Tag Archives: Jonathan Lucroy

Who are the Brewers getting in Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz?

It happened. It finally happened.

After Jonathan Lucroy vetoed deal that would’ve sent him to Cleveland, the Milwaukee Brewers were able to strike a deal with the Texas Rangers that shipped him, along with closer Jeremy Jeffress, to the Lone Star State in exchange for OF Lewis Brinson, RHP Luis Ortiz and a player to be named later. It had been long speculated that both Lucroy and Jeffress were going to be traded, but David Stearns cut it close, with reports of the move not surfacing until within minutes of the trade deadline. Multiple sources claimed highly touted prospect Joey Gallo was the centerpiece of the deal, but that obviously never came to fruition.

Lucroy upped his value this season and re-entered the conversation of best MLB catcher after a forgettable 2015. The 30-year-old catcher has been worth 2.8 WAR already (third among qualified catchers) and has created 20% more runs than league average. His hitting ability and defensive wizardry is a big get for the Rangers, who have lacked a capable backstop all season.

Texas also acquired Jeffress, who has turned into a shut-down closer after resurrecting his career in Milwaukee. He saved 27 games in 28 chances, if you’re a fan of that sort of thing, and posted a 2.22 ERA and 3.16 FIP along the way.

But this is a Brewers website, so we know all that. Let’s talk about who Milwaukee is getting in Brinson and Ortiz.

Lewis Brinson is a talented and powerful outfielder who has the potential to be a star. MLB.com ranked him as baseball’s 21st-best prospect when they released their midseason prospect list, and despite his poor showing in Double-A this season (.277 OBP/98 wRC+), the 22 year old has real promise. Some in the industry think his bat is capable of hitting 30 home runs with his plus bat speed if he can stay healthy, which has been a big issue for Brinson during in his minor league career. The outfielder also rates as a top-notch defender with a strong arm and excellent speed. It’s no mystery why so many are high on this kid. The disappearance of his walk rate this season is something to keep an eye on going forward, though.

Like Brinson, Luis Ortiz was a highly regarded prospect not only in Texas’ system, but in baseball as a whole. Ortiz is MLB’s 63rd-ranked prospect and enters Milwaukee’s ranks at No. 5. He owns a plus fastball with an above-average slider that could evolve into a devastating pitch in time. The 20-year-old righty has put together a solid first season in Double-A — in nine games (eight starts) he’s accumulated a 4.08 ERA with a 3.32 FIP. What’s most impressive about this youngster is his control as his BB/9 has remained under two in each level of minor league ball with the exception of Triple-A, and that’s only because he has yet to pitch in Triple-A.

Ortiz projects as a mid-rotation arm who isn’t too far away from making his debut. Give him maybe two or three more years to polish his stuff in the minors, and he just might be ready to be an impact player for the Brewers.

Since taking over the team, David Stearns has made great deal after great deal, and this is no exception.

Brewers trade talk: Who stays and who goes?

Being a fan of a miserable team isn’t all that much fun. Attending games is less entertaining and watching your team lose time and time again on television eventually becomes a waste of time, not to mention beyond frustrating.  And yet, being a fan of a miserable team can have its perks, especially during the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. The trade deadline is a time when rebuilding teams can do just that — rebuild. They go out and acquire young talent while issuing farewells to long-time players, and although it may be sad, it’s for the good of the team.

That’s how Brewers’ fans are currently feeling. Aside from constant trade rumors, it’s been a rather boring year for Milwaukee fans, and they’re excited for the rumors to finally come to fruition. I know I am.

It should be a busy week and a half for the Brewers’ front office, and I’m sure David Stearns is on the phone right now trying to work a deal.

Let’s get to some predictions.

Players who will be traded

Jonathan Lucroy – If Lucroy’s still a member of the Brewers on Aug. 2, I’ll be absolutely shocked. He’s arguably the best player on the trade market, and with his defensive value and 123 wRC+, there’s multiple teams vying for his services.

Prediction: The Texas Rangers seem like the current favorite to land him, and they make the most sense, so I’m going to go with them. However, I have a feeling Boston will come just in the nick of time with a better offer, especially if they don’t believe Sandy Leon‘s current pace is sustainable. Spoiler: It’s not.

Jeremy Jeffress – Almost every contending team is in need of bullpen help, and the Brewers have a few to spare, including their closer. Jeffress’ strikeouts are down a considerable amount in 2016, but that hasn’t stopped him from running a 2.29 ERA and a 3.40 FIP. Teams will be drawn to him because of his mid-90s fastball that creates a plethora of ground balls. Jeffress probably won’t close on whichever team he’s dealt to, but he’ll no doubt make it stronger.

Prediction: The San Francisco Giants have been rumored to have interest, and I think that’s where he’ll land, maybe as a setup man to Santiago Casilla. Those two would make a dangerous 1-2 punch.

Junior Guerra – I’m in the minority on this one, but I really think Guerra will be moved. A team looking for a controllable pitcher who won’t cost much will find no better option than the Brewers’ 31-year-old rookie. He has an ERA that’s flirting with going below 3 and can hit 96 mph on the gun. At least one team will be attracted to him,

Prediction: Guerra seems like a perfect fit for the Rangers, who, by the way, are currently employing Kyle Lohse as a starter in their rotation.

Players who won’t be traded

Ryan Braun – If you would have asked me a month ago if I thought Braun would be on the move, I would have definitively said yes. Now I’m not so sure. His contract is huge, and his injury history is obviously worrisome. I thought his performance this season would negate all that. Then July hit. So far this month Braun has a 45 wRC+ and has yet to hit a home run. Can a team really take a chance that he’ll get his swing back over the last two months AND absorb his enormous contract?

Will Smith – Will Smith is receiving a lot of interest, so I could see him being traded. Then again, I’m a believer in David Stearns, and I think Stearns will wait until next year to sell Smith off after he regains some value. Smith has lost a little value this year because he’s not striking out hitters like he once did. His strikeout rate has fallen from 34.5% in 2015 to 22.7% in 2016. That’s essentially a 12% loss of strikeouts. Stearns might want to hold on to him a little while longer.

Offseason goals for the Milwaukee Brewers

I recently turned 24, and in those 8760 days, the Milwaukee Brewers have made the playoffs just twice. They were the National League Wild Card in 2008 (I spent my high school homecoming watching them play the Phillies instead of dancing with my girlfriend) and they were crowned NL Central champs in 2011. Other than that, my life as a Milwaukee Brewers fan has been without reward.

However, they’ve never really “rebuilt” during my lifetime. Despite having only two winning seasons in the 90s, the Brewers failed to get younger through trades and, for the most part, were miserable when it came to drafting players. The early 2000s were spent replacing terrible players with other terrible players amidst 90+ loss seasons, although they did find some gold pieces in the draft. Without drafting the likes of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks, there would be no 2008 playoff appearance. Yet that was the last draft success story for the Brewers front office. Since then, it’s been a mess.

For the first time in decades, the Brewers are undergoing a massive rebuild, and for the first time in decades, they are acknowledging the team won’t be competitive for at least a few years. And I just have one thing to say about it: FINALLY.

It’s about time the Brewers start over. Too long have they been a bad-to-average team. Too long has their fan base been disappointed. A clean, fresh start is a necessity, a conclusion owner Mark Attanasio has ultimately come to. In early October, Attanasio told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “In my thirst to compete, maybe we ended up in the middle a little too often.” I smiled when I read that quote.

New general manager David Stearns has the franchise reins now, and from everything he’s said and everything I’ve read about the man, he seems like the right guy for the job. His focus is centered on giving the organization young prospects whom can be molded into big-league talent. That’s the definition of rebuilding.

That mission begins this offseason, and I have a few ideas on how to start the long-awaited process.

Trade Lucroy, Braun and Rodriguez

Trading the team’s best three players will be no small task, and the average fan will likely throw a tantrum, but this is a move that’s in the best interest of not only the Brewers, but the players themselves.

Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun are in their primes, but by the time Milwaukee’s rebuild is complete, they won’t be anymore. Let them play out their good years on a competitive team instead of wasting away in a Brewers uniform. Plus, the prospects the Brewers would get back for them would be top-rated ones, just like the ones they received in the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers trade. Lucroy’s contract is dirt cheap and he’s one of the best backstops in the game, so trading him shouldn’t be difficult. Braun. on the other hand, is just beginning a five-year, $100 million contract extension. Finding a team to take on that contract won’t be easy, but at least Braun’s 2015 season (129 wRC+)  boosted his value again.

Now, while Francisco Rodriguez‘s days of throwing in the high-90s are long gone, he proved in 2015 he can still be a dominant arm out of the bullpen. The Brewers no longer have a need for a veteran closer who costs $7.5 million, so trading him for a can of pickles would be worth it. Freeing up that money is the most important thing. Plus, I can just bet Scooter Gennett loves pickles.

Acquire a 3B prospect

Aramis Ramirez did a fine job holding down the third base fort for the past two and a half seasons, but during that time, the Brewers failed to prepare for his departure. Right now, they have Hernan Perez* (-0.8 career WAR) and Elian Herrera (0.5 career WAR) as possible third-base options. However, neither of those players are long-term solutions, and there’s no one in the minors who is remotely ready for a promotion to the bigs. The Brewers, without a doubt, need to solidify the hot corner.

When/if the Brewers trade any of the players I mentioned above in my first point, a third base prospect will surely be a point of prominence in any trade discussion.

*Has since been made a minor league free agent.

Add as much young pitching as possible

Teams with depth, particularly pitching depth, are usually the ones who have the most success. Just look at two World Series teams this year in New York and Kansas City. Stearns has already spoke about the importance of pitching depth, meaning going out and grabbing as many young pitching prospects as he can is already on his mind.

The Brewers like the young pitching they have (Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann), but the depth isn’t there, and to be honest, neither is the talent. Their history of draft picks spent on pitchers reads like a bad novel, but hopefully the new front office regime will have a little more luck.

Find a cheap centerfielder

The outfield as it currently lines up is Khris Davis in left field, Domingo Santana in center field and Ryan Braun in right. There’s only one problem; Santana has no business being in center as he belongs in a corner spot. Unfortunately, the Brewers have no true center fielders on the roster, which makes acquiring one a must.

That, however, will cause a traffic jam in the outfield, a problem that can easily be solved by trading Braun. Davis will most likely stay put because he’s cheap and under team control, and I don’t see Stearns giving away someone like that.

Santana will need to be in the lineup everyday in order to get as many plate appearances as possible, but that may mean he’ll need to tough it out in center until a reliable replacement comes along.

The projections: What I got wrong

As you know, baseball projections, or any projections for that matter, are never a sure thing, especially when they consist of nothing but educated guesses, as mine do. Projection systems like Steamer and ZiPS, which you can find on FanGraphs’ lovely site, are much more accurate, because they use complicated and in-depth formulas and models to make their decisions on players. As for me, I simply did some research and predicted the results on my own.

My projections were purely guesses, but I still hit some right on the nose. I did, however, swing and miss on quite a few. Here are the projections I bombed:

Jonathan Lucroy

Avg HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .303 11 .362 129 .377 .159 10.3% 11.4% 4.6
Season Stats .264 7 .313 93 .326 .127 15.4% 8.7% 1.1

After an MVP-caliber season in 2014, I had no doubt in my mind Jonathan Lucroy would follow it up with another stellar escapade at the plate. Way to make me look like an idiot, Jon. He went from a 6-win player to a 1-win player. Talk about astonishing.

Lucroy just wasn’t the same hitter. He dealt with a toe injury, but he also struggled with pitch selection (29.7 O-Swing%), had most of his power zapped and was unusually unlucky when he made contact with the ball; he posted a .297 BABIP after averaging a ,311 BABIP during his first five seasons in the bigs.

Aside from his bat’s disappearance, Lucroy’s defense also wasn’t Lucroy-worthy. According to FanGraphs’ Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF) stat, which measures a player’s defensive value compared to league average, Lucroy’s value plummeted faster than Meek Mill’s rap career. Last year, he ranked sixth among catchers. In 2015, he was down in the gutter at 37th.

2016 outlook: In hindsight, the Brewers should have traded him immediately after his superstar year. Now, interest in the catcher will surely be down a bit.

Carlos Gomez

AVG HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .287 22 .366 131 .350 .193 22.1% 7.7% 5.3
Season Stats .255 12 .315 96 .314 .154 21.2% 6.5% 2.6

Carlos Gomez went through one roller coaster of a season in 2015, whether it was injuries, being fake traded to the New York Mets or being for real traded to the Houston Astros. And to top all of that off, he was a disaster at the plate.

I knew the Brewers were destined for the bottom of the standings, but no way did I think Gomez would contribute in a negative way to their offensive output. Like Lucroy, I thought he had a chance to compete for the MVP award; instead, he wasn’t even a league-average hitter. His helmet and the ground got pretty friendly, though.

2016 outlook: Trading Gomez was necessary and a fantastic move by Milwaukee’s brass, and I’m on-the-edge-of-my-seat excited for the prospects Houston sent over. In order for the trade to look respectable for the Astros, however, Gomez will need a big bounce-back season. And I think it’s in the cards. He’s my pick for 2016’s Comeback Player of the Year.

Michael Blazek

ERA FIP xFIP SIERA HR K% BB% GB% WAR
Projection 4.22 4.03 3.90 3.89 7 21.3% 11.3% 42.0% -0.1
Season Stats 2.43 3.17 3.85 3.60 3 21.2% 8.1% 47.4% 0.6

Michael Blazek was a hard player to project. Before 2015, the right-handed reliever had just 17 innings of major-league experience, making projecting his first full year a crap shoot.

As it turns out, Blazek was one of the best relievers the solid Brewers bullpen had, ranking fourth in WAR. He waited all the way until August 2 before allowing his first home run. He didn’t strike out many. but he still managed to hold hitters to an extremely low batting average on balls in play (.243).

2016 outlook: It wouldn’t shock me to see Blazek get a shot at the starting rotation next season. The Brewers are rebuilding, and his arsenal and pitching style are more suitable for a starter, anyway. Why not give him a chance?

Francisco Rodriguez

ERA FIP xFIP SIERA HR K% BB% GB% WAR
Projection 3.72 4.22 3.15 2.62 11 25.9% 8.8% 42.0% -0.1
Season Stats 2.21 2.91 2.63 2.42 6 28.7% 5.1% 46.4% 1.0

Francisco Rodriguez was horrible in 2014, and I didn’t expect the Brewers to bring him back. I was wrong. I also didn’t expect Rodriguez to be remotely decent out of the ‘pen. I was wrong. This was, by far, the worst of my projections. Apologies, K-Rod.

Rodriguez did a wonderful job of cutting back on his walks and increasing his K rate, but what’s gone mostly unnoticed is his groundball percentage. His 46.4 GB% is the second-best mark of his career and the highest since 2011. Rodriguez’s plethora of grounders is a main reason why his home run totals were almost sliced in half.

2016 outlook: Once again, Rodriguez will be used as a trade chip by the Brewers. Kudos to Milwaukee for hanging on to him for another season in order to get his value back up.

 

***Even though I was very, very wrong about their performances, I didn’t include Kyle Lohse or Matt Garza on this list. I think we saw enough of them over the season as it is. Nobody wants to read anything more about them.

What’s up with Jonathan Lucroy?

Last season Jonathan Lucroy was one of the front runners for the National League MVP award. Aside from his usual defensive prowess, he got on base at a great rate and showed a tremendous amount of gap power. When it was all said and done, Lucroy finished with the ninth-best WAR in Major League Baseball, and I was sure he was going to follow that up with another phenomenal season (projected 4.6 WAR).

But now, at the midway point of August in 2015, Lucroy has been no better than a replacement player. His WAR sits at 0.1 and his on-base percentage is reminiscent of Yuniesky Betancourt‘s. His isolated power is down 58 points, and instead of being an above-average hitter in terms of creating runs, Lucroy’s wRC+ is down in the gutters at 78. He’s gone from a major threat at the plate to a player who’s no threat at all.

So what’s happened? First, let’s compare his batted ball profile in 2014 to his profile this season.

GB% FB% LD%
2014 42.1% 35.7% 22.3%
2015 47.3% 28.8% 23.9%

Lucroy is hitting more line drives and less fly balls, and for someone who doesn’t have much home run power, that’s obviously a good thing. But his ground ball rate has soared, and that’s something that needs to be talked about.

Part of the reason Lucroy’s offense is struggling is because he’s hitting a lot more ground balls than he did in 2014 and is having way worse luck on those ground balls. Last season, Lucroy hit .258 when he put the ball on the ground, while the rest of the averaged just a .239 mark. In other words, Lucroy overachieved on grounders. This year, not so much, as his groundball BABIP is at a lowly .155. League average, by the way, is .234. As a result, Lucroy’s overall BABIP of .267 is the seventh-lowest mark among National League hitters (min. 300 PA). To sum up, Lucroy had great luck a year ago, but is enduring a season of rotten lock in 2015.

His loss of power is also quite astonishing. He ripped 53 doubles last season, but has only 14 to his name after 311 at-bats. Now, obviously there was no way Lucroy was going to duplicate 53 doubles again, but to have only 14 is a bit surprising. This can probably be explained by his inability to hit the fastball, something that wasn’t the case last year.

Lucroy has seen 544 four-seam fastballs this season, and is hitting .250 with an isolated power of .095 on those pitches. During his MVP-caliber year, however, he hit .324 with an isolated power of .229. Twenty-five of his 53 doubles came off the four-seamer. This year he has just three.

The Brewers catcher is nowhere near the same hitter he was last season because he’s putting a career-high number of balls on the ground and because he’s having a tough time making good contact with the fastball. Both of these things are correctable, but as Milwaukee starts to rebuild, Lucroy may find himself correcting his issues on a different team.

 

Predicting who gets traded and who stays

We are now at the All-Star break, and for teams sitting at the bottom of the standings, like the Milwaukee Brewers are, it’s a welcome furlough. The four-days off is also usually the beginning of trade season, as teams are either getting ready to stack up for a postseason run or start shedding veterans in order to ignite the rebuilding process. In case you don’t know anything about anything, the Brewers will be doing the latter. At 38-52, they have the second-worst record in Major League Baseball. They are officially sellers.

Milwaukee is currently in possession of a handful of players who contending teams should be calling about. They have veterans with expiring contracts, but they also have players who are on the cusp of their primes, making them extremely coveted.

The Brewers won’t trade their entire roster (even though I’m not against the idea), but it’s safe to say they’ll be sending a few players out of the city known for its beer. So let’s make some predictions.

Players who will get traded

OF Gerardo Parra – Numerous teams are in need of outfield depth (see Kansas City), and with the way Parra has performed offensively, his name is one of the hottest on the block. Of outfielders with at least 300 plate appearances, he has the 13th-highest wRC+, not to mention his on-base percentage of .344 would be his best mark since 2011. Parra is as good as gone.

SP Kyle Lohse – I know his ERA and everything else you can possibly look at is downright terrible, but I still have this feeling that a team is going to take a flyer on him, for the right price, of course. The Brewers won’t get much back and they’ll probably to have pay some of his remaining salary, but with Lohse being a free agent after the season, why wouldn’t a team in need of a back-end starter go after him?

3B Aramis Ramirez – Every team needs hitting and Ramirez can still provide that at 37 years old. He’s a notorious slow starter and this season was definitely no exception. His numbers are finally beginning to improve, however. After producing a .272 wOBA in June, he crushed the ball in July and finished the month with a .366 wOBA. He, like Lohse, is in the last year of his contract (and career). He’s a rental who a team will trade for.

1B Adam Lind – He’s been the best player on the Brewers in 2015 and is probably the best hitter on the market. He’s already put up 2.1 WAR while creating an impressive 43% more runs than league average. Lind could bring back a fairly decent haul, especially compared to the other guys I listed above. If a team is looking for a high OBP player who hits home runs, Lind is the man for the job.

RP Francisco Rodriguez – I’ll admit I was wrong about Rodriguez. I thought he would be equally as bad as he was in 2014, but as it turns out, he’s been lights-out. His strikeout rate (30.8%) is back in line with his career norms and he’s no longer getting bit by home runs. He would be a very valuable add to a bullpen in need of a high-leverage reliever. The only thing stopping a team for making a play for him is his big contract. He’s owed $7.5 million in 2016 with a $6 million club option in ’17 ($2 million buyout). That’s a lot of money for a closer who’s been up and down in the past few seasons. Still, I think the Brewers will trade him yet again, but this time, there will be no reunion between the two.

Players who won’t get traded

OF Carlos Gomez – The Brewers should trade him, but I think they’ll wait another year. They need to be able to sell tickets in 2016, in spite of the talent-less roster they’re sure to put together, and people will pay to see Gomez. I feel like that is a terrible reason not to trade someone, especially since his value now is higher than it will be next year, but it’s what the Brewers will presumably do.

C Jonathan Lucroy – Lucroy’s going to stay in Milwaukee as well. The Brewers will have to be unbelievably blown away in order to trade a great catcher with a team-friendly contract like Lucroy. I think Lucroy will be involved in a mid-season trade next season, but not this one.

RP Jonathan Broxton – Making the playoffs and doing well once you’re there is nearly impossible without a quality bullpen. Basically everyone is looking for bullpen depth. By old-school numbers Broxton has been less than quality in 2015, which is why I don’t see him being moved. The Brewers would get next to nothing in return for him. so maybe their mindset is, why bother?

SS Jean Segura – I struggled with Segura. I can easily see him being traded, seeing as how Orlando Arcia is coming for his job. But which team is going to give up what the Brewers demand for him? That’s the big question here. Segura is a young and defensively talented shortstop who hasn’t hit much to date. What’s he really worth? Because that’s unknown, I think Segura stays put.

Grade the game (June 29, 2015)

This is the inaugural article of “Grade the Game.” After each (most, at least) game, I’ll write a short but of course exciting recap of said game. Then, you the reader, will have the opportunity to give the Brewers a grade based on their performance. Simple enough, right?

Jimmy Nelson (4.34 ERA/4.33 FIP/) took on the Phillies’ Sean O’Sullivan (5.34 ERA/6.28 FIP) in a battle of Major League Baseball’s worst teams. Nelson lasted just five innings (77 pitches), giving up four runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked two. O’Sullivan gave up a whopping 12 hits and six earned runs. The Brewers somehow racked up 16 hits on their way to a 7-4 victory. Adam Lind (133 wRC+) drove in two runs, Jonathan Lucroy had four hits and Cesar Hernandez (.325 wOBA) collected two hits for the Phillies. Oh, and Hernan Perez continued his hot streak at the plate. Some sloppy defense from Milwaukee led to two Phillies runs in the first inning.

The play that made the game worth watching: A first-pitch two-RBI double by pinch hitter Aramis Ramirez to give the Brewers a 5-4 lead. The Brewers never looked back.

My grade: B

The defense wasn’t stellar and neither was Nelson. But the offense did everything it could with closer to 30 hits than 0.

The time to trade Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy is now

In order to understand the premise of this article, you first need to comprehend that the Milwaukee Brewers will not be a good team for at least four years. They are about to go into full rebuilding mode, and that’s a very long and difficult process. The Brewers are a small market team and can’t Yankee up after every bad season and throw large sums of cash at highly coveted free agents. Instead, they have to build through the draft, find underrated and undervalued players and start thinking outside of the box in terms of evaluating talent. Milwaukee’s prospect cupboard is bare aside from a few names like Orlando Arcia, Clint Coulter and Tyrone Taylor (don’t give up on him yet), but even they are not ready for the big stage. The Brewers need to start over.

The next few years will be anything but fun if you call yourself a Brewers’ fan, and it will be even worse when Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy get traded. You may not want this to happen as Gomez is one of the most exciting players in baseball and Lucroy has transformed into the face of Milwaukee’s franchise, but the trade of both of them absolutely needs to happen now.

Neither Gomez or Lucroy are duplicating the All-Star seasons they put together in 2014. Gomez has created just 1% more runs than league average (101 wRC+) while Lucroy, even though he missed a significant chunk of time with a broken toe, has somehow managed a -0.2 WAR. His offense has been nonexistent; just two of his 20 base hits have gone for extra bases. Nonetheless, they were both MVP candidates a year ago and a few lousy months isn’t going to change a team’s perception of them. They are still Milwaukee’s hottest trade chips.

They both turned 29 which is generally considered right in the midst of a player’s prime. Now, Lucroy will be valuable for a longer period of time solely because of his pitch framing abilities. Look at Jose Molina. The guy has never hit in the major leagues, but at age 40, he’s still on a major-league roster. The Tampa Bay Rays handed him a two-year contract extension in his 38-age season all because of how he catches balls behind the plate. The same will probably be the case for Lucroy. His value will exceed his prime years, but that’s why the Brewers would be wise to get rid of him now, when he has both his bat and his catching skills still intact. Gomez, however, will falter sooner. He will lose his impressive speed with age and his defense will decline. His prime years are happening now.

There is no reason for a ball club to have two MVP-caliber players who are in the prime of their careers if said ball club has no shot in competing. Absolutely no reason. You can tell me that they will sell tickets and that they will sell merchandise, but in the end, the value the Brewers would get back from them would trump all that by a long shot.

Besides, Gomez is not going to re-sign with Milwaukee after next season. The $8 million the Brewers are paying him now and the $9 million they’re paying him next season is a steal, and Gomez knows that. Plus, he’s a Scott Boras client. Do you really think Scott Boras is going to let Gomez re-sign for less money than his market value?

As for Lucroy, he’s eligible to be a free agent after the 2017 season (unless Milwaukee buys him out, which definitely won’t happen). He’s on a very team-friendly contract so it might make some sense to keep him around for another season. But after the year he just came off of, his value is at its peak. If the Brewers want to get the biggest return, they need to trade him now.

The main argument I’ve seen on Twitter against trading Lucroy is the lack of catching depth in Milwaukee’s organization. This is true. Other than Martin Maldonado, the Brewers have literally no one who has the skill or who is ready to be a big-league catcher. But my response to this is, who cares? They can sign a cheap free agent catcher. They can trade worthless prospects to acquire a somewhat OK catcher. The Brewers aren’t going to be a competitive team for years to come, so having a well-rounded catcher isn’t exactly a necessity.

I would hate to see Gomez or Lucroy get shipped off to another team, but because of what Milwaukee’s roster looks like now, it needs to happen. As does the Brewers rebuilding process.

The Brewers can’t hit the low pitch

Someone ought to be plastering “MISSING” signs all over Milwaukee in order to find the Brewers’ offense. It hasn’t been seen since August 2015, and people are starting to worry. Myself included.

The Brewers are dead last in runs and home runs, and that has a resulted in an improbable 53 wRC+. (That means they’ve created 47% fewer runs than league average.) It hasn’t helped that Ryan Braun has just one extra-base hit to his name and Jonathan Lucroy — who was just placed on the disabled list with a broken toe — has looked like a zombie at the plate.

But the lack of scoring doesn’t just boil down to two players. There’s plenty of other ingredients that go into it.

One of those missing ingredients is the team’s inability to hit pitches in the lower half of the zone. Let’s take a look at the strike zone so I can better illustrate where the problems lie.

Zone

Because I wanted to find out how the Brewers perform on pitches in the bottom of the zone (zones 7,8.9), I went to Baseball Savant and sorted pitch location by batting average. With just how bad Milwaukee’s offense has been, the results didn’t really surprise me.

On pitches in zones 7, 8 and 9, the Brewers have a measly batting average of .198 (21 for 106), which is the lowest mark in Major League Baseball. It seems as if opposing pitchers have picked up on this out as well. Only six teams have seen more pitches in those areas of the zone, meaning pitchers are pounding it because they know Milwaukee is incapable of doing anything with their low pitches. Lucroy has had the most success against low pitches, going for 7-for-16, and Braun is 4-for-12, but other than that, the Brewers have produced nada. Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura and Khris Davis have combined to go 2-for-28 (.071).

Struggling low in the zone isn’t new for the Brewers. In 2014, they hit .276 in those three zones, and while that batting average is infinitely better than why they’re at now, the Brewers still finished 26th out of 30 teams. Not many home runs come from pitches down in the zone, so for a team explicitly built to hit home runs, one shouldn’t expect much production.

And I think that’s the issue. For at least the last few years, the Brewers have been programmed to hit home runs or lose. They’re not an on-base percentage team, they’re an all or nothing team. And the latter has been winning for quite some time now.

Jonathan Lucroy abruptly retires, cites lost love for baseball

In a unexpected move, Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy announced his retirement Wednesday, citing his lost love for the game of baseball.

In a press conference held in Maryvale, Arizona, Lucroy, seated alongside Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin, said that he no longer has the burning passion that is required to play baseball day in and day out.

“Last year was the last straw for me,” Lucroy said. “I was on the fence about playing before last season started, but now I’m positive this game is not for me. I don’t have the urge to put on my uniform anymore. I’m just tired.”

Lucroy also talked about how the drama in 2013 with Ryan Braun deeply affected his morale and that he lost “faith in baseball” as a whole.

“I still consider Braunie a friend,” Lucroy said. “But the way he tricked and lied to us wore me out. He made baseball about him and nothing else. I just don’t want to deal with anything like that again. Baseball isn’t fun anymore, and that’s one of the reasons why.”

Attanasio was caught completely off guard by Lucroy’s announcement, and despite pleading with him to remain a part of the organization, he said he respects Lucroy’s decision.

“We are losing an All-Star and the best catcher in the game,” Attanasio said. “He cannot be replaced and there’s really nothing I can say to illustrate the value he has to our team. But when a player doesn’t enjoy coming to the ballpark every day, it’s time to call it quits. We wish nothing but the best for Jonathan.”

Brewers players weren’t immediately made available to the media, but a source close to the team said the spring training clubhouse was “quieter than a ghost town.”

Lucroy finished fourth in the National League MVP race in 2014, but his success wasn’t enough to make him stay.

“I want to spend time with my family and go hunting and fishing,” Lucroy said. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life.”

When asked if he felt he was abandoning his teammates and putting the organization in a bad spot with such little time before the season commences, Lucroy acknowledged that to some, his actions may seem selfish.

“I mean, it’s selfish and it isn’t. I don’t want to play baseball anymore, so I would cause more harm to the Brewers than good by being on the roster.”

Melvin said backup catcher Martin Maldonado will take over as starting catcher, and discussions have already taken place about acquiring a backup.

Lucroy finishes his career with a .285 batting average, 59 home runs and 294 runs batted in.

 

 

April Fools, everybody. Be thankful Lucroy is here to stay.