Lieberthal a deserving Wall of Fame member

Weather permitting, Mike Lieberthal will be inducted into the Phillies’ Wall of Fame today, an honor bestowed upon him by fan voting earlier in the year.  Lieberthal caught some of the most average (and by average I mean bad) teams in Phillies history, playing from 1994 to 2006, missing the playoffs by one year in 1993 and 2007.  He was no winner, and that seems to be the basis for a lot of the flak he has been catching (no pun intended) from Phillies fans that believe winning is everything–even for a catcher that couldn’t have possibly affected the outcome of the season by himself.

Numbers define baseball, and Phillies fans seem to be forgetting that.  Did Lieberthal’s stats make anybody’s mouth drop open in awe?  Of course not.  But all things considered, they were not half bad, and they could even be considered pretty good.  

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For this specific situation, you have to realize that this is the Phillies Wall of Fame.  Not the MLB Wall of Fame or the NL East Wall of Fame, the Phillies Wall of Fame.  So the argument of “oh well there were other players that were way better than him on the [insert other team name here]” doesn’t work.  The other is that Lieberthal is a catcher, so you have to compare him to other catchers.  So why don’t we do that.

  • Lieberthal is first among Phillies catchers with 150 home runs.
  • He’s second in RBIs among Phillies catchers with 609, behind only Jack Clements who played in the 1800s.
  • Since 1960, Lieberthal is first among Phillies catchers with a .788 OPS.
  • Lieberthal also leads all Phillies catchers with 1137 hits.

Of course, all of these stats come from a position where defense is king and being able to hit is just a luxury that most teams don’t have.  Really, Lieberthal was not the best defensive catcher, but he certainly wasn’t the worst either.  He posted a career .991 fielding percentage and won a Gold Glove in 1999 with a .997 fielding percentage.

Lieberthal also made the two All-Star games, in 1999 and 2000.  In ’99, he put together an incredible year, especially for a catcher, hitting 31 home runs and 96 RBIs while batting an even .300 all, in addition to his Gold Glove performance.

Now, some may say that as a third overall pick in 1990, Lieberthal did not live up to his potential.  But compared to every other first round draft pick the Phillies had in the 1990s, Lieberthal was pretty good, as only Adam Eaton (1996), J.D. Drew (1997), Pat Burrell (1998) and Brett Myers (1999) made the majors with a positive WAR.  And even so, all of those players combined for only one All-Star appearance, made by J.D. Drew in 2008.

So no, Mike Lieberthal is not a Hall of Famer and he never made the post-season.  But Mike Lieberthal was a very good Phillie and probably the best catcher in team history.  Congrats Mike, welcome to the Wall of Fame, you deserve it.

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