Rickie Weeks Hot Streak Unmasked | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

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:

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.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Edwin says: May 14, 2014

    Is there any chance the Brewers look at options like Bonifacio or Valbuena (possibly both) from Chicago? Niether would be great, but Valuena actually plays good defense and draws a fair amount of walks. He can cover 2B, 3B, and even SS if needed. Bonifacio can also cover multiple IF positions, he’s a switch hitter, he’d be good speed off the bench, and he can play OF.

    Full disclosure, I’m a Cubs fan living in Milwaukee, so I’m not really up to date on what the Brewers current bench or current farm system looks like, but I wouldn’t think it would cost too much, especially with the Cubs looking to give player like Lake and Olt more playing time. I think this could easily be a win-win trade. Cubs get some “depth” prospects, Brewers upgrade their bench without giving away impact talent from future seasons.

  2. DS says: May 14, 2014

    I disagree. Take what we can for him? No way. Come September when we are in the hunt for the playoffs I think we need a veteran off the bench with pop. That isn’t Logan Shafer or Jeff Bianichi. We would end up eating most if not all his salary anyways.

  3. Jason says: May 14, 2014

    I know regression is unavoidable, but it really depends upon how he regresses. If Rickie can keep driving the ball when his ground balls start finding gloves again, he can still be a productive batter. If watching his power numbers dive off a cliff is the price paid for him ending the season with a .270-.280 BA, I would gladly take that over a Rickie Weeks that hits 25HRs and only has a a .205 BA.

    As for him being trade-bait, what are you going to get? The biggest possible upgrade position is 1st base-sorry, our platoon there is posting a BA barely tolerable for a defensive SS or a back-up catcher. Who is has the surplus and the need that makes for a worthwhile trade?

    • dbug says: May 14, 2014

      I share the concern about 1B. That is the place we might suddenly see a huge drop in production. Both Reynolds and Overbay started off playing well last year, but they eventually cratered. A first base upgrade would make me feel a lot better.

  4. 2ndHS says: May 14, 2014

    Counterpoint: Weeks hasn’t hit LHP well at all this year. That’s likely to change. After considering regression (good and bad), I look at the end result of 117 wRC+ and I could see him keeping up that kind of overall production as long as we’re talking about him staying in this type of platoon.

  5. Elliot says: May 14, 2014

    When the season started it seemed like every pitch weeks swung at he was way over the top, now he’s at least hitting the top of the ball. One can only hope this is a trend that continues until he’s actually hitting the middle of the ball again and it doesnt keep trending to only fly balls. Any chance this is due to him changing his batting stance at the start of the year?

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