAR.
MLB Network recently ranked its top 10 players at every position. Six Phillies made those lists:
• Realmuto, No. 1 (catcher)
• Zack Wheeler, No. 8 (starting pitchers)
• Trea Turner, No. 1 (shortstops)
• Rhys Hoskins, No. 10 (first basemen)
• Bryce Harper, No. 3 (right fielders)
• Kyle Schwarber, No. 3 (left fielders)