We collected your votes over the weekend, and the results were overwhelming. Over 90% of you chose Jonathan Lucroy as your Most Valuable Brewer of 2014, and it wasn't even close.
It would take a long time to truly talk about what Jonathan Lucroy has meant not only to this season for the Brewers, but to the franchise as a whole. The Brewers have gone through some dark days at catcher. There were years where replacement level was the best the fans could hope for from the catcher. Here are some stats by fWAR to put it in perspective:
- Only five other Brewers catchers have a higher career fWAR as a Brewer than Jonathan Lucroy's single-season fWAR in 2014.
- With his 6.3 fWAR in 2014, Lucroy is now the top catcher in Brewers history by fWAR. Lucroy has a career fWAR of 15.5 as a catcher, followed by B.J. Surhoff at 14.2.
- There is a period of 10 seasons (2001-2010) where the Brewers had a total of two seasons by a catcher with a fWAR over 1.0 (Damian Miller in 2005, Jason Kendall in 2008). During that period, they also had one season (2004) where every catcher had a negative fWAR. The combined fWAR over those 10 seasons at catcher was 6.9.
- If Lucroy was paid by his fWAR, he would have made $34.6 million this season. His actual salary was $2 million in 2014.
I could go on for a while listing stats about how good Lucroy is in comparison to Brewers franchise history. The bottom line is that the Brewers have needed a catcher like Lucroy for a long time, and they finally have him now.
Let's talk about some of Jonathan Lucroy's season stats now. He put up a .301/.373/.465 batting line in 2014, and is the first Brewer (who qualifies by PA) to bat .300 since Ryan Braun's MVP season in 2011. His 53 doubles this season tied the franchise record held by Lyle Overbay, and his 46 doubles as a catcher set a new MLB record. He also collected 13 home runs and 69 RBI on the season, and nearly drew as many walks as strikeouts (66 walks to 71 strikeouts). This led to his first all-star game selection (and start) in his five-year career.
Of course, the other big part of Jonathan Lucroy's game is his play at catcher. He led the National League in games played at catcher and was second in all of MLB (only Salvador Perez of the Royals played more games). If you looked at his play at catcher, it wouldn't look that impressive by the stats. However, he is constantly regarded as the best pitch framer in MLB. Combine that with a good bat, and it's one potent combination.
Jonathan Lucroy will get some MVP recognition this year. He probably won't win the award since the Brewers weren't in the playoffs, but should be somewhere in the top 5 in votes. It should be the final honor for him to wrap up the best season by a catcher in Brewers history.
Jonathan Lucroy's best game of the year by WPA (according to Baseball-Reference) may have come on May 27, but his most memorable was his second-best game by WPA on June 17 against the Diamondbacks. Lucroy was 3-for-5 in the game, which included a pair of home runs in back-to-back at bats. The first was a solo shot in the sixth inning, and the second was a bases-loaded grand slam to put the Brewers ahead, which was set up by Ryan Braun getting hit by a pitch. Here is a video of the grand slam:
Jonathan Lucroy isn't going anywhere anytime soon. He is signed for the next two seasons, with an option for 2017 as well. He will make $3 million next year, $4 million in 2016, and has an option for $5.25 million in 2017 with a $25,000 buyout. I think it's safe to say that the Brewers will be looking at an extension sometime in the next year or two.