When a team is going as well as the Phillies have been going – and a 5-4, come-from-behind win in extra innings against the Mets in New York on Monday was the latest example of just how well – it’s easy to start hunting around, looking for something that makes you want to question your own good fortune.

Maybe it’s ingrained in the minds of Philadelphia sports fans. Too many heartbreaks in the past. Too many fast starts that crumble into deep-seated disappointments. Too many promises of an ultimate reward only to have them prove to be empty in the end.

So we start looking – under every rock, in every dark corner – for those things that are a surefire sign that this success cannot sustain itself. We need to find the chinks in the armor. We need to find the finest cracks in the foundation. We need to find something to bitch about, damn it!

Never mind the fact that the Phillies were without three star players in the lineup against the Mets and have been trying to win games with their depth players for several games now. No, we need to channel that deep-seated anger towards someone – anyone.

Consider me gob smacked to see so much vitriol being directed in the direction of Garrett Stubbs.

Yep, the backup catcher is taking the arrows of the fans who don’t have their bow and quiver locked away while the team is in the midst of one of its best starts ever.

Why?

Well, he hasn’t hit with any sort of consistency for two years!

Great, there aren’t many backup catchers, who only get to play once a week, who can. Next.

Uh, He can’t catch Zack Wheeler, and that’s why our ace was so ineffective in Miami Sunday. 

Really? Who said that? Because it wasn’t Wheeler.

But.. but… they were talking about it on the broadcast!

Gotcha. Let’s let a bespectacled studio host who jumps from one extreme to the other, like frogs on lily pads, tell you how you should feel about a certain player or players, or the team in general.

Remember, he was having a meltdown about the Phillies in the opening week of the season after a loss.

But, if we’re being fair, this was first brought up by Ben Davis during the broadcast of Sunday’s game because Wheeler’s lifetime numbers in Stubbs starts aren’t great as when J.T. Realmuto catches.

Never mind the fact that Sunday was just the sixth time Stubbs has ever caught Wheeler, while Realmuto has caught Wheeler 104 times. Why let those facts get in the way of a talking point?

I’ll have more on this as this post progresses, but it’s things like this that fester into season-long, or multi-season long tropes chortled by voices on multiple platforms without context, and that drives me nuts.

Consider this progression:

  1. Davis mentions the disparity on Sunday between Realmuto and Stubbs when Wheeler pitches. He tries his best to put in the caveat that it’s a small sample size, but that’s like trying to put toothpaste back in a tube.
  2. Michael Barkann doubles down on it on the postgame show because the Phillies lost, and well, we need to highlight any negative we can when that happens.
  3. Wheeler is actually asked about this by media in the clubhouse afterwards, because we do listen to the broadcast sometimes while watching the game, to pick up on tidbits, no matter how inane. Wheeler dismisses it by saying, “We’re both on the same page for the most part. It’s just different scenarios where I like to do certain things and he’s not used to it. This isn’t on Stubby at all. It’s on me. I threw a lot of balls – what, three or four walks? That’s just on me.”
  4. With Realmuto having knee soreness, Stubbs has to catch again Monday night. Cristopher Sanchez gets in some trouble early in the game, and the low grumble of Stubbs catching another bad outing starts to simmer on social media. Then, when he has to bat in a key spot late in the game and doesn’t come through, the mouth breathing really begins.

At least that last guy had the balls to actually tag Stubbs in his venomous tweet.

It’s crazy, though. Forget the fact that Stubbs executed a brilliant, two-out, drag bunt for an RBI earlier in the game.

Excuse the fact that he threw a seed to nail Harrison Bader trying to steal second following a leadoff single in the sixth inning.

None of that should matter because the Phillies, who were already shorthanded in the position player department, let him bat in the ninth inning and he popped out, right? Puh-lease.

Was it a good at bat? No. He probably should have taken a strike against Edwin Diaz, who was rattled at that point and was overthrowing a bit. A swinging first pitch was not ideal.

But it’s a manifestation of misguided anger that stemmed from a few comments a day earlier by broadcasters who just need something to talk about.


The point is, Stubbs has not hit when he’s played. It’s hard to do – especially as a backup catcher who doesn’t get pinch hitting appearances either.

And he absolutely should be better than what he’s been, which is batting just .133 with a .369 OPS in eight starts this season. However, comparatively, backup catchers in baseball are not in that role because they’re providing great offense. If they were, they wouldn’t be backups, you know what I’m saying?

I went through every backup catcher in baseball and most of them have pretty meager offensive numbers.

There are unique situations, like in Kansas City, Minnesota, and Milwaukee where two catchers are often deployed simultaneously – Salvador Perez plays first base sometimes for the Royals, giving Freddy Fermin more time than most backups, and Gary Sanchez often serves as a DH for the Brewers behind William Contreras while Ryan Jeffers does the same for the Twins alongside Christian Vazquez.

It’s hard to compare with those teams, and there are other teams who have dealt with injuries to either their starter or their backup (Atlanta, St. Louis, San Francisco and the Mets), meaning there’s a lot of time for a third or fourth catcher as well.

But here are the batting averages and OPS of the rest of the backups in MLB so far this season:

  • Baltimore – James McCann – .213; .541 OPS
  • N.Y. Yankees – Austin Wells – .200; .648 OPS*
  • Boston – Reese McGuire – .273; .739 OPS
  • Tampa Bay – Alex Jackson – .059; .223 OPS
  • Toronto – Alejandro Kirk – .188; .534 OPS**
  • Cleveland – Austin Hedges – .147; .408 OPS
  • Detroit – Carson Kelly – .177; .513 OPS
  • Chicago White Sox – Martin Maldonado – .106; .336 OPS
  • Seattle – Seby Zavala – .200; .567 OPS
  • Texas – Andrew Knizner – .132; .364 OPS
  • Oakland – Kyle McCann – .353; 1.083 OPS
  • Houston – Victor Caratini – .245; .732 OPS
  • L.A. Angels – Matt Thaiss – .226; .656 OPS
  • Washington – Riley Adams – .233; .704 OPS
  • Miami – Nick Fortes – .122; .345 OPS***
  • Chicago Cubs – Yan Gomes – .200; .530 OPS
  • Pittsburgh – Joey Bart – .205; .794 OPS****
  • Cincinnati – Luke Maile – .148; .480 OPS
  • L.A. Dodgers – Austin Barnes – .219; .609 OPS
  • San Diego – Kyle Higashioka – .182; .515 OPS
  • Arizona – Tucker Barnhart – .205; .611 OPS
  • Colorado – Jacob Stallings – .326; .923 OPS

(* – Wells and Jose Trevino have evenly split playing time. ** – Kirk has played a little more than Danny Jansen to this point but Jansen also has been used as a DH while Kirk plays, just not as often as teams like MIL, KC and MIN, a sign Toronto would prefer to have his bat in the lineup to Kirk. *** – Fortes has split time with Christian Bethancourt, but that’s been slowly changing in the past couple weeks. **** – Bart was brought in when backup Yasmani Grandal got hurt at the beginning of the season. They’ve since sent original starter Henry Davis down and Grandal just came back, so it’s not known who will get the bulk of the time.)

As you can see, with only a few exceptions, no backup catcher is hitting well right now. This shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Backup catchers are there to be good signal callers and provide good defense. When it comes to throwing out runners, Stubbs still has one of the better pop times in the sport. The average pop time for a major league catcher is two seconds flat.

In limited chances this year, Stubbs is at 1.93 seconds, which is tied for 15th in the majors. Last year he was 1.87, which was tied for second in the sport behind Realmuto. In 2022 he was at 1.91, which ranked 7th.

That makes him still among the better catchers in that department.

As for being a signal caller, Stubbs is right around league average.

Phillies starters have a 3.89 ERA in games Stubbs has started behind the plate. The major league average is 3.98. Meaning Phillies pitchers have been slightly better than league average ERA in games he starts.

The starting staff’s WHIP has been 1.34. The league average is 1.26, so it’s slightly lower.

Combined, it’s basically league average – which you would expect from your backup catcher.

As for the notion he impacts Wheeler when he pitches, let’s look at the six times he’s caught Wheeler.

The first was July 13th, 2022, in Toronto. Do you remember that trip? You should. It’s the one where Realmuto and a few other teammates couldn’t travel because of Canadian COVID vaccine restrictions.

The Phillies trotted out this lineup for that game:

  1. Kyle Schwarber LF
  2. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  3. Nick Castellanos RF
  4. Darick Hall DH
  5. Bryson Stott 2B
  6. Matt Vierling CF
  7. Didi Gregorius SS
  8. Yairo Munoz 3B
  9. Garrett Stubbs C

Keep in mind this was Casty’s first year hear, so he wasn’t good. And Stott was a rookie who was struggling.

As for the pitchers the Phillies had to rely on to replace Wheeler that game – Jeurys Familia, Nick Duron, Brad Hand, and Bubby Rossman. When the Phillies gave out their NLCS rings to all the players from 2022, I somehow missed the presentations to Duron and Rossman.

Needless to say, that was a mess of a situation. Wheeler threw 4 2/3 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

His next start that Stubbs caught was two weeks later in Pittsburgh, and Wheeler was, well, Wheeler. He lasted seven innings and allowed just two runs on three hits while walking three and striking out eight.

Guess Stubbs wasn’t a problem that night, eh?

The third time Stubbs caught Wheeler was August 20th, 2022. Remember that game? It was at home against the Mets. Anyone?

Let me remind you. It was the game that landed Wheeler on the I.L. for a month before the end of the season.

Should we blame Stubbs for Wheeler being hurt?

Wheeler threw 5 1/3 innings allowing four runs on five hits with four walks and six strikeouts and then we didn’t see him until late September.

After that, Stubbs didn’t catch Wheeler again for almost a year.

The next time was August 2nd, 2023 in a 9-8 loss in Miami. But that one wasn’t on Wheeler. He pitched well. He allowed just two runs on five hits and a walk in six innings.

The fifth time he caught him was August 20th of last season. That was the Little League Classic, where, if you remember, the Phillies schedule was delayed and they didn’t land until lunchtime and had a lot of appearances to make before the game that night. Wheeler gave up four runs on five hits in the first inning, and then shut the Washington Nationals down over the next six innings, yielding just two hits and a walk.

The last start was Sunday, where Wheeler admitted to not having a good feel for his pitches.

So, when you put it into context, really, how much of a detriment has Stubbs been to Wheeler? Zero. None. Not at all. Making a case that he is comes solely from finding a weird stat and leaning into it as a bullshit argument, to put it bluntly.

Lo and behold, Stubbs is starting again Tuesday, as Realmuto will miss his third straight game.

Stubbs will be catching Aaron Nola for the first time this season and eighth time in the three seasons he’s been with the Phillies. Nola’s numbers in games caught by Stubbs? –

4.20 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 45 IP, 51 K, 5 BB

Stubbs once caught a complete game shutout by Nola, and also caught a game in which he allowed eight runs in four innings. Take both out (one very good, one very bad) and it’s a 3.66 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP.

Nola’s career numbers? How about 3.72 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP.

The last thing is, when you take all this in total, you find that Stubbs is not very different statistically from most backup catchers in the sport. But where he is different, is in the clubhouse.

There’s no doubt he’s one of the most well-liked, and some would argue is THE most well-liked guy in the Phillies clubhouse. You already know all about the camaraderie he creates. He’s the team DJ. He has a lot to do with the vibes related to the team. He became a legend with the Budweiser box on his head in 2022. He ordered a pair of overalls for the entire team last year, and that sparked fans to buy them too.

Oh, and he’s the lead guitarist and backup vocalist for the band “Stay Loose and Sexy” with teammates Brandon Marsh, Schwarber and Cristian Pache.

OK, the band thing is just hysterical, despite not being real. But it’s indicative of the kind of thing that makes this team so close, and Stubbs is one of the biggest glue guys there is in the game.

So, if he’s going to be about average statistically when it comes to backup catchers, but brings so much energy and culture to the team, why would anyone criticize his role?


There are actually dozens of tweets just like these. Just search it yourself if you don’t believe me. For as great as the fans are in this town, this is why they have the reputation they do nationwide. Because of nonsense like this.

Look, I’ve gone on way too long here to justify a backup catcher, for God’s sake. I need to stop for my own sanity. The simplest point, and one that should have saved me about 2,500 words is this:

There may be other things that crop up this season to worry about on the march toward October for the Phillies. Unless something horrible happens and Realmuto is lost for the postseason, worrying about what Stubbs brings to the table is absolutely not one of them.