The 27-year-old Floridian, who came to the Brewers via the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, put together his best season yet and, during a season when the Crew lost key piece after key piece in the middle of the batting order, became a guy manager Ron Roenicke could count on.
Lucroy started 122 games at catcher, but also made nine starts at first base and three at designated hitter. That’s how important his bat became—the Brewers couldn’t afford to not have Lucroy penciled in the lineup somewhere.
With 76 RBI as a catcher, Lucroy tied with Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League lead, while Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles also had 76 to top the American League and tie for a share of the major-league lead at the position.
In all, Lucroy hit .280/.340/.455 in 580 plate appearances, with 18 home runs and 82 RBI. He also cracked 25 doubles and six triples and scored 59 times. The accumulated stats were all career highs; his batting line was the best he has put up over a full season. (Lucroy hit .320/.368/.513 in 2012, but was limited to 346 plate appearances in 96 games because of a broken hand.)
Behind the plate, Lucroy remains a work in progress. Pitchers recorded a 4.06 ERA with Lucroy behind the dish and he threw out just 21 of 101 would-be base stealers (21 percent). The 80 stolen bases against Lucroy were second in the National League, one fewer than the 81 surrendered by Nick Hundley of the San Diego Padres.
Still, it’s hard to judge Lucroy’s season as anything but a rousing success. Molina’s .319 average and the fact the Cardinals won the National League Central will likely favor the St. Louis backstop for the Silver Slugger at catcher in the NL, but Lucroy has to be considered a contender for the honor.
For backup Martin Maldonado, 2013 wasn’t quite as rosy. He didn’t hit much—batting just .169/.236/.284 in 202 plate appearances over 67 games, with four homers and 22 RBI. He wasn’t great in the first half, hitting .180/.245/.313 in 140 plate appearances with three homers and 16 RBI.
But after the All-Star Game, Maldonado was almost a forgotten man. The emergence of Lucroy in the middle of Milwaukee’s batting order left few opportunities for Maldy, who disappeared almost entirely except on days when Wily Peralta, his former minor-league teammate, was pitching.
After the break, Maldonado started just 16 games and got just 62 plate appearances. Predictably, that rust showed through at the plate—he hit just .145/.217/.218 with a homer and six RBI during that period.
But as a receiver, Maldonado—despite the smaller sample size—proved to be a better defensive backstop than Lucroy. Pitchers posted a 3.17 ERA when throwing to Maldonado, who threw out eight of 27 opposing base stealers (30 percent).
Lucroy rates a solid A-minus for his work in 2013, with a nod toward continuing to improve as a receiver and thrower. Maldonado can’t score any better than a D-plus because, despite his defensive excellence, he was one small step—very small—up from the pitcher’s spot in terms of productivity at the plate.
The only other player to don the tools of ignorance for the Crew in 2013 was Blake Lalli, who played two innings in one game on May 5.
Coming Thursday: Grading the corner infielders.
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