Oddities and entities: What are the chances?
October 4, 2017—5 minute read
Taking a look at figures that don't add up. This one delves into two baseball players.
In the 146-year history of Major League Baseball, there have been some unusual names strutting and fretting their time upon the diamond, but one of the more intriguing might be Jonathan Lucroy, the starting catcher for the Colorado Rockies, who lost last night against Arizona in the National League wild card game.
With a single notable exception, no one among the 18,852 players with big league experience since MLB became a thing in 1871 has had the same last name as Lucroy, a name that sounded like his or was spelled similarly. No LaCroy, for example, or Lecroix.
The exception is Matthew LeCroy, who, as it turned out, played in the same era as Lucroy, fielded the same position and spent most of his time in the bigs in Minnesota, whose home stadium is about a four-hour drive from Milwaukee, where Lucroy played for the Brewers for the longest stretch of his career.
Though they were not exactly contemporaries — LeCroy retired in 2007, while Lucroy broke into the majors in 2010 — the two are an even decade apart in age, 41 and 31, respectively, close enough to have known about one another, particularly considering they're both large Southerners who throw and hit right.
(The Florida-born Lucroy, 6'0, 200 pounds, attended the University of Louisiana, while South Carolina native LeCroy, 6'2", 225 pounds, played his college ball at Clemson.)
But what's more remarkable about two good ole boy catchers with highly distinctive names having nearly overlapping careers while toiling on "M" clubs 300 miles apart is this: LeCroy and Lucroy also produced fairly similar batting statistics.
Lucroy, a two-time All-Star once considered among the best backstops in baseball, is clearly the better overall hitter, reflected by his higher career average, .281, to LeCroy's .260, as well as being the superior base runner. He's had more career homers than his older namesake, 96 to 60, and more RBIs, 458 to 218.
But Lucroy's gaudier cumulative totals are partly a reflection of him having had many more trips to the plate than LeCroy, who battled injuries and stronger competition for playing time. LeCroy, who logged just 1,388 at-bats, compared with Lucroy's 3,412, hit homers at nearly double the rate as Lucroy, and knocked in runs at a higher clip, too.
The result is that one can point to annual statistics from the two that bear a strong resemblance.
In 2005, for example, LeCroy hit 17 dingers, knocked in 50 runs, scored 33 times and batted .260.
Six years later, in 2011, Lucroy had 12 HRs, 59 RBIs, scored 45 runs and hit .265.
That's truly remarkable.
It would be as if, three years following the retirement of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, a new guy came along, a handsome, smooth, hard-punching contender named Mahmoud Alley, who would go on to win the championship using his patented rip-a-dip technique.