The Phillies will start a HUGE 3 game series against the Dodgers Tuesday night. We know who will be on the mound; Aaron Nola. But the question is, who will be behind the plate? Conventional wisdom tells you it will be the $24 million dollar man J.T. Realmuto….but it shouldn’t. It should be Andrew Knapp.
The Phillies will need EVERY single game to make the playoffs. In order to have a chance, you need good pitching. Theyve certainly gotten that from Cy Young favorite Zach Wheeler. The early returns from Kyle Gibson are promising. Ranger Suarez has looked good in his short stint in the rotation. But its Nola that could be the linchpin. Because a 1-2-3 punch of Wheeler, Gibson, and Nola is one that could contend with other lineups in the National League. But this would require Aaron Nola to “get right.” And Aaron Nola isnt “right” when Realmuto is calling the game.
J.T. Realmuto is a tremendous catcher. There is a reason he got the contract he did. He adds great offense at the plate, but his defense is top notch as well. You dont want to run on him. The one area of his game that he seems to be mediocre at is calling a game. Even that is up for debate, whether or not he is the one actually calling the game or if Joe Girardi is giving directions from the bullpen. But that is up for debate. What is not up for debate is the results with Andrew Knapp behind the plate.
Andrew Knapp is a backup catcher, and for a while the question amongst fans was “why is he even on the team” because Knapp wasn’t exactly the reincarnation of Johnny Bench. The answer was simple; he called a good game. And Aaron Nola has performed BEST when Andrew Knapp is behind the plate. But for whatever reason, the Phillies have completely abandoned the idea of making Knapp Aaron Nola’s personal catcher. This season he has only caught 2 of Nola’s games, to the tune of a 4.09 ERA. The last time he caught the former Cy Young contender was May 26th. Nola went 6 innings giving up 1 earned run while striking out 6.
But that’s a small sample size, so lets take a look at their career catching Nola.
J.T. Realmuto: 58 games, 4.01 ERA.
Andrew Knapp: 23 game, 3.39 ERA.
Now there is clearly a discrepancy in workload with Realmuto catching the majority of games and Andrew Knapp having a smaller sample size. But why? Why is there a smaller sample size? Knapp started just 4 games in July. The team went 3-1. All of them Matt Moore starts. The lone start in August (August 4th) the Phillies beat the Nationals 9-5. Chase Anderson was the starting pitcher. Andrew Knapp has been relegated to the slop of the rotation.
In 2018 Knapp caught 4 Nola starts and with Knapp behind the dish Nola had a 1.65 ERA. In 2019 Knapp caught 5 games and Nola’s ERA was 3.13. I put zero credence to the bastardized season we saw in 2020. But factoring in 2018, 2019, and this season, Aaron Nola (with Knapp behind the plate) has a 2.95 ERA. Yet its been over 2 months since he was calling a game with Nola on the mound.
Now at this point youre probably yelling at your screen that Realmuto’s shortcomings as a game manager does not outweigh everything else he gives you. And you would be 1000% right. But with Rhys Hoskins out with a groin injury Joe Girardi should be playing Realmuto at first base and Knapp at catcher. Realmuto has already played 8 games at first base this season, he is not a novice at playing the position.
I am not calling for J.T. Realmuto to lose his spot. I am just making the case that the Phillies should make it a point to give Andrew Knapp the start when its Aaron Nola’s turn in the rotation, and not having him deal with the likes of Chase Anderson and Matt Moore.