Yeah, Le Lei was definitely a weak character whose comparison boosted Lucretia's own image. The ones for s4 were even less essential. Salome was very strong in s3, and I'm sort of surprised that Chris got promoted over him. Does experience not count for anything anymore? I've not had the chance to play s1 or 2, so I can't really comment about Apple's progression as a person, but she didn't exactly scream brilliant tactician in s3. As for Alfred, it seemed like he didn't really care one way or the other about the war's outcome so he didn't really have to try to hard after the initial success of the invasion. His game was more of about self serving political leveraging with in Harmonia, not against the Grasslands or Zexen.
I rate Lucretia a good deal above any of the other strategists in the Suikoden games that I have played (3-5 and tactics). A lot of people comment about her not disclosing her plan and pointing out that it's probably because she was relying mostly on luck, but the impression I get is that she doesn't trust anyone and will only disclose enough to get the wheels turning. The game already reveals to us that she has no problems betraying her employer if she feels that it goes against her nebulous code of conduct, so perhaps she was preparing for the event that she might have to betray the prince as well.
About the 'bland' personality and constant poker face... I would say that it's most essential to a strategist to ALWAYS have a poker face up due to the fact that you never know who you will be fighting in the future. This alone gives her a massive edge over her former colleagues as she knows their thought process but they are clueless about hers. Also, as she advises Le Lei, it's critical to never apologize for anything or even hint that your plan went wrong. This builds up an legacy of invincibility that can sap the morale of an opposing force before they even get to the battle field just by the hint that you might be there to direct the battle. Everyone thinks their dancing in the palm of her hand when the actual odds might be in their favor.
Defense of Raftfleet... I think it's unfair to say she relied on luck. The Godwin Navy was after Raftfleet, a mobile target. If the section of the river happened to be clear, she could have just advised that Raftfleet hoist anchor and sail to a portion of the river with a similar lay out and still spring her trap. The fact that it was already there saves game time. Even if Luger's fleet didn't charge head in and bottom out on the debris, their ships would still be at a disadvantage as they'd have to maneuver around the shallow sections to engage the smaller, nimbler Raftfleet vessels. Can one blame her just because the best case scenario happened to play out? As for her knowing something that Raja and Luger didn't know, Raja at least did know about the debris from the ruined dam. How ever she was in a rather tight spot and her mind might not have been focused on engaging the enemy. Remember she trained most of Godwin's navy and she said that it was like fighting her own children.
Attack on Sol Falena... Once more saying she was relying on luck is a bit unfair. It was stated that she had the Beaver's rebuild the sluice system and some are criticizing it as relying on faulty technology. That might not be giving the Beaver's the credit they deserve. Remember they built a water break with the capacity of holding back a Tsunami in no time flat. Odds are they could have rebuilt the flood control system from scratch if they really had to. If they needed more time, she probably would have managed the attack differently, turning it into a stalling game till they were ready.
Some of you would know that Liu Bei in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms had the "Hidden Dragon" Zhuge Liang and "Phoenix Chick" Pang Tong under him. Both were considered equals, but Liu Bei tended to favor Zhuge Liang, resulting in Pang Tong taking increasingly risky moves, resulting in his death at the "Falling Phoenix Pass." Something of the like would be interesting than having one ultimate strategist who can blast through everything and defeat any opponent with the flick of their fingernail.
The guy road a CURSED horse up a pass that might has well been named, "Guys named Pang Tong are going to die here." Man I'm not one to believe in omens... but those might even have me thinking that going that route is not such a good idea.