Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Brewers sign Lucroy to a five-year deal

By Nicole
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The Brewers signed C Jonathan Lucroy to a five-year, $11 million contract it was announced today.

That might be the biggest steal of a contract the Brewers have signed in recent years, including the hometown friendly deal with Ryan Braun that continues to look great as it ages.

The contract is slightly risky in that Lucoy is young, doesn't have the best arm and his hitting stats aren't great - and obviously every contract carries the injury risk.

That being said, successful young catchers aren't easy to find and you'd much rather have a 26-year-old behind the plate than a 35-year-old.

But the biggest plus to this contract that likely won't be discussed much is brought up by Rob Neyer over at SBNation. In a somewhat obscure stat, Lucroy leads the majors in his ability to "frame up" a pitch. It means he catches a moves the ball to the strike zone imperceptably, fooling the umpire and helping his pitchers to get more called strikes.

The research on this comes from BaseballProspectus.com (if you're into baseball stat nerdery in any way, shape or form and aren't reading BP, you're missing out).

From the article:

"Lucroy took over the starting job for the Brewers in the middle of the 2010 season and has gained about 41 runs by getting 284 extra strike calls since then. Lucroy got extra strikes for his pitchers both on the bottom and outside edges of the strike zone."

Neyer points out that those 41 runs saved by Lucroy can be roughly translated to 4 WAR (wins above replacement). Add that to the 4 WAR (per Neyer) he's already credited with and you're talking about a catcher that's 8 WAR - a huge number.

Neyer goes on to put a monetary value to that 8 WAR - $32 million over the past two seasons.

In that perspective, $11 million is like having robbed him in the night.

The contract buys out all of Lucroy's arbitration years and has an option for the first year of his free agency.

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