The Toronto Blue Jays made their decision on a backup catcher yesterday when they kept Josh Thole and sent Erik Kratz to the minors. From the outside looking it, it appears that Thole's one skill set determined the outcome--his experience with R.A. Dickey.
I should say in advance that I was rooting for Erik Kratz. So anything I write on this subject could be prejudicial. I admit it. I was rooting for Kratz because of his perseverance. The guy toiled in the minor leagues for twelve years and finally received a real taste of the Majors for the Phillies in 2012 and 2013.
Someone who spends twelve years in the minors and parts of eight seasons in Triple-A seem to deserve a shot. That kind of career is as blue collar as his name. And Kratz has shown some pop in his brief Major League experiences. He hit nine homers in each of his last two seasons with the Phillies or eighteen in just 378 at bats.
But Josh Thole has been R.A. Dickey's personal catcher for three years now. Thole seems willing to put on the knuckleball mitt and try to catch butterflies. And it seems understandable to a point. After all, Thole has caught 70 of Dickey's 102 starts since 2011.
There has to be a comfort factor for Dickey with Thole. His ERA when pitching to Arencibia or Blanco last year were much higher than with Thole. And that holds true with the last three seasons with the exception of Mike Nickeas who caught him more successfully than even Thole when with the Mets. Nickeas is also with the Blue Jays organization now which is not really a surprise.
It would take some study which I don't have time for this morning to see if Thole has actually been more successful catching Dickey than others (passed balls, wild pitches, caught steals, etc.). Doing so would perhaps prove or disprove the catcher ERA thing.
But one thing is known: Josh Thole is going downhill as an offensive player. His OPS has gone down for four years in a row and fell into the abyss last season at .497. Ouch. Kratz, meanwhile had hit .400 this spring and could have added some pop into the Blue Jays' lineup when he played. That is something Thole could not give them.
The question lies open on whether Dickey's comfort level and success with Josh Thole is worth the ten or so runs the Blue Jays will lose with Kratz's offense. Without further study, I cannot answer the question. I just know that I am bummed for Erik Kratz.