MVBrewers #8: Rickie Weeks

Quick! Which player led all National League second basemen in fWAR? Did you say Rickie Weeks? You're wrong, it was Brandon Phillips. But Weeks was second! And if Weeks had remained healthy throughout the year, he would have had more wins above replacement over the last two seasons!

Okay, Weeks might not be first in fWAR but that doesn't preclude him from being a fantastic player. It seemed as though we, as fans, had been waiting forever for Weeks to break out and he did in a big way in 2010. That success carried over into 2011, when Weeks got on base 35% of the time and hit 20 HR.

Unfortunately, his injury bug bit him again in the form of an ankle sprain that kept him out for nearly a month and a half. That injury likely prevented him from placing higher on this list. It didn't help that, after coming back, Weeks had lost his power stroke, hitting for a measly .351 SLG% and just one home run in September.

About that one home run, though. It wasn't exactly a lucky break, as he was tasked with following a big shot from his good friend Prince Fielder:

You have to believe Pirates' pitcher Ross Ohlendorf wasn't feeling too great after those two.

Weeks has always been one of favorite players in part because it is evident just how hard he works to get better. Case in point, his defense. Throughout his time in the minors, and in his first few years in the majors, all we heard about was that he had a great bat but couldn't play defense and would need to be moved off second. There were very few who even thought he could be mediocre defensively. And he was awful when he reached the majors, bringing a -13 and -10 UZRs to the table in his first two seasons.

To his credit, though, much of what we heard about him was how hard he worked to get better. He was one of those players who are said to be "the first to arrive and the last to leave". We heard about how, even on days he wasn't required to show up, he came in and forced Brewers coaches to hit fungoes or throw grounders to him. By all accounts, Weeks worked extremely hard on his defense. It showed, too, as after those initial two-year struggles he worked his way up to -2 and -3 UZRs in 2007 and 2008, respectively. And we kept hearing about how he was trying to improve. Finally, in 2009 (though he only played in 37 games) he hit a positive UZR. And according to UZR, he has been an above average defensive second baseman since then.

The turnaround in his defense is amazing, and really shows what a strong ambition and hard work can do for a player. I would be surprised if he wasn't still working hard on becoming a better defender. Through all his struggles defensively, through not hitting all that well for several years and everyone waiting for him to finally live up to his potential, Rickie Weeks has shown one of the strongest characters I, personally, have seen from an athlete. Not once did we hear about him complaining. We didn't hear about him giving up. We certainly never heard anything about a lack of heart.

Character may not go a very long way when you judge an MVP (Or MVB), but had Rickie Weeks been a weaker individual, I don't think we ever would have seen his breakout 2010 or, with that, his great 2011 season, either.

Weeks made $3.5MM in 2011, but he's about to make a big jump as he will be owed $10MM in 2012. He's under contract through 2014, but he does have a 2015 option that vests if Weeks is healthy at the end 0f 2014 and had 600 PAs that year, or if he has 1,200 PAs between 2013 and 2014.

Also aiding Rickie in his MVBrewers status: His ability to have "Hey Mickey" parodies made about him.

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