Rickie Weeks: Discipline and Patience | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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Rickie Weeks struck out four times last night, adding another tough game to his difficult 2012 campaign. Weeks broke through with a home run against the Mets at Citi Field on Tuesday night, but was unable to build on that performance at Minute Maid Park. One might be inclined to think that Weeks is in trouble, completely lost at the plate and in need of severe adjustments; yet, I wonder if it’s not the other way ’round. What if Rickie Weeks is successfully adhering to his approach? What if the results simply have not shown up?

Weeks's swings on 5/15/12. From TexasLeaguers.

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).

Weeks's swings from 5/16/12. From TexasLeaguers.

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.

References:
FanGraphs.
TexasLeaguers. Trip Somers, 2009-2012.

Images: strike zone snapshots copyright Trip Somers, 2009-2012.

http://everyjoe.com/sports/brewers-rickie-weeks-out-for-the-season/

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Daniel says: May 17, 2012

    Excellent post Nicholas. Thanx for the insight. Didn’t Roenicke say something the other day about Rickie’s slump being ‘mental’? But it looks like Rickie is mentally on his game! Do you perceive anything mechanical though, some fundamental change or growing flaw in his swing? Or is his .154 more just a product of ‘back luck’?

    • Nicholas Zettel says: May 17, 2012

      Thanks for the kind words, Daniel, and for the comment.

      Unfortunately, I don’t know much about swing mechanics. I’d be willing to bet that given struggles such as this, there is something mechanical involved; but, that seems less frightening than if his pitch recognition or discipline was off.

  2. Aaron In EC says: May 17, 2012

    This makes a lot of sense. So now my question is, is this the kind of player that should be hitting lead off or in the two-hole…or later in the order? If he sees fewer good pitches, he’d be taking more often and walking more often too. Or am I off-base here?

    • Nicholas Zettel says: May 17, 2012

      Thanks for reading, and for the comment!

      I don’t think you’re off-base; basically, so long as Weeks is having problems collecting hits, he should be allowed to work things out in the order. I don’t think he’s a good fit for an “impact” position right now, but he is a smart veteran that will be able to handle working low in the order for some amount of time.

      Basically, we can get to the “let’s try everything” phase of the slump.

  3. Phil Dawson says: May 17, 2012

    Nice article…just used the info on our show in Madison…Big Shouts!! But I don’t know if our listeners are buying it…

    • Nicholas Zettel says: May 17, 2012

      Thanks for the comment, and for using the article! That’s really kind of you, and made my afternoon.

  4. mac says: May 19, 2012

    So add up the facts that 1) He swings at less pitches that almost every single player, 2) Makes less contact when he does swing than almost every single player, 3) He wont swing at sliders even if they are strikes… and i think we have really got something here!

    Have fun on waivers, Rickie.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: May 19, 2012

      Why should he swing at sliders if they are strikes? It doesn’t add up that a player should swing at pitches just because they’re strikes; not every strike is hittable.

      • mac says: May 19, 2012

        Ever hear of protecting the plate? I know Rickie hasnt, but have you?
        Why should he swing at sliders?.. hmmm idk mayne so he doesnt strike out 1/3 of the time he steps into the box, thats why!

        Foul it off and hope you get a mistake next pitch. He is awful right now and unless you are in a very deep league you can do better at starting second basemen.

      • mac says: May 19, 2012

        I like how you didn’t address my first two points that your hoping a player who swings at less pitches and makes less contact when he does swing than any single player in baseball to come out of his slump. Have fun with .200/.320/.360 17 hrs 6 sbs… which would end up being a great year for him considering his start.

  5. mac says: May 25, 2012

    http://i.imgur.com/uOiNh.gif

    saw that thought it was fun

Trackbacks

Websites mentioned my entry.

  1. Daybreak Doppler: The Consistency of Being Inconsistent | PocketDoppler.com
  2. The Rickie Weeks Compendium | Disciples of Uecker

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