Erik Kratz proves something I have been saying for an awfully long time. Year after year of watching guys like Olivo and Barajas and a half dozen other old catchers playing for a couple of mil a years is kind of stupid. There has to be catchers in the minors that can do just as well or better than the geriatric "clubhouse" guys who general managers and manager seem to adore. Erik Kratz played eleven minor league seasons and played 766 games down there. Most of that time was spent in the Toronto organization that drafted him in the 29th Round of the 2002 draft. Thankfully, and fittingly, Kratz got some playing time in 2012 for the Phillies, and ended up opening some eyes.
Kratz spent 2009 and 2010 in the Pirates' organization. He sat in Triple-A while the Pirates decided to start Doumit, everyone's worst catcher in baseball for the last several seasons. Puzzling. At least him sitting at Triple-A for the Phillies is a little more understandable in 2011 because the Phillies have had a very good catcher in Ruiz. But when Ruiz got hurt, Kratz got a chance to play and he did not disappoint.
I have long been fascinated with catching metrics that are not in your every day stats. The kind of work that Mike Fast did before getting hired by the Astros was groundbreaking but still hasn't become mainstream. Lookout Landing, that hotbed of inspiring stat work recently included a post by "Matthew" that was basically written to see where the Mariners were in their catching work. But he came up with his own stats that in large part agreed with what Fast did, but also included 2012. While Matthew does not deliver his entire list, he rated Erik Kratz as fifth best in baseball at framing pitches.
It should be stated that catching for the Phillies means catching guys like Lee and Halladay who are going to get some calls other pitchers do not. But still, coming in fifth gives Kratz a huge amount of value.
Then add in that Kratz threw out 45% of base steal attempts when the league average is 27% and we are getting someplace fast. Add to all these goodies in that Kratz held his own on offense and finished with a 114 OPS+ and it is easy to say, "Where you been, big fella?"
Kratz is a big reason why the Phillies do not have to be overly concerned about Ruiz serving his suspension to start the season. Kratz is terrific and should have gotten a chance in the majors a long time ago. At least a couple times a year, I will rant and rave on how and why GMs and teams hang on to these revolving door catchers that add no value and get contracts year after year simply because they are "veteran catchers." Kratz is Exhibit A on why that has always been a bad model and cheaper and more effective catchers simply have to be out there among all those minor league receivers.