Analysis

It Took Opposing Teams Six Weeks to Figure Out How to Keep Kevin Kramer Off the Bases

Kevin Kramer saw his on-base streak end yesterday at 32 games. Photo Credit: David Hague
It Took Opposing Teams Six Weeks to Figure Out How to Keep Kevin Kramer Off the Bases
Sean McCool

ALTOONA, Pa. – It took until May 18th, but an opposing team finally found a way to keep Kevin Kramer off of the base paths.

Kevin Kramer’s 32 game on-base streak finally ended on Thursday afternoon during a 8-5 loss for the Altoona Curve in Binghamton. The number is significant, as Kramer fell just one game shy of matching the Curve franchise record (33 games) held by Ronny Paulino (in 2004) and Steve Pearce (in 2007). On the flip side, it was the longest streak in baseball this season, and it was also the longest on-base streak for a player just beginning his career with the Altoona franchise.

Let’s take a look at some of his numbers during the streak:

His .361 average before yesterday’s game not only led the Eastern League, but he led the whole Pirates’ organization from top to bottom in hitting. Even after his 0-for-5 performance in Binghamton, Kramer still finds himself third in the Eastern League, and second behind Chris Bostick in the organization in hitting.

Kramer had hits in 29 out of those 32 games, and he had multiple hits in 14 of those games. In the three games where he did not record a hit, Kramer was hit by a pitch four times and walked twice to keep the streak alive.

When looking at some of his splits during the streak, I have been amazing at his ability to begin a game strong. Out of his 28 at-bats in the first inning during the streak, Kramer had 16 hits with five doubles. That gave him a .571 batting average and on-base percentage over .600 in the first inning. Other that than phenomenal first inning stat, Kramer has been consistent across the board for the Curve. His left vs. right, home vs. away, and day vs. night splits are all very similar, with the only real difference being that his power (both gap-to-gap and home run) has mostly come against right-handed pitching. I might add that he has had far more opportunities against RHP, however.

The story for the Curve this season has been the duo of Kramer and Edwin Espinal hitting back-to-back in the lineup, as both players have remained in the top ten in hitting in the league all season. Kramer’s at-bats have seemed to give life to Espinal, and both players have mentioned that the competition has been healthy.

“It makes us extremely tough, especially when they keep coming up in big, key moments of the game,” Ryan said about Kramer and Espinal. “To be able to get those guys up with the game on the line, it has worked out well for us. Any time you have guys that have been hot for this long, and to have them continually come up in big situations, we’ll take it.”

Kramer, who has portrayed extreme humbleness during this month and a half of strong play, continues to give credit to the rest of the team.

“It’s not just us two,” Kramer said. “There are a lot of really good players on this team. Connor Joe has really been heating up, Jordan Luplow has been hitting bombs, and there are a lot of really good players on this team. It’s only a matter of time until more of the guys really get rolling. We all know that there will be a different guy carrying the team on each night. It’s not just two guys. We rely on everyone to show up each night.”

He mentioned that he was “on the flip side of it last year” in Bradenton, where other guys had to pick it up early in the season. For the Marauders, Kramer had a .253 average and .637 OPS in the month of April last year.

He ended up finishing his 2016 campaign with a .277/.352/.378 slash line in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Those numbers won’t pop off of the screen to anyone; however, his approach, bat speed, baseball smarts, and non-statistical scouting led us to naming him our breakout candidate before 2017 even began.

His time in Bradenton last season was extremely important for his development, though.

“There are a lot of things that I’ve learned,” Kramer said. “With last year being my first full season, I knew that I was going to get 500 at-bats, and that I would be in the lineup most of the days. I learned a lot last year off of the field, too, from being able to take care of yourself throughout the course of a season, how to eat well, and what to do to recover to be fresh the next day. I learned a lot about myself and baseball. I was able to change some things in my game and refine my approach. It’s just little tweaks here and there, and so far, so good. It’s only going to get better. The things that I’ve installed and put to work has been great, but I’m not going to be content.”

Now that the on-base streak is over, I wouldn’t hesitate to put money on Kramer beginning another streak soon. Everything that he has showed so far in this young season has been positive, and there hasn’t been any signs of a letdown.

While in the locker room, you’ll find most players watching television, perusing social media on their phones, hanging out with others, and the like; however, you’ll usually find Kevin Kramer at his locker reading a book. His love for knowledge and deeper understanding — not just for baseball but for life in general — is evident. If this 32 game streak is an indication of the type of player Kevin Kramer will become, it could be a very good thing for Pirates’ fans.

“I’m continuing to learn; I’m a student of the game,” said Kramer. “I love talking and playing this game. I’m learning every night.”

Analysis
Sean McCool

Sean joined Pirates Prospects before the 2015 season began, covering the Altoona Curve. During the day, he is a marketing professional for Penn Highlands Community College in Johnstown, PA. Sean also dabbles with the guitar, emcees weddings, and plays disc golf.

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