All right, do me a favor: Name three players on the Milwaukee Brewers.
Let me guess: You named Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Rickie Weeks. Am I right?
Look, there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, all three are hitting above .300, and Gomez and Braun have combined for 21 home runs and 68 RBIs this season.
But what about Jonathan Lucroy? Did you name him? The 27-year-old catcher leads the Brewers in average (.335), hits (75), OBP (.398) and doubles (23).
Pretty surprising, huh? Well, not quite.
“He’s been heading in that direction for a few seasons,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Tom Haurdricourt said on Ferrall on the Bench. “He’s gotten better with each year he’s been in the major leagues. You know, it’s tough being a rising catcher in the National League because you’ve got Yadier Molina and Buster Posey – and they’re so high-profile already – and then you have a guy like Jonathan Lucroy who’s having an All-Star season and he’s way behind those two guys in the balloting.”
Still, fan votes – or lack thereof – can’t and won’t diminish Lucroy’s production on the field.
“He’s got great peripheral stats offensively, and he’s a catcher who’s become a really good defensive catcher and who’s gotten really proficient at calling games and blocking balls and throwing out runners and everything,” Haurdricourt said. “He’s slowly becoming a very complete player, and I think before it’s all said and done, he’s going to be one of the leaders on the team.”
The team, by the way, is 38-26 and has the fourth-best record in the bigs. Milwaukee has a five-game lead over St. Louis (33-31) and has been extremely good at responding to losses. Last Friday, the Brewers lost 15-5 to the Pirates – in Pittsburgh, no less – before winning the next two games, 9-3 and 1-0.
“This team has been one of the best page-turning teams I’ve covered in Milwaukee,” Haurdricourt said. “They can have a bad loss – a lopsided loss like that one in Pittsburgh or a game that they play poorly and lose and don’t feel good about it – and come back the next day and be a completely different club and win. They’ve been really good at turning the page. And to be a successful baseball team over that long 162-game schedule, you have to be able to turn the page. They lost 15-5 on Friday, but guess what? It’s one loss. It’s not four. Whether it’s 1-0 or 15-5, it’s one loss.”
But let’s get back to Gomez for just a second. His talent is undeniable – he’s hitting .307 with 12 home runs, 35 RBIs and 11 steals – but he’s almost as polarizing as Braun, maybe even more so.
“Well, he’s got into a couple scuffles on the field, and I think (fans have) misread that as him being a troublemaker,” Haurdricourt said. “He’s anything but. He’s so much fun to be around. One of the best things that happened to the media in Milwaukee is Carlos Gomez becoming good because he’s so much fun to talk to and gives you so many great quotes and is just so full of life that you want guys like that to succeed because you want to keep coming back to him.”
To his credit, Gomez, 28, is on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week and is currently among the top three National League outfielders in All-Star balloting.
“I just defy anybody to find a more improved played in Major League Baseball over the last three years than Carlos Gomez,” Haurdricourt said. “Three years ago, he was like a backup guy who struck out all the time and couldn’t get on base and had all these tools and wasn’t using them. They gave him a three-year contract before last season, and it’s like it allowed him to finally relax a little bit, get his first security and now his talent’s taken over. He’s becoming a monster. There’s nothing he can’t do.”