While pretty much everyone knew Zack Wheeler – who’s currently in the midst of a career year – would be making the 2021 All-Star Game, Philadelphia Phillies fans were relatively surprised to hear that one of Wheeler’s teammates would be joining him in Colorado for the midsummer classic. J.T. Realmuto, who’s currently having his *worst* season as a member of the Phillies, was selected to his third consecutive All-Star Game on Sunday afternoon.
Before diving too deep into the conversation of whether Realmuto “deserved” his recent All-Star accolade, one thing needs to be made very clear: J.T. is having a very productive season.
While his current slash line of .263/.359/.446 is considered a down year compared to what he did in his first two seasons as a Phillie, Realmuto’s first half of the 2021 season was an above average one by all accounts and measures. His OPS+ is firmly north of 100 (the league average), and he currently ranks first on the Phillies in terms of offensive bWAR (2.2).
His current OPS of .805 is still only a tick below what he recorded in 2019 (.820) and 2020 (.840). Maybe it’s due to the heightened expectations that come with a new contract extension, but some fans are acting like Realmuto has completely fallen off this season. While he’s undoubtedly slumped more than we’re used to, he still firmly ranks towards the top of the league as one of the best catchers in baseball – if not the best.
With all of that said, I myself was a tad surprised to see J.T. earn an All-Star nomination this season, and that’s primarily due to a handful of other National League catchers hang highly productive campaigns. Buster Posey made the ASG as the starter, but the likes of Will Smith and Omar Narvaez both missed out – despite having a higher OPS than Realmuto.
On the flip side of that debate, Realmuto currently has more RBIs than both Smith and Narvaez, a higher batting average than Smith, and more total extra base hits than Narvaez.
Realmuto also has a higher offensive bWAR than both Smith and Narvaez, despite trailing in overall bWAR.
You can cherrypick which stats “mean the most” when it comes to something like an All-Star Game selection for hours on end, the only point I’m trying to relay here is that you’re mostly splitting hairs when it comes to who deserved to be the second NL catcher selected to this year’s midsummer classic.
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Did Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto really earn his All-Star Game selection this season?
Ultimately speaking, if I was the one making the decision, I likely would’ve opted away from naming Realmuto an All-Star this season. While his statistical production thus far has still been respectable, the likes of Smith and Narvaez both have put up more All-Star worthy first halves when taking into account all of the numbers.
With that said, this is where the Philadelphia Phillies catcher gets to reap the rewards of being a “big name talent” around Major League Baseball. With the gap between Reamuto, Narvaez, and Smith so close, the league clearly edged in J.T.’s favor due to his previous track record as a 2x All-Star and his status as the highest paid catcher in baseball. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯