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Erik Kratz has been a big boost to the Brewers pitching staff

Pitch framing is important and he has been a good representation of that.

League Championship Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Milwaukee Brewers - Game One Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Easily one of the more inspiring stories of the postseasons, 38-year-old journeyman catcher Erik Kratz has drawn attention for his 5-for-8 performance across two games and the high-amount of energy he brought all across the NLDS.

His career path is one of heart, dating back to his days as a backstop at Eastern Mennonite University (he hit .507/.563/.993 in 42 games his senior year), which was followed up with him being drafted in the 29th round of 2002 draft by the Blue Jays. After a quick climb to the upper levels of the minors, he stalled in double-A and triple-A.

After being let go from his minor league contract in 2008, he found himself in the Pirates organization, where he found more success with the bat. After slashing .274/.380/.496 in 70 Triple-A games in 2010, he finally got his first call to the major leagues after nine minor league seasons, appearing in nine games.

The moment was short lived at the time though, as a DFA shortly followed. He’d end up playing a majority of three seasons with the Phillies Triple-A squad, along with three separate major league stints that totaled up to 120 games.

But once it looked like he could finally carve out a stable position as a backup catcher in the bigs, he’d found himself jumping from organization to organization over a span of five seasons.

Kratz has spent time with 13 different organizations since the beginning of 2015.

Most of this time was spent in Triple-A, where he hit well against lesser competition. He started the 2018 season as third on the Yankees catching depth chart, serving as insurance delegated from Scranton (he also appeared in four games with the Yankees this year). But with the Brewers in need of a backstop to split time with Manny Pina, he was flipped for a player to be named later.

It’s been in Milwaukee where Kratz has perhaps found his most consistent playing time. Since the trade, Kratz has led the Brewers in plate appearances at catcher, essentially splitting time with Manny Pina 50/50. He’s been pretty putrid with the bat, slashing .231/.276/.347 with six home runs in 219 plate appearances.

But Kratz’s value doesn’t come in the batters box. It comes from behind the plate. It doesn’t really even come in the form of defense, or controlling the bases. Most of his value comes from pitch framing. Finding every catcher with as many framing chances as Kratz (39 total), only three grabbed framing runs at a higher rate than him.

Top 10 catchers in Framing Runs per 5,000 chances

Name Framing Chances Framing Runs Framing Runs Per 500 Chances
Name Framing Chances Framing Runs Framing Runs Per 500 Chances
Max Stassi 4,170 13.9 16.7
Jeff Mathis 3,713 11.8 15.9
Tyler Flowers 4,499 13.7 15.2
Erik Kratz 3,569 9.9 13.9
Austin Hedges 5,355 13 12.1
Sandy Leon 4,892 11.6 11.9
Yasmani Grandal 6,851 15.7 11.5
Luke Maile 3,897 8.1 10.4
Jorge Alfaro 6,302 12.3 9.8
Christian Vazquez 4,670 9 9.6
Baseball Prospectus

And perhaps with correlation, Kratz is near the top in catcher’s ERA this year. If he’s framing pitches really well, he’s giving opposing hitters less of a chance. Therefore helping the results of his pitchers. Pretty simple. Among that same group of 39 catchers, Kratz ranks fifth in catcher’s ERA.

Top 10 catchers by ERA

Name Tm PA ERA
Name Tm PA ERA
Jeff Mathis ARI 2155 3.16
Sandy Leon BOS 2825 3.28
Max Stassi HOU 2418 3.36
Yasmani Grandal LAD 4272 3.40
Erik Kratz MIL 2059 3.42
Gary Sanchez NYY 2710 3.47
Buster Posey SFG 3185 3.52
Willson Contreras CHC 4702 3.66
Wilson Ramos TBR 2534 3.73
Pedro Severino WSN 2119 3.74

Breaking it down by each pitcher that has started multiple games for the Brewers this year, the added advantage he provides becomes clear.

Brewers starting pitchers with and without Erik Kratz

Name Kratz IP Kratz ER Kratz ERA Other IP Other ER Other ERA
Name Kratz IP Kratz ER Kratz ERA Other IP Other ER Other ERA
Jhoulys Chacin 117 42 3.23 75.67 33 3.92
Chase Anderson 17.33 12 6.23 140.67 69 4.41
Junior Guerra 43.33 17 3.53 97.67 47 4.33
Brent Suter 5 3 5.40 96.33 46 4.30
Wade Miley 68.33 22 2.90 12.33 1 0.73
Freddy Peralta 6 3 4.50 72.33 34 4.23
Zach Davies 23 10 3.91 43 25 5.23
Brandon Woodruff 8 0 0.00 34.33 17 4.46
TOTAL 288 109 3.41 572.33 272 4.28

And with that added boost to the Brewers pitching staff, Kratz has ranked in the top third of prorated WARP among catchers this year. Ahead of notable names such as Yadier Molina, Wilson Ramos, Buster Posey, Willson Contreras, and Salvador Perez.

Top 15 catchers in prorated BWARP

J.T. Realmuto 531 5.79 6.54
Yasmani Grandal 518 5.63 6.52
Jorge Alfaro 377 3.81 6.06
Max Stassi 250 2.5 6.00
Tyler Flowers 296 2.87 5.82
Elias Diaz 277 2.25 4.87
Luke Maile 231 1.87 4.86
Yan Gomes 435 3.31 4.57
Francisco Cervelli 404 3.07 4.56
Austin Barnes 238 1.64 4.13
Austin Hedges 326 2.07 3.81
Erik Kratz 219 1.39 3.81
Yadier Molina 503 3.07 3.66
Wilson Ramos 416 2.41 3.48
John Ryan Murphy 223 1.23 3.31
Baseball Prospectus

Without providing much value with the bat or the arm, Erik Kratz has added value to the Brewers in a very important way, giving a starting rotation considered lackluster by playoff standards a much needed boost. His early success shown in the Brewers October run is just a refreshing appreciation of his long path to get here.

Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.