In the conversation about catchers and stolen bases, fans usually talk about their ability to throw runners out. Most of them are in their position for their defensive skills; they tend to be one of the slowest position players in the lineup. Although that is the trend, one catcher has become a significant outlier. Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto has been stealing bases at an astronomical level as a catcher and has the chance to become one of the fastest catchers of all time.
J.T. Realmuto: Speed Analysis
J.T. Realmuto has been in the major leagues for eight full seasons. According to Baseball Savant, in every season, Realmuto has been in the top 17% of quickest players in the majors. He has eclipsed the top 10% in sprint speed three times in his career. Currently, he is the 82nd fastest player in the majors having an average sprint speed of 28.8 feet per second, which allows Realmuto to become a consistent threat to steal a base.
The Stealing Catcher
Not only has Realmuto become the fastest starting catcher, but he can use that speed to accumulate stolen bases. J.T. Realmuto has led the league in stolen bases by a catcher for the last four years. In fact, through his eight full seasons in the majors, he led catchers in stolen bases six times. Throughout his career, Realmuto has stolen more than ten bases three times. Consequently, no catcher has been able to steal ten bases in a season for over a decade. The last catcher not named J.T. Realmuto to steal more than ten bases was Yadier Molina that stole 12 bases in 2012. Other catchers who stole more than ten bases include Jason Kendall, 12 bases in 2010 and Russell Martin, 11 in 2009.
In 2022, Realmuto set a career-high with 21 stolen bases for the Philadelphia Phillies. Combined, that is one more stolen base than the next four leading catchers (Keibert Ruiz, Christian Bethancourt, Nick Fortes, and Willson Contreras). Last season was the first time a catcher has stolen more than 20 bases since 2000. As a result, his speed gives him a competitive advantage, as no other catcher can do what he does.
Stealing with the Phillies
One of the biggest reasons for the increase in Realmuto’s base stealing has been his trade to the Phillies. Since coming to the Philly four years ago, Realmuto has stolen 47 bases (60% of his career stolen bases), which ties DH Bryce Harper for the most stolen bases by the Phillies in that time. In 2022, Realmuto led the Phillies in stolen bases with 21 stolen bases, something unheard of for a catcher to do offensively. Speaking of unheard offensive feats, in Game 4 of the NLDS, Realmuto entered the history books as the first catcher to hit an inside-the-park home run in the playoffs.
Not only did Realmuto lead catchers in stolen bases, but they also led the league last season in stolen base percentage with 95.4%, more than four percent better than the next best player Tommy Edman of the St. Louis Cardinals. As a catcher, he can see when the best time is to steal a base. Another metric Realmuto excels in is Power/Speed, where he is 2nd best in the NL behind Trea Turner. Last season his Power/Speed number of 21.5 displays he is a threat to hit home runs and steal bases.
A Legacy in the Making?
The biggest question is whether Realmuto will be able to steal 20 bases again. As he enters his 32-year-old season, the question is valid. Despite only playing in the majors for eight seasons, he is already 37th all-time in career stolen bases with 78. If Realmuto can steal 17 bases in 2023, that would put him in the top 25 all-time among catchers. Currently, he is 22 away from 100 career stolen bases. If he reaches this plateau, he will be the 24th catcher to accomplish it. The first since Russell Martin accomplished this feat in 2017. If Realmuto can sustain this skill, he could even be top 10 all-time among catchers in stolen bases, which he can reach if he steals 64 more bases in his career.
Ultimately his speed has yet to be what allowed J.T. Realmuto to become one of the best catchers in baseball. His speed isn’t even in the top three of his best skills. But it is an aspect of his game that goes relatively unnoticed. The average fan may not see it, but hopefully, you, the reader, will start to take notice.
Embed from Getty Images
J.T. Realmuto, Yadier Molina, Jason Kendall, Russell Martin, Keibert Ruiz, Christian Bethancourt, Nick Fortes, Bryce Harper, Tommy Edman, Trea Turner
Justin grew up a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays. He's begun writing to express his opinions and engage with his fellow readers. Follow Justin on Twitter @J_Merrlles