Temper your Lucroy enthusiasm


I feel like all I’ve been doing lately is saying it’s too early to panic about the Brewers’ season. It really is. Last year, they started 13-19 and won 96 games. Sure, 96 wins is just about improbable from here, but it won’t take that many to win the NL Central. Heck, the Brewers are only five games out of first place, and Baseball Prospectus still gives them a 26.8% chance at the playoffs. Better than a 1 in 4 chance is hardly doom and gloom.

But, that is merely an introduction to this post, not the subject of it. Instead of tempering panic, in this post, I’m tempering enthusiasm… for Jonathan Lucroy. The Brewers aren’t as bad as they’ve played. On the other hand, Jonathan Lucroy isn’t as good as he’s played, either.

There are a couple reasons to believe Lucroy will not stay very close to this production all season. First, the most glaring, is he’s never hit like this over the course of a full season before–majors or minors. Not even close, really.

The other reason is we’ve seen this hot start from Lucroy before, and it fizzled out rather quickly. Lucroy is currently hitting .343/.386/.582. Impressive to be sure, but it’s easy forget that a year ago at this time, Lucroy was hitting .321/.369/.509. His fall to his season-ending line of .265/.313/.391 was slow and painful.

Lucroy’s shown more power this season, but he isn’t really walking any more. In fact, his BB% of 4.8 is way too low–the lowest of his career. Meanwhile, his BABIP is an unsustainable .373. Funny that during my visit to Fangraphs to find those numbers, I found an fantasy baseball article titled, “Selling high on Jonathan Lucroy.” I’m certainly not the only one noticing this.

This all points to the fact that Lucroy will fall off. The question is, how far? I have little doubt that his collapse last season is correlated somewhat to the fact that George Kottaras only started for Randy Wolf‘s starts, and during those starts, Lucroy was often inserted in the game late as a defensive replacement. This means that Lucroy did not get full days off all that often.

With the impact George Kottaras has had offensively, there should be no reason to play Lucroy quite as much. Kottaras should play occasionally against tough righties (and Lucroy should always play against lefties, but the stupid “Wolf’s personal catcher” thing ruins that).

Lucroy’s numbers will fall off, simply because his hits are falling in at an unsustainable rate (especially at his walk rate), but the Brewers can help prevent a falloff like in 2011 by giving him more rest. I still expect him to be solidly above average offensively by the end of the season, but just not in the Silver Slugger territory that he’s in now.