The catching position for the Milwaukee Brewers has been a wasteland for the past decade.  The last decent catcher Milwaukee has had was Dave Nilsson back in 1999.  In that season the Aussie managed a .309/.400/.554 slash line and racked up a 3.1 WAR.  Of course, Nilsson will never be thought of as a good defensive catcher, but at least he brought a potent stick every night to the ballpark.  Offensive punch is something that has been sorely lacking from every catcher since Nilsson for the Brewers.

The post- Nilsson catching landscape has been littered with underwhelming names such as Blanco, Bako, Osik, Miller, Moeller and the gritty one himself, Jason Kendall. At the start of business on Monday, Jonathan Lucroy had already managed to accumulate a 1.2 WAR. To put that in some perspective, Brewers catchers combined to accumulate higher than a 1.2 WAR only five times in the last ten seasons.

What this obviously means is that Lucroy is having a banner year thus far.  He certainly seems more comfortable at the plate this season.  This past winter I had a chance to hear Doug Melvin speak , and he said that perhaps the adjustment to the big leagues was a bit overwhelming for Lucroy.  Melvin further speculated that Lucroy may have been a bit ‘fried mentally’ trying to learn on the job in the manner in which he did.  Melvin did add that he expected Lucroy to bounce back, and he has certainly done so in spectacular fashion.

Accordingly, Lucroy is moving up the offensive ranks among NL catchers.  Despite only ranking 10 th in plate appearances among NL catchers, Lucroy has done enough to stand out among his peers offensively.  As of Monday, his ranks among NL catchers are as follows:  AVG(1 st ), OBP(3 rd ), SLG(2 nd ), OPS(3 rd ), RBIs (2 nd ), ISO (3 rd ), hits(5 th ), and runs(5 th ).  Clearly, he making an impact for the Brewers and is exceeding almost all expectations he had coming into the season.

Unfortunately, it is not all roses and harp music for the young Louisiana backstop.  I believe Jonathan is in for a regression offensively for two reasons.  First, he currently has an unsustainable BABIP of .386.  Eventually some of those line drive and bloopers are going to be caught and things will even out.  Secondly, I believe as Lucroy moves up to sixth in the order, his high leverage RBI opportunities will increase dramatically.  Braun and Prince are going to be on base frequently with two outs and Lucroy at the plate.  His ability to perform in the highest of leverage situations will determine much of the offensive fate of the Brewers moving forward.  Keep in mind, I am not saying that Lucroy will struggle in these situations, but I believe it takes time to adjust to his new role in the offense.  This example was evident on Sunday as Lucroy took the rare Golden Sombrero (h/t Kyle at BrewCrewBall) at the dish.  Make no mistake, there is much more pressure to produce in the sixth spot in the lineup, rather than hitting in front of the pitcher.

I have heard speculation about Lucroy as a potential All Star.  That is simply not likely.  James from The Brewers Bar details exactly why it will probably not happen.  Molina from St Louis is a lock as a starter, and of course Brian McCann is always an all star,  so that leaves about five talented NL catchers on the outside looking in. The odds are certainly going to be stacked against Jonathan, in terms of name recognition and experience.

Despite Randy Wolf redass-ing it all over the mound when Lucroy is catching, I think he has done a decent job defensively behind the plate.  Handling a veteran laden pitching staff can be difficult for even veteran catchers, yet he has managed to not have any other pitcher mutinies other than aforementioned Wolf .  Obviously he must get better at throwing out runners with only 3 caught stealing in 27 attempts, but he has managed to push through the mental barrier that limited him much of last season.  If healthy, I believe Lucroy can have the best season for a Milwaukee catcher since Ted Simmons in the heyday of the franchise in the early 1980s.  Regardless of whether he achieves that lefty status, everyone can at least agree that the catcher position for the Milwaukee Brewers looks to have more promise and potential than at any point in the last decade.

 

Yuni Watch

Yuni continues to leverage some sort of incriminating evidence against Ron Roenicke into starts everyday at SS.  That must be the case, because Yuni is continuing to perform awful at the plate.  This week he was 3x 18 with 1 run, 1 RBI, 1 walk, and 1 strikeout.  Each week it seems to get worse.  His slash line is just terrible at .225/.255/.331/.586.

Unfortunately for all, Craig Counsell is scuffling as well and appears to be just about out of gas.  Let me be clear in stating that I feel that there is a place for Craig Counsell on this team.  WHEN the Brewers make the postseason, Counsell is exactly the type of veteran player that should be getting starts, because he has been kept fresh throughout the season.  You don’t sign a guy like Counsell to win games in May, you sign him to win games in October.  Sure the Brewers did pick up Josh Wilson recently, but he isn’t anything to write home about either.  With that being said, what is available and what teams could we make a deal with?

For starters, the Astros have too many middle infielders with Angel Sanchez, Clint Barmes, and Bill Hall.  Clearly, they are building for the future.  While they are a division opponent, they could possibly look to dump one of these fringe players for the right price or low level prospect.

The Red Sox also have too many middle infielders.  I have already speculated previously about Marco Scutaro.  He isn’t anything to get excited about, but he will give you a good at bat with purpose and will be able to move a runner over in Running Ron’s small ball offense.

Finally, an option I find intriguing is the rumor of the Blue Jays being interested in Jose Reyes.  I find that interesting because in this scenario Reyes would replace Yunel Escobar, who in my opinion is certainly an upgrade over anything the Brewers have.  This is a long shot, but I would keep a close eye on this rumor for a couple of reasons.  First, there is favorable trade history between the Blue Jays and the Brewers.  Both teams have made out well when they have made trades in the past, such as the Overbay trade and the Marcum trade.  Second, we all know Melvin and Co. love all things Canadian.  The relationship is seemingly a good one and perhaps the team could upgrade the only spot in the lineup that concerns me currently.

 

Throwback Jersey of the Week

With only a few weeks left until Father’s Day, I thought I would put together a small three part series on 9 player jerseys you should own that aren’t Milwaukee related.  Today we will start out with 9-7 and continue forward over the next couple of weeks with the sweetest jerseys around.  One point I should make is that I will try to mix up the price, but there are replicas of everything I link, so prices are should be considered flexible.

9. Rod Carew . Growing up, I was a sucker for unique batting stances.  Players such as Cecil Cooper, Rickie Henderson, and Rod Carew cost me hours and hours of productivity as a kid.  You can find a light blue Twins jersey anywhere for under $75 .  However, the jersey I am highlighting today is the home whites of the Twins from the 1969 season. This is a favorite jersey of mine and would make a great addition to your collection.

8. Dave Winfield .  Winfield was an imposing figure in the batter’s box.  His 6’6” stature seemed to intimidate just about any pitcher on the mound he was facing.  Before his turn to the dark side with the Yankees, he started out with the Padres.  As a regular reader will know, I love the old school San Diego uniforms from the ‘70s.  I suppose some people like the home whites , but I am a road brown lover and here is a sweet high quality version.  If you are still in school, or pinching a few pennies, here is the bottom of the barrel version that will only cost you $18.

7.  Johnny Bench The Little General was a stud with both the glove and the bat.  He was always fundamentally sound and was the heart and soul of the Big Red Machine in the 70s.  Despite playing for the now hated Reds, I consider Johnny Bench to be much like Barry Sanders, in the sense that it is essentially acceptable to own a particular division rival player’s jersey because of the class and dignity in which the Bench carried himself.  The road grey is probably the most common , but here are the home whites as well.  While sensibly priced, they come nowhere near close to this replica throwback for under $30.

 

A Season You Have Probably Forgotten About By Now

Ironically, The Cy Young Award race in 1968 was really not much of a race at all.  That’s because Bob Gibson and Denny McLain won the award in each league unanimously.  In the case of Bob Gibson, the award was justified and culminated what was an incredible season.  However, in the case of Denny McLain, I am not so sure he should have won the award.

The World Champion Detroit Tigers were an offensive powerhouse .  The Tigers led the American League in team WAR, homeruns, runs, ISO, SLG, and OPS.  Denny McLain took full advantage of this potent offense and cruised to a 31-6 record on the season.  30 wins was good enough for each sportswriter that voted to cast his ballot for McClain.  Don’t get me wrong, McLain had a great season.  However, it is my opinion that he didn’t have the best season by an American League pitcher that year.

Sudden Sam McDowell had a sensational season in 1968.  The lefthanded power pitcher joined with Luis Tiant to form an imposing duo at the top of the Cleveland rotation.  Unlike the Tigers, the Indians had an unspectacular offense and it cost McDowell many wins that season.  Accordingly, he was on the hard side of many tough losses, as evidenced by his 15-14 record. But if you peer into the numbers a little more closely, a different tale begins to emerge.

When comparing some of the other statistics from McDowell’s season against those of McLain, the results are very surprising.  McDowell had a better ERA (1.81 vs. 1.96), FIP (2.25 vs. 2.53), homeruns (13 vs. 31), hits per 9 innings (6.1 vs. 6.5), and more strikeouts in 67 less innings pitched.  Factually speaking, McDowell had a better season by allowing less hits and homers while striking out more hitters.  It is my conclusion the only reason Sam McDowell did not win the Cy Young Award in 1968 is because he failed to play for the pennant winning Detroit Tigers.  Thus, the next time you read some writer waxing poetically about the 30 win season Denny McLain had in ’68, hopefully you will remember that he did have a pretty good season, just not as good as the season Sam McDowell had that year.

 

Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon

June 13 .  Starting with a 4 game set in Wrigley, the schedule get ridiculously difficult until the All- Star break.  I have already detailed my prediction that the team will be in big hole after this crucial stretch.  Staying healthy will determine how big that hole is.

 

Shameless Self Promotion

Please don’t forget to follow my Twitter account, @simplekindoffan.    If you aren’t following me, then you are missing out on useless tweets such as this .

Are you traveling or will you miss an upcoming Brewers game because of a MLB black- out?  No worries, the Pocketdoppler is here for you.  Brian has you covered with a nightly ‘250 words or less’ summary of what happened for the Brewers.  It is a quick and convenient way to stay on top of the team when things get busy.

 

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  • Shane Kilpin

    Lucroy is hitting outstanding, throwing out runners he is simply attrocious.

    Come on Crew, get off the schnide and beat the damn Reds already.

    Good article Simplekindoffan

  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

    As a longtime Brewers’ fan, the only “Little General” I recognize is Ron Theobald. ;) But John Bench was as fine an all-around backstop as I’ve ever seen.

    I think the most interesting thing in your comparison of McLain and McDowell from today’s perspective is that they were credited in 37 and 29 decisions, respectively. McLain also had a ridiculous 28 complete games (as opposed to “only” 11 for McDowell). That’s positively unheard of these day.