On January 25, the Kansas City Royals claimed George Kottaras off waivers from the Oakland A’s. At the time, the move didn’t seem that important. After all, the Royals have the wonder boy, Salvador Perez.
Plucking Kottaras from the scrap heap that is filled veteran, career, back-up catchers, turned out to be a key move for Dayton Moore in assembling this team, which is currently 5 games over .500.
Before this season, Kottaras had 694 plate appearances and sported a less than encouraging .220 career average. Kottaras did have 22 home runs and a propensity toward patience at the plate, so it was conceivable he could be a valuable caddy to Perez.
Through Spring Training, it wasn’t guaranteed Kottaras would beat out Brett Hayes. Late in camp, Kottaras was named to the 25-man roster. Again, considering how well the Royals played in Spring Training, Kottaras’ making the team was hardly worth noting.
Kottaras has been terrific for the Royals. In the course of a long season, numerous things can happen to a starting big league catcher. Bumps, bruises, and concussions happen all the time. This season, Perez missed a week when his grandmother passed away, and now he is on the 7-day DL with a mild concussion. Usually, most catchers need a day off a week minimum. Teams need back-up catchers who do not hurt them.
If you just glance at Kottasas’ batting average, you wouldn’t be excited. This season, he is hitting an abysmal .174 in 92 plate appearances. That is flat out awful! As we all know though, there is more to hitting than batting average.
Kottaras leads the team in On Base Percentage with a mark of .380. Now, it is a much smaller sample size than Billy Butler, who is second, but is an indication that when he plays, Kottaras is finding a way to get on base despite a .174 batting average. At .449, Kottaras also leads the team in Slugging Percentage. Again, he has far few plate appearances than the player in second place, David Lough (???!!!). This shows that when Kottaras gets a hit, he makes it count.
In fact, in his 92 plate appearances, Kottaras only has 12 hits. Twelve paltry base hits. Of those 12 hits, only 3 of them are singles. That’s right – 75% of all Kottaras’ hits are extra base hits. He has 5 home runs and 4 doubles. This in itself is a crazy statistical anomaly and would not be the case if he had 500 plate appearances.
Still, he is a back-up catcher. He is not expected to have 500 plate appearances. If he has that many, things have gone very, very wrong. His job is to produce as much as possible when he has the opportunity to play. Considering that in his 92 PA, he has 12 hits, 21 walks and he has been hit by a pitch twice. He has been on base 35 times in his 92 PA – .380 OBP.
Defensively, he is no Sal Perez but that is okay. With the offense he provides, and the fact the Royals for once have a talented, veteran pitching staff, defense isn’t as important as it might be with a team with a lot of youth on the mound. He isn’t a butcher behind the plate, either. He works hard and isn’t just giving away runs. He doesn’t have the best arm in the history of catchers – he has only thrown out 24% of the base runners who have attempted to run on him. While this certainly isn’t very good (Perez is at 35%), neither is it brutally bad. Kottaras is sufficient enough defensively to fill in as a back-up to an All-Star catcher.
Acquiring Kottaras was a winning move by Dayton Moore, however minor appeared at the time. Kudos to Moore for upgrading this roster spot with a solid veteran who knows what he is doing at the plate. Even though Kottaras will probably never sport a high average, that doesn’t not mean he isn’t a talented batter. He is a very valuable part of a team that is contending for a playoff spot for the first time in a decade. Seeing Kottaras in the line-up should not create panic; just know he will produce solid plate appearances with acceptable defense.
The Royals are lucky to George Kottaras.