I’ll admit I had two very different reactions to the recent trade of Jonathan Lucroy. First, from a business standpoint, I expected the trade and figured the Brewers would have to trade Lucroy to secure the optimal value of players in return for an all-star catcher of Lucroy’s caliber. From the business side and the team’s take, it made perfect sense.
From a personal, emotional perspective, I hated the trade. Lucroy was my favorite Brewers player. Like me when I played baseball, he was a catcher and wore #20, and he is a man of faith. I admired Lucroy, his game, and how he carried himself. He was a good guy to hitch your wagon to; I will miss the “LUC, LUC” calls bellowing at Miller Park when he stepped to the plate.
I tell you this as a precursor to the next statement; or better yet, this question: Is Lucroy the best catcher in Brewers history? I’m unashamedly willing to attach that title to Lucroy, but as I have a habit of doing, I’d like to throw out some numbers and stats to support my proclamation and allow you to form your own opinion.
Let’s look at where Lucroy stands with regards to some basic numbers with the Brewers:
- He is 19th on the club in career games played with 805.
- He is 20th on the team in career plate appearances.
- He is 20th on the all-time Brewers list with 806 career hits.
- Of the 43 players in Brewers history who played in 500 or more games, he is one of only 12 who had more hits (806) than games played (805).
- Of the 21 Brewers players with 3,000 or more plate appearances with the team, he ranks sixth on the list with a batting average of .284.
Those are all nice stats, but they certainly don’t make a strong enough case for Lucroy as the team’s best catcher in history. His numbers when compared to the others catchers who have worn the Brewers uniform, however, is where Lucroy’s case, in my mind, becomes more evident. When compared to the other Brewers catchers, consider that Lucroy (numbers are when he was catching):
- Ranks second in games played as a catcher with 725 (Charlie Moore, 850)
- Ranks first in runs scored with 330.
- Ranks first in hits with 758.
- Ranks first with 144 doubles.
- Ranks second with 16 triples (Charlie Moore, 30).
- Ranks first with 78 home runs.
- Ranks first with 363 RBI.
- Of the 12 Brewers players who had at least 800 career at-bats when playing the catcher position, Lucroy ranks first with a batting average of .286.
There’s one other group of stats that make a strong case for Lucroy. He played in two All-Star Games as a Brewer and performed very well. Thirty-two Brewers players have had an at-bat in All-Star Game history, and only 11 have gotten a hit. In fact, Brewers players are only 18-for-88 in All-Star Game at-bats, a lowly .205 batting average. Lucroy, however, is 3-for-3 in his two games. Take Lucroy’s 3-for-3 out of the equation and the Brewers bats are hitting .176 in ASG history.
Of the 181 players who have three or more career hits in the All-Star Game, Lucroy is one of only eight who have a 1.000 batting average. He is one of only 17 catchers in All-Star Game history to have three or more career hits in ASG, and he is tied with Ryan Braun for the most career hits in the ASG for a Brewers player with three.
Fans and the Bfrewers faithful can certainly make a case for some of the other catchers who have worn the Brewers uniform: Ted Simmons, Charlie Moore, Dave Nilsson, B.J. Surhoff, Darrell Porter,etc. Of course, I haven’t even talked about his defensive skills… with the Brew Crew he threw out about 27% of the runners trying to steal and was at 40% this season with the Brewers when he was traded.
So, where would you rank Lucroy on the list of greatest catchers for the Brewers?
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In looking at the Brewers history, there has been only one Brewers catcher who has led the team in RBIs in a season. Dave Nilsson did it in 1994 when he had 69 RBIs. If Lucroy maintains this pace, he could become the second backstop to lead the team in runs batted in.
Lucroy has 42 RBI in 64 games played. The Brewers have 87 games left on their schedule, and should Lucroy play in all 87 games (not likely) he is on a pace to drive in 99 for the season. Only one Brewers catcher has ever driven in 100 or more runs in a season; that was Ted Simmons in 1983 when he had 108 RBI while catching in 86 of 152 games that season.
Here’s a look at Brewers catchers who finished in the Top 3 in team RBI for a season (players must have caught 50% or more of the season’s games to qualify):
1973: Darrell Porter, 67 RBI (third on team)
1975: Darrell Porter, 60 RBI (tied for second on the team)
1981: Ted Simmons, 61 (third on team)
1983: Ted Simmons, 108 (second on team)
1994: Dave Nilsson, 69 (first on team)
Here’s a look at the most RBI by a Brewers catcher in a season (caught 50% or more of the season’s games to qualify)
1. Ted Simmons, 1983… 108
2. Ted Simmons, 1982… 97
3. Dave Nilsson, 1994… 69
4. B.J. Surhoff, 1991… 68
5. B.J. Surhoff, 1987… 68
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