Though Rickie Weeks has attracted most of the negative attention for his slow start, Jonathan Lucroy also spun his wheels out of the gate. On May 20, he was hitting .208/.268/.328 with three home runs and a brutal .596 OPS. His tremendous 2012 season seemed ages ago.
Sparked by a 3-for-4 performance against the Dodgers on May 21, Lucroy has turned his season around and has carried the Brewers’ offense in recent weeks. He’s riding an eight-game hitting streak and has raised his wOBA to .320, which ranks above the .311 league-average for catchers. Since that Tuesday game against Los Angeles, the 26-year-old catcher has torched opposing pitching with a .414/.441/.732 slash line — including a pair of doubles, a triple, and three home runs.
Those who have watched Jonathan Lucroy play for the Brewers over the last couple years are well-aware that he does much of his damage to right field. He drives pitches high-and-away to the opposite field with regularity — although he occasionally becomes too right-field conscious and forgets to utilize left field and his pull-power.
He will pull the baseball on the ground — in fact, he frequently has this season — but when he’s put the baseball in the air this season, it’s more often been to center and right fields.
Recently, though, Lucroy has been rediscovering left field and has enjoyed a resurgence of power. All three of his home runs have been to left or center fields and his controversial triple on Sunday against the Phillies was also pulled down the left field line.
The most interesting aspect of Lucroy’s recent power spike has been the location of the pitches and how they’ve fit perfectly into his seasonal hot zone. The Brewers’ catcher has only shown the ability to hit for power on pitches low-and-inside. That’s it. Here’s his ISO heat map for this season, which illustrates where his power zones are located:
Pitches low in the zone have been punished. Anything above the belt, though, Lucroy hasn’t been able to drive for power.
He’s capitalized on pitches he can handle in his recent power binge. On Sunday, he torched a slider down in the zone from De Fratus into the left-field corner for a three-run triple. Here’s a more exact location of the pitch:
Looking at the heat map provided above, we shouldn’t be surprised Lucroy was able to do some damage on that pitch. Anything thrown middle-in and below the belt, he has pulverized it this season. Fortunately for the Brewers, De Fratus neither got his slider low enough nor far enough outside, and Lucroy was able to drive it into the corner.
Unfortunately, as has been a common occurrence this season, it wasn’t enough to put the Brewers on top because the starting pitching once again dug a deep hole of which the team couldn’t climb out. And if their starting pitching doesn’t improve in a hurry, the Brewers will need to be one of the top-scoring offenses in the league to have a chance to win games. Jonathan Lucroy must be a big part of the offense, too, and it appears he’s starting to wake up after a painfully slow start.