Phillies' lineup change that got J.T. Realmuto going is the best move of the season

Getting the catcher hitting again has been a key to the Phillies' success.
Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto
Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

When Trea Turner went down with a hamstring injury on May 3, he left a big hole in the lineup at the two-hole. He was hitting .343/.392/.460 and 10 stolen bases which is a far cry from how he started the season last year. 

With Turner out, concern was high and the question was immediately asked: Who would be able to step into that all-important two-hole in the lineup and produce enough to keep the Philadelphia Phillies' offensive machine rolling?

Would they slide Bryson Stott there? His approach at the plate and his skill set would work but then manager Rob Thomson would have three lefty hitters in a row at the top of the lineup.

Could they try Nick Castellanos there like they have in the past? Well, we all know Castellanos just isn’t that type of hitter anymore and he slots in better towards the back end of the lineup.

Maybe hot-hitting Alec Bohm would be a good fit. But that would mean they would be moving one of the best hitters in the league this year out of a position where he’s clearly comfortable and would then leave another big hole in his wake.

Phillies' lineup change that got Realmuto going is the best move of the season so far

The player that made the most sense and was least disruptive to the team was catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Thompson moved Realmuto up in the order the first day that Turner was absent from the lineup. From that day on, Realmuto has played 16 games batting second and has delivered in every sense of the word.

In those 16 games, he's slashing .362/.397/.536 with two home runs, six RBI, four walks and just 13 strikeouts. He has a hit in every game since being moved up in the lineup. During his 16-game hit streak, Realmuto has accumulated 25 hits raising his season batting average from .239 to .287 and his OPS from .720 to .785.

It has been the spark and consistency that the Phillies were looking for in Turner’s absence. This is the Realmuto that the Phillies fans have grown accustomed to — and missed for most of last season.

Batting behind Kyle Schwarber, who has been on base at a .359 clip with an NL-leading 40 walks, has given the 33-year-old catcher opportunities with men on base. Not to mention, having Bryce Harper (.272/.379/.533) and the hot-hitting Alec Bohm (.311/.367/.495) behind him has given Realmuto the protection he lacked in previous seasons.

The statistics also back up what the eye test shows. According to FanGraphs, in his last 16 games, Realmuto is seeing 56.8 percent of pitches in the zone. For comparison, in 2023, when he didn’t have any at-bats in the two-spot, he saw just 49.6 percent of pitches in the zone.

He’s also making pitchers pay when they have to pound the strike zone. In these 16 games, he has a strikeout rate of just 17.8 percent compared to a 25.6 percent rate in 2023. The standout catcher’s chase rate, while still not great, is down from previous seasons to 29.4 percent and he ranks in the 89th percentile in hard hit percentage at 50.0 percent.

As a team, the Phillies lead the league in runs scored, are third in total hits, and second in batting average. A lot of that can be attributed to the top of the order and the way they've gotten on base but also how they've capitalized on those opportunities. The Phillies haven’t missed a beat since Turner went down with injury and that’s because Realmuto has more than picked up the slack.

With Realmuto trending towards having his best offensive season in quite some time, it will be interesting to see how Thomson shuffles the lineup again when Turner returns.