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Trading for Lucroy

August 11, 2017
 

Last week, the Colorado Rockies traded for veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Texas Rangers in the hopes that his experience will aid their young pitching staff down the stretch. However, his production (or lack thereof) this season does not appear likely to fill the team’s offensive and defensive holes at catcher.

Prior to the trade, Rockies’ catchers—Tony Wolters, Ryan Hanigan, Dustin Garneau, and Tom Murphy—were struggling offensively. They were hitting an abysmal .231/.311/.306 with an OPS of 0.617, the second worst in the league, and hit a league-worst three home runs as a group. The Rockies were in need of a player who could help to increase their offensive production at catcher. However, Lucroy wasn’t doing much better for the Rangers. He hit only four home runs with a line of .242/.297/.338, giving him an OPS of 0.635.

The Rockies’ catching defense has struggled similarly, as it has been the worst in the league this season. The catchers have combined to cost the team 16 runs. The addition of Lucroy isn’t likely to help them improve in this area either. This season, prior to being traded, he had cost the Rangers 11 runs behind the plate. From 2010-2014, Lucroy was a top-five defensive catcher. In fact, in 2014 Lucroy was the best defensive catcher in baseball, saving the Brewers 24 runs. In 2015 and 2016, however, he saw a drastic decline, and he has reached an all-time low for 2017. This season, the 12 runs that he has cost the Rockies and Rangers are a league-worst for catchers. Below are his year-to-year ranks at catcher among those in the top 35 in innings at the position.

Lucroy Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) by Season
Season DRS Rank
2010 22 2
2011 19 3
2012 16 3
2013 10 5
2014 24 1
2015 3 17
2016 4 11
2017 -12 35

 

Looking at specific DRS components, Lucroy’s biggest decline has been in his ability to obtain additional strike calls. While he averaged 17 Runs Saved due to his pitch framing from 2010-2014, he has already cost the Rangers and Rockies eight runs this season. The article by Ben Lindbergh found here surmises that age and injuries might be the cause of the decline in his framing ability. It contains videos that show the change in Lucroy’s mechanics and how now, unlike before, his body doesn’t stay still when he catches pitches. It also displays how his average glove height has increased, indicating that he might not be crouching down as low as he did in prior seasons.

Interestingly, despite his declining defense overall, over the last couple of seasons he has improved in his ability to prevent a stolen base. Other than his rookie season in 2010, 2016 and 2017 are the only seasons in which he has finished above average in Stolen Bases Runs Saved with five and three, respectively. However, that improvement is not likely to make up for deficiencies in other areas of his game. For this trade to pay off for Colorado, Lucroy is going to have to rediscover either his framing or hitting prowess.

 
 

COMMENTS (2 Comments, most recent shown first)

joeyjap35
Good read. From the outside looking in, I thought to myself, big deal. Necause of Arenado I tend to watch Rockies games. What you put together just supported my shoulder shrugs
11:03 PM Aug 14th
 
DavidTodd
nice work, good enjoyable article
1:30 AM Aug 12th
 
 
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