Statistical Analysis

Erik Kratz: XBH Machine

Erik Kratz broke open Sunday’s game against the Braves with a three-run double in the first inning. Though the Phillies would eventually lose the contest in dramatic fashion, Kratz had made his presence felt once again in what has been a terrific rookie season.

Kratz has a .384 wOBA through 113 plate appearances and a 142 wRC+ — production 42% better than the league average. His wOBA and wRC+ each rank 4th among catchers with at least 100 plate appearances and he has performed better than every catcher with fewer than 200 trips to the dish, whether they are backup catchers or injured starters.

The guy can hit, and what made that particular double so impressive, and his season as a whole for that matter, is that he continues to rack up extra-base hits. He isn’t hitting weak grounders that find holes, but rather doubles and home runs that leave the bat with authority. Kratz now has 29 hits on the season: 13 singles, eight doubles and eight home runs. Yes, 16 of his 29 hits have been for extra bases, which computes to 55.2%.

While his playing time still constitutes a small sample size, the XBH% is very high. It got me wondering where Kratz’s rate ranks this season, as well as what players in which seasons posted the highest rates of all-time.

Looking at this season first, I perused the Fangraphs leaderboard for players with 100+ PA and 20+ hits, and calculated their percentage of (2B+3B+HR)/Total Hits. I added the hits filter because it seemed silly for someone with three doubles out of five hits to “lead the league” in this made-up category.

There were 411 players that met this criteria and Kratz ranked… second. Sure, these filters were designed to include both players with 100 and 500 PAs, but the Phillies backup catcher has “Coste’d” to the 2nd-best extra-base hit percentage in all of baseball. His 55.2% isn’t too far off of Adam Dunn‘s 56.3% rate either. Dunn leads the league: he has 96 hits, with 16 doubles and 38 home runs.

Chris Carter of the Athletics ranks 3rd: he has 11 doubles and 14 homers out of 46 hits. Jay Bruce comes in 4th place, with 32 doubles, 3 triples and 30 home runs out of 121 total hits. Ranking 5th is Chris Young of the Diamondbacks, who has 24 doubles and 14 home runs — but surprisingly no triples — out of 72 hits.

But where does Kratz’s 55.2%, or Dunn’s 56.3% rank historically? Are they among the best single-seasons in this regard? Are they even in the Top 10-20? To find out, I ran the same database query but looked at all players throughout history with 100+ PA and 20+ hits. The results brought to light some funny and interesting names from the past:

– Bobby Estalella, 2002: 69.6% (23 hits, 7 2B, 8 HR)
Barry Bonds, 2001: 68.6% (156 hits, 32 2B, 2 3B, 73 HR)
Frank Thomas, 2005: 65.2% (23 hits, 3 2B, 12 HR)
Eli Marrero, 2005: 64.0% (25 hits, 7 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR)
Ken Griffey, Jr., 2003: 63.4% (41 hits, 12 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR)
– Adam Piatt, 2003: 63.3% (30 hits, 13 2B, 6 HR)
Matt Williams, 1989: 62.7% (59 hits, 18 2B, 1 3B, 18 HR)
Russell Branyan, 2004: 62.2% (37 hits, 11 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR)

Overall, Kratz’s rate isn’t among the best raw rates of all-time, but he fares much better when the rates are adjusted by league and year. We won’t get into that data just yet, as it’s prudent to let the man finish his season, but this is a perfect example of how context looms large in statistical analysis. Kratz’s 55.2% rate looks low relative to the all-time leaderboard, but of more importance is how numbers fare in relation to the scoring or hitting environment.

Regardless, this has been a great rookie season for the journeyman catcher and there shouldn’t be any doubts remaining about his ability to backup Chooch moving forward.

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