The Evolving Jonathan Lucroy


Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

It was just -unsurprisingly-announced that Jonathan Lucroy won RtB’s MVP award for the Brewers this season. That article can be found here. I wanted to discuss some important evolutions in Luc’s game, but didn’t want my article to become a novel, so I decided to split this train of thought into its own article.

As I demonstrate Lucroy’s transformation, my plate appearances required will jump around a bit to include Jonathan and a sample size of at least 20. This article will focus hugely on Lucroy’s OPS’s over time. OPS is (On-base percentage+ Slugging percentage) and is generally a very useful statistic in measuring offensive production.

I will be attempting to highlight Lucroy’s evolution from a decent offensive catcher who smashed southpaws to a more level player who has grown to perform similarly against righties as well as lefties.

The following rankings are all among Major League CATCHERS

From 2010-12, Lucroy finished 3rd in OPS (.930) across the Majors against left-handed pitching. This was based on minimum 250 PA, and included 24 catchers.

Over the same three seasons, Lucroy finished 20th in OPS (.679) against righties. This was based on minimum 700 PA, and included 23 backstops.

These numbers speak volumes about an immense discrepancy between Lucroy’s ability to face lefties versus righties from 2010-12. Particularly in 2012, when Lucroy exploded onto the offensive scene by hitting .320, no one thought much of a potential problem brewing in Luc’s splits.

From 2013-14, Lucroy finished 8th in OPS (.848) against lefties, with minimum 200 PA and included 23 catchers. This is obviously not as dominant as Luc was against southpaws from 2010-12, but that pace was unlikely to be upheld, and he has become more balanced to counteract that drop.

Over the last two seasons, Lucroy finished 3rd in OPS (.808) against righties, based on a minimum 550 PA among 22 catchers. This is the key to Luc’s evolution as an MVP-caliber player. It goes without saying that a majority of Major League pitchers are righties, and the better Lucroy is against them, the better he will perform overall.

This important shift lead to an immense change in Lucroy’s comprehensive stats. From 2010-12, Lucroy owned a .738 OPS total which is acceptable for a strong defender, but is not outstanding. Lucroy then earned a much more impressive .817 OPS from 2013-14, making him a top catcher in the league offensively, just as he is defensively.

The most telling of all of Lucroy’s splits were those in 2014, and his slash lines speak volumes.

Vs. LHP .304/.374/.464

Vs. RHP .300/.372/.465

This is easily the closest that Lucroy’s splits have ever been at the end of a season, with a difference of .001 OPS between them. It is still reasonable to assume that Lucroy’s number’s could drop slightly after hitting .300, but with his new-found abilities, he should remain a top catcher in the league for many years.