Sarah's Take: Chad Kreuter
When the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Chad Kreuter to a minor league contract in January, it did not get much media attention. It was believed Kreuter would have an uphill battle to earn the backup catching role with Paul LoDuca and Angel Peña vying for the job. Though both LoDuca and Peña performed well in spring training, Davey Johnson and Kevin Malone elected to go with Kreuterís experience. Kreuterís experience was valuable in handling the pitching staff, and Kreuter contributed to the offensive attack.
Though Kreuter was never known for his offense, he contributed to the run production. As a switch hitter, he was valuable. Against right-handed pitchers he batted .255 whereas he batted .288 against lefties. With runners on base he hit .278, but without runners on he hit .254. In 80 games he had a .264 batting average, six home runs, 28 RBI. These offensive statistics were outstanding for a backup catcher who had a lifetime batting average of .239. While walking 54 times, he struck out 48 times. Unlike most Dodger hitters, Kreuter was a patient hitter resulting in a .416 on-base percentage. Kreuterís offense helped the Dodgers to win many games.
Defense has been Kreuterís strength. Kreuter provides an excellent target for the pitchers to throw to. He never quits on a play. Once during his career he almost died of internal bleeding after he blocked the plate. This seems stupid, but baseball executives love his dedication. In 2000 Kreuter helped to transform Chan Ho Park into a dominating starter. When the season began, Park had difficulty keeping focused on the game and choosing pitches. Kreuter helped Park to remain focused for the entire game. His philosophy of keeping pitching as simple as possible enabled Park to view pitch selection as easy. Most Dodger pitchers had a lower ERA when Kreuter caught than when another catcher caught. Kreuter has a strong arm enabling him to throw out base runners. In 2000 Kreuter appeared in 78 games defensively, committed three errors, allowed seven passed balls, and had a fielding percentage of .994.
Chad Kreuter was one of the principal reasons for the Dodgersí success in 2000. In October the Dodgers awarded him with a two-year contract worth $2.3 million. Because the Dodgers are not re-signing Todd Hundley, Kreuter might play a bigger role in 2001 than in 2000 unless the Dodgers get another veteran catcher.