KC Royals: Will Drew Butera Displace Erik Kratz?


When the KC Royals traded utility infielder Ryan Jackson to the Angels for Drew Butera last week, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan asked Royals general manager Dayton Moore if Butera would replace Kratz. Moore said:

"“We’re just trying to get through this period of time.”"

Moore’s assertion certainly made sense. Kratz has been a better hitter than Butera over their careers, with a .217/.270/.400 slash line for Kratz vs. a  .182/.237/.265 for Butera.

On Thursday, KC Royals temp catcher Drew Butera caught his second game with Jeremy Guthrie on the mound. The formerly struggling Guthrie had his second strong performance in a row, helping the Royals defeat the Rangers 6-3.

Could the 31-year-old Butera displace the 34-year-old Erik Kratz as the Kansas City Royals backup catcher by becoming the personal receiver for Jeremy Guthrie?

The idea isn’t entirely far-fetched. Guthrie suffered through an awful start to the season, posting a 6.52 ERA through his first five starts while paired with Salvador Perez. In his last two games with Drew Butera behind the plate, Jeremy Guthrie has pitched 12.1 innings while allowing only 4 runs for a 2.92 ERA.

Guthrie also racked up two wins in a row.

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While manager Ned Yost decided against limiting starting catcher Salvador Perez’s workload by assigning backup Erik Kratz as the personal catcher for one of the rotation’s five starters this spring, that was before Guthrie’s turn-around with Drew Butera behind the plate.

Guthrie has certainly worked well with Salvador Perez in the past two seasons, but his recent results with Butera are significant. Before his last two starts, Jeremy Guthrie looked like a guy close to getting pulled from the rotation.

In his last two starts with Butera, Guthrie looks like the solid innings eater he has been the last two seasons for the KC Royals.

Kansas City starters need all the help they can get. The rotation has been one of the few weak spots on the club this season. KC Royals starters rank 23rd in major-league baseball,  and 12th in the American League, with an ERA of 4.67.

That’s not very good.

If Drew Butera has somehow found a way to help Jeremy Guthrie get into a groove on the mound, then Dayton Moore would be foolish to let Drew Butera walk when Erik Kratz returns from the disabled list.

The idea isn’t really impossible. While Salvador Perez has won two gold gloves for his defensive work behind the plate, his one weakness is pitch framing—which is Drew Butera’s strength.

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  • According to Baseball Prospectus, Butera saved 4.9 runs last season by winning an estimated 32.7 “extra” strikes while receiving 3063 pitches in 2014. Meanwhile, Salvador Perez allowed an extra 7 runs.

    Could the one thing that Drew Butera does better than Salvador Perez be the edge that Guthrie needs to be an effective pitcher in 2015?


    Even so, that small edge might not be enough to win Butera the KC Royals backup catcher job. If you take a second look at the same Baseball Prospectus data, you’ll see that Erik Kratz is also a good pitch framer. He saved 3.4 runs while receiving less than half (1491) the pitches that Drew Butera did in 2014.

    Of course, Jeremy Guthrie could also like how Drew Butera calls a game. Though, as far as I know, there isn’t any way we can determine such a thing looking at statistics. Or, maybe, Guthrie figured out his problems all on his own and Butera being behind the plate the last two games was pure coincidence.

    We might get a strong indication what the KC Royals front office thinks about the matter if Drew Butera keeps the backup job when Erik Kratz returns, or if Kratz becomes Guthrie’s personal catcher. Or Ned Yost might think this is all a bunch of hooey and ask Salvador Perez to catch another 150 games this season.

    Next: KC Royals Split Series With Rangers With 6-3 Win

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