The folk hero of Milwaukee Brewers September baseball, catcher Erik Kratz reached an agreement with the team today on a one-year, $1.2 million contract. He avoided arbitration, and will return for the 2019 campaign.
After spending the majority of the last 17 seasons in the Minor Leagues, Erik Kratz had a career year with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018.
After being traded to the Brewers on May 25th, Kratz played in 67 games, with career highs in plate appearances (219), hits (48), and stealing his first career base. He also slashed .236/.280/.355.
How important was Kratz to the Brewers in 2018?
It was his stellar work behind the plate, handling the young Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff that received praise. He worked 491 2/3 innings, with 534 defensive chances, all while having just three errors. This earned the trust of manager Craig Counsell. Down the stretch Kratz found his way in the starting line up more than regular catcher Manny Pina.
How did Kratz perform in the playoffs?
In the National League Division Series, he hit .625 with a slash line of .625/.750/1.375. His three hit, NLDS Game 2 made him even more of a fan favorite in Milwaukee.
What else does Kratz bring to the table?
The most important aspect that Kratz brings to the Milwaukee Brewers is his ability to frame any pitch that is close to the strike zone. Anyone who watched a Brewers game this past season saw him almost make the strike zone wider with his mitt magic.
In fact, Kratz ranked fourth by Baseball Prospectus in framing runs, behind only Astros’ Max Stassi, Diamondbacks’ Jeff Mathis and the Braves’ Tyler Flowers. Baseball-Reference.com ranked him the fifth best catcher by earned run average at 3.42.
The biggest beneficiaries to Kratz behind the plate was defacto ace Jhoulys Chacin. In 117 innings with Kratz, Chacin’s ERA was 3.23. In the 75 innings with other catchers it was just shy of four at 3.92. Junior Guerra, Brandon Woodruff, and Zach Davies also pitched better with Kratz behind the dish.
The risk with this deal is minimum. Kratz, in his age-39 season, is only guaranteed $300K, leaving the door open for the Milwaukee Brewers to add another backstop if desired. It also allows for the team to cut him with little payout if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training.
Kratz provides value in a number of ways and this move makes sense for both parties and provides the Milwaukee Brewers the ability to bring back a team leader in 2019.