The Best Hitter in the National League Is…

If you go to the leaderboards for 2012, you’ll see all the familiar names – Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, David Wright, etc… However, something kinda fun happens if you then reset the minimum plate appearances filter down to, say, 50 plate appearances, so you capture some performances from guys who aren’t exactly everyday players. Then, sandwiched in between Trout and Joey Votto, you find one player who you might not expect to be on a list of the league’s top hitters.

Yes, that’s Erik Kratz, currently tied with Joey Votto for the best wRC+ of any hitter in the National League. The 32-year-old journeyman backup catcher who began the year in the minors and came into the 2012 season with one career extra base hit in the big leagues. He’s basically Crash Davis, as he has nearly 3,000 minor league plate appearances, including over 1,500 in Triple-A. And now, finally given a chance to play every once in a while due to Carlos Ruiz‘s injury, Kratz is killing the baseball.

14 of his 22 hits have gone for extra bases. His .406 ISO is nearly 100 points better than the next highest batter with 50+ plate appearances. Among catcher seasons with that same 50 PA minimum, Kratz’s 181 wRC+ ranks seventh all time, one spot below Mike Piazza‘s career year of 1997.

Yes, we could also see that it ranks six spots below Taylor Teagarden, whose 2008 season ranks as the best wRC+ from any catcher in a season with 50+ PA, but what fun would that be? It’s far more enjoyable to link Kratz to Mike Piazza.

In a season where nearly everything has gone wrong, the Phillies have a 32-year-old rookie catcher who has been as productive at the plate as Joey Votto. Okay, fine, small sample size, unsustainable performance, blah blah blah. Instead of raining on his parade, I’m just going to celebrate with Erik Kratz, the new king of National League hitting. Congratulations on what has to be one very fulfilling ride.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Wow, someone’s in a good mood…