Our Most Valuable Brewers series wrapped up on Monday when we profiled Randy Wolf. We still have lots of Brewers left to profile, though, and Jonathan Lucroy leads off the next chapter.
Consider for a moment this list:
It'd be hard to make a much larger list of replacement level catchers. But these twelve players all have something else in common: They've each caught at least 50 games for the Brewers since Opening Day 2000.
As an offensive player, Jonathan Lucroy's numbers have not been spectacular. He's a .260/.307/.366 career hitter in 211 games, 136 of which came this season. But Lucroy has done something else that's much more notable: He's given the Brewers their first legitimate long term answer at catcher since before Miller Park opened.
Lucroy is only the fifth catcher in Brewer franchise history to catch over 200 games before the end of his age 25 season. The others are Darrell Porter, B.J. Surhoff, Charlie Moore and Mike Matheny. And he also flashes occasional power: His 12 home runs in 2011 where the most by a Brewer backstop since Dave Nilsson hit 21 in 1999.
The Brewer lineup this season often put Lucroy in a tough spot: 309 of his 477 plate appearances this season came batting eighth, where he was frequently positioned between Yuniesky Betancourt and the pitcher. Yet somehow he hit .300/.358/.433 in that role, easily outpacing his numbers anywhere else.
When you're talking about a guy who came to the plate less than 500 times this season, it's probably important to take some of his statistical splits with a grain of salt. With that said, here are three that I think say something interesting about his 2011 performance:
Despite the fact that Lucroy faced a lefty about once every fifth plate appearance, he hit half his home runs against them. Since they have a capable left handed hitting backup catcher in George Kottaras, it'd be nice if the Brewers could give Lucroy some days off against tough righties next season and maximize his appearances against lefties. That, however, depends on Lucroy and Randy Wolf finding a way to work together.
Lucroy has one year and 136 days of major league service time, meaning his long term financial status is a little uncertain. He's under Brewer control for five more seasons and will be paid near the league minimum in 2012, but he's going to come close to qualifying for arbitration as a Super 2 for the 2013 season. Regardless of how that works out, he's not eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season.
On May 24 the Brewers didn't look like they had a lot going for them in the early innings. The Nationals took a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the fourth, but the Brewers scored five unanswered runs to come all the way back for the victory.
The first of those five runs scored on this Lucroy homer:
And the last two scored on this single in the eighth: