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Who Is Jonathan Lucroy, Really?


It’s a fair question. For the last few seasons, Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy has managed to be several players wrapped into one.

He can be a stalwart defender – an expert at pitch framing and calling games, and dutifully taking dirt pitches to the chest, arm, legs, and other more delicate locations. But he can also lack strength and accuracy in his throws.

He can be a legitimate threat to hit for extra bases and home runs, and he can even steal a bag or two. But, he can only seem to do this one-half season at a time.

So, as Lucroy moves through his fourth season, the question is whether Jonathan Lucroy is destined to be a middle-of-the-road player, or if a breakout is actually on his horizon.

Jonathan Lucroy has been flashing the bat big time in recent games – is this a sign of things to come? (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

If you’ve only seen the last seven games – the answer is obvious. Lucroy is currently hitting .462 over the last seven, knocking in three home runs, six RBI, and two doubles with only two strikeouts in his last 26 at-bats.

Small sample size aside – those are phenomenal numbers.

For the whole of 2013, however, the numbers tell a different story. His slash line reads .259/.309/.428 with 11 walks and 19 strikeouts. It’s hardly anything to write home about, but far from a disappointing season. It’s just…well…average.

And that’s largely been the rap for Jonathan Lucroy since he came up to Milwaukee – nothing fancy, nothing flashy, but he’ll get the job done for you when you need him to. Obviously any random guy on the street would take that label over their day job, but it leaves Milwaukee Brewers fans wanting.

Especially coming off his 2012 season, where he hit .320 in 96 games with 12 homers and an OPS of .881 – by leaps and bounds the highest of his career. Was that a breakout year, or a lucky one?

In short – yes.

In 2012, Jonathan Lucroy saw 3.81 pitches per plate appearance – hardly the

Lucroy is prone to struggles – this season and over his career – but we can’t for the life of us seem to figure out why (Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)

total you’d expect from someone who hit as well as he did. And with the .320 batting average his batting average for balls in play (BABIP) was .338. Basically what one can surmise from that is that he consistently hit ’em where they ain’t.

This year, Lucroy is hitting .259 as we have said before. His BABIP is .257. So, using the above logic, it would appear simply that, taking this past week aside, he just keeps hitting them where they are. He’s seeing almost exactly four pitches per plate appearance this year, and most of his other numbers are near his previous seasons.

What makes this season especially frustrating – and in part, his entire career – is that there isn’t a smoking gun in his numbers or in his play to point to. He can swing at some dicey pitches – FanGraphs says he swings at about 30% of pitches out of the strike zone this year – but he has made contact with about 80% of them.

If there was one thing about Jonathan Lucroy we can say definitively it is this – the man knows what he wants. He rarely records a swinging strike. When he sees a pitch he likes or has to defend – he will make contact. The problem shows up after he puts the bat on the ball.

Like watching Lucroy play, the numbers leave much to be desired. But alas, there is simply no other way to describe it besides the fact that he just doesn’t get good breaks.

Jonathan Lucroy seems to be on track to have another good year – but underneath that is the fact that he will have more games and more weeks like this – flashes of offensive production that remind you that he could be so much more. If only luck would catch up.