Assessing Milwaukee Brewers Veteran Rickie Weeks
The Milwaukee Brewers are one of the bigger surprises in the MLB this season and they’re getting it from all facets of their game. They can hit, pitch, and play some solid defense. Sitting on their bench currently is former all-star and a big contract in Rickie Weeks.
Weeks was an integral part to the Brewers run to the NLCS in 2011, when he posted a nice WAR of 3.3. He also had a 5.8 WAR in 2010, which was by far his best overall season. Since 2011, Weeks has barely been above a replacement level player, even once posting a -0.3 WAR, last season. The Brewers are paying Weeks $11 million, and for a guy who has registered just 75 plate appearances in 2014, one would think the Brewers would unload Weeks to whoever comes calling.
What exactly has gone wrong with the 2011 all-star? Let’s take a look.
To begin with, Weeks has always struck out a ton. His career average K% is 23.3%, not a very nice number for someone who also doesn’t walk a whole lot, as evidenced by his career 10.5 BB%. Weeks K’d 25% of the time in 2012, and 26.3% in 2013. The strikeouts are a given with Weeks, so let’s dive a little deeper to uncover some more possible explanations for his drop-off.
When you look at a few more stats, such as plate discipline, it is quite easy to notice Weeks only swings at pitches inside the strike zone, at a career 61.5% and makes contact 84.2% of the time for his career. He also swings at 21.7% of pitches outside of the zone and makes contact 49.9% of the time. With the amount of time’s Week’s does not swing at pitches in the zone, it is easy to see that pitchers can get a strike on him, especially first pitch strikes at 57.8% of the time. Weeks generally gets himself in an early hole and cannot recover.
While 57.8% of the time pitchers get a first pitch strike on Weeks might be somewhat low, it’s the relatively low contact % at a career 75% that might hurt Weeks. He can’t seem to make contact on pitches thrown his way at a good enough level to remain successful, whether inside the strike zone or out. All these numbers can shed some light into his high K% and the low contact% reflects a low batting average.
Another rather interesting statistics to look at to measure why Weeks has fallen off is Pitch Values. Pitch values can show how effective a hitter is at hitting the pitch that’s thrown his way. In 2011, Weeks wFB (weighted fastball runs above average) was 15.4, a very good number seeing as these stats usually fall in between -20 and +20. That suggests Weeks has success hitting the fastball when it was thrown his way. In 2013, that number was down to -5.2. When pitchers use their fastballs to set-up their other pitches in an at-bat, if you don’t have success against the fastball, you won’t have success against other pitches.
You can see when evaluating Weeks that he has had trouble against off-speed pitches. wSL for his career is -9.7, wCT at -1.9, wCB at -0.2, and wSF at -4.3. For his career, the only pitches that are in the positive range are the fastball, change-up, and knuckleball. These statistics are extremely in depth, and shed some interesting light into Weeks struggles. It can show you he has recently had trouble turning on a fastball, which is never a good sign.
I find it quite interesting to investigate the struggles of the former all-star. The Brewers have him sitting on the bench and eating a ton of salary. There are a few teams around the majors who could use some second base help, but after divulging into Weeks career numbers, there is really nothing that shows me that he can come anywhere close to his former all-star level.
The Brewers would likely jump at the chance to shed Weeks from their roster, but there likely will be little to no takers. The Brewers hold a team option for 2015 at $11.5 million, which they surely will decline.
Perhaps a change of scenery, a new hitting coach, a different approach at the plate, or really, anything could go a long way to helping Weeks get back to his all-star level. I guess we will see if anyone takes a chance on making Weeks a reclamation project at the trade deadline or when he hits the free-agent market this off-season. However, there is little value in Rickie Weeks at this point in his career.