The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #46. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff.
From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.
Please check back this afternoon for #45.
#46 – Mike Lieberthal
.275/.338/.450, 150 HR, 8 SB in 4613 PA
Previous Rank: 39 (-7)
fWAR Phillies Rank: 31st among position players, 45th among Phillies
Signature Achievement: All-time Phillies’ leader in games caught, plate appearances as a catcher, and homers as a catcher
Made two consecutive All-Star squads (1999-2000)
Mike Lieberthal arrived in Philadelphia with great promise and astonishingly-high expectations. The prep catcher was taken third overall in the 1990 draft out of Westlake High School in Glendale, CA and progressed rather fast through the Phillies farm system. By 1994, Lieby had tasted a cup of coffee with the Phils and would become a regular by 1997, becoming just one of four catchers to hit 20 homers that year. The others? Mike Piazza, Todd Hundley, and Ivan Rodriguez. Not bad company to be in at age 25.
Lieberthal’s time in Philly was seemingly defined as much by his power as it was by his injuries. In arguably his healthiest season, 1999, Lieberthal cranked 31 homers while setting the team record for slugging percentage for a catcher, making the All-Star team and earning a Gold Glove while hitting .300/.363/.551. Lieberthal would rank once more in 2000, hitting .301/.370/.529 with 13 homers through the All-Star break, earning his second All-Star nod. Injuries would derail his stellar season in July and he would miss the remainder of September, ending what was debatably the lone bright spot in a 65-97 season.
Despite playing parts of 13 seasons in Philadelphia, Lieberthal would only see the 500 PA threshold in five of those seasons. It is not uncommon for starting catchers to see significantly less time than other starting players but knee injuries kept one of the best Phillies’ prospects off the field more than fans would have liked. Yet, Lieberthal remained just healthy, and productive, enough to be the singular bridge that lasted the entire time between playoff teams. Lieberthal would never make the playoffs himself but ranks seventh in Phillies history in batting average and third in slugging among catchers.
Lieberthal left the Phillies after the 2006 season to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers would wind up 82-80 while the team Lieby left won 89 games and the NL East. Sorry, Mike. Lieberthal would return to Philadelphia on June 7, 2012 to be inducted on to the Phillies Wall of Fame.