Over the last two nights, Weeks saw 45 pitches throughout his plate appearances. Weeks swung at 17 of those pitches; 4 of those swings were at pitches outside of the strike zone. Of the 28 pitches that Weeks looked at, approximately 18 were outside of the strike zone (and a few others were borderline pitches).
This basic discipline trend follows Weeks’ basic career outlines. Weeks is an extreme non-contact hitter; what I mean by that is, Weeks does not rely on knocking the ball in play to generate his offensive value. Rather, he strikes out, walks, and homers at strong rates (beyond getting hit by pitches), occupying nearly 40% of his career plate appearances with those outcomes. In order to enact this approach, Weeks does not swing at many pitches outside of the zone (21.5% in his career); for his career, he swings at 41.2% of his total pitches.
One of the difficulties of this approach, I gather, is that it’s counterproductive to “hit one’s way out of a slump.” You’ll hear this from time to time — sometimes, while in a slump, a batter simply needs to do whatever they can to collect hits, little singles or bloops, bumped into play somewhere over the diamond. Yet, in Weeks’s case, he builds his approach around looking for his pitch and driving that pitch; everything else is superfluous.
It’s extremely difficult to look at a four strikeout game and to see a successful night, or a silver lining, anyway. Last night, Weeks showed strong discipline, swinging at one fastball and one slider outside the zone (all night!). Furthermore, Bud Norris and Rhiner Cruz supplied Weeks 12 sliders, which is Weeks’ last valuable pitch (in terms of batting outcomes). Weeks laid off those pitches for the most part, only swinging at three sliders. This is a good sign — if Weeks cannot do much with a pitch, he need not swing at it, and if a slider is his weakness, it’s a good sign that he recognized and took the vast majority of last night’s sliders.
While you hear Brewers fans bashing Weeks today on sports radio, or wondering what he needs to do to improve, think about the discipline that Weeks showed in taking 9 of 12 sliders; think about the discipline that Weeks showed in swinging at 8 pitches in the strike zone (against 2 pitches outside of the strike zone). Ultimately, it’s not as though Weeks is simply looking at fastballs in the zone and striking out because of that; he’s swinging at pitches that he can drive, and laying off troublesome offerings.
Dare I say that it’s only a matter of time before Weeks jumps from this level of discipline to a productive hitting level that we’ve become accustomed to from second base.
TexasLeaguers. Trip Somers, 2009-2012.
Images: strike zone snapshots copyright Trip Somers, 2009-2012.