Rickie Weeks continued his scorching hot run at the plate in Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Pirates. He went 1-1 as a pinch hitter and scored what turned out to be the winning third run of the game for the Brewers. Marco Estrada contributed yet another quality start for the team, which is one behind the Braves’ league leading 30 for the year. Carlos Gomez left the game with lower back tightness and is considered day-to-day. Ryan Braun, playing in his first game since coming off the disabled list, made a pre-planned early exit from the game.
Going back to Weeks, though:
Rickie Weeks has 9 hits in his last 13 at bats
— Joe Block (@joe_block) May 14, 2014
After posting a horrific .188/.257/.219 line in March and April in limited playing time, Weeks has been on fire lately. Thus far in the month of May, he is hitting an eye popping .692/.714/.769. It’s been quite the turnaround on the page, but if you’ve been watching the games you’ve probably noticed something a bit different about this hot streak than most Weeks Streaks: it’s been mostly absent of power. The one extra base hit in that streak came on a broken bat liner down the first base line that set up the winning run on Sunday, hardly the type of booming power that is generally associated with Weeks.
For the season, Weeks is now hitting .333/.388/.378, which really doesn’t look much of anything like his career .248/.346/.422 line. Walks and power have long been the main driving force of Weeks’ value at the plate, but this year it’s been all about his .389 batting average on balls in play. That’s so far beyond his career .303 BABIP that it’s practically screaming “unsustainable” at the top of its proverbial lungs.
So what exactly is going on here? It’s actually pretty simple, he’s just not hitting the ball in the air very much at all this year. Yes, coming into Tuesday, Weeks possessed the best line drive percent of his career, a robust 25.0% compared with 17.4% for his career overall. Line drives are excellent, because they have the best chance of resulting in a safe hit of any type of batted ball. On the other hand, those watching the games lately have probably noticed a lot of ground balls sneaking through the infield. That’s not your imagination, his 61.1% groundball rate is almost 15% higher than his career 46.6% number.
The real eye popping number is just how drastically Weeks’ number of fly balls has fallen off. He’s down to 13.9% from a career mark of 36.1%. It’s hard to hit the ball out of the park if you’re not hitting many fly balls, though Weeks is capable of hitting line drives out of the park from time to time. This run of everything sneaking through the infeild isn’t going to last forever, and when it stops Weeks will need to start hitting more balls in the air to make up for the difference.
Whether or not Weeks is capable of doing that at this point is an open question. I should probably disclose (for those of you that don’t follow me on twitter @RDTopp) that I am a huge Rickie Weeks apologist. I always have been and, at least to an extent, I always will be. The one current Brewers jersey that I own is 23. That being said, I’m not overly optimistic about it at this point.
Aging players often see rises in their ground ball rates, and this may be a case of all those injuries catching up with Weeks and forcing a real physical decline in his abilities. I do expect to see some rise in his fly ball rate as the season goes on and a decline in the number of grounders, but I also wouldn’t expect him to stay so far above his career numbers in the line drive department.
If there is a team out there still mired in the dark ages of analysis that is willing to buy the current batting average of Weeks as being sustainable, then the team should definitely take what they can get for him now and move on. Chances are pretty good, though, that no one else is really being fooled by this either. If that’s the case, then they might as well just ride this as long as it lasts and let Weeks do some work against some of the left-handed starters coming up on the schedule.
The Brewers need to just take what they can get for or from him at this point, but really start looking at other options for a right-handed middle infielder to spell Scooter Gennett against lefties. Chances are good they’re going to need a contingency plan sometime this summer. As painful as it is for me to type the words, time is probably running short for Weeks in Milwaukee. #TeamRickie forever, though.