A Longer Look At How We Evaluate Rickie Weeks

Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Rickie Weeks had a disappointing season by his standards in 2012, but what does that mean in a larger context?

When we look back at the 2012 season, a fair amount of the conversation is going to center around a career-worst year for Rickie Weeks. After posting an .829 OPS (on base plus slugging) from 2009-11, Weeks dropped all the way to .728 this year. A hot second half brought him back to respectability a bit and allowed him to hit 20 home runs for the third consecutive season, but Weeks' numbers certainly weren't in line with what we'd expect from him.

With that said, I think Weeks is getting a bum rap for his rough season. In the Mug earlier this week I mentioned that Benjamin Orr of Reviewing the Brew gave Weeks a D+ on his 2012 report card. Weeks' season was disappointing to be sure, but I think anyone who honestly thinks he was that bad needs to take more facts into consideration.

Was Weeks really that bad?

The first and second halves were night-and-day different for Rickie Weeks in 2012. Here's a quick look at his splits:

Split AVG OBP SLG OPS
First Half .199 .314 .343 .658
Second Half .261 .343 .457 .800

It's worth noting here, as I've pointed out before, that even when he's at his worst Weeks' tendency to draw walks and get hit by pitches continues to give him some value. His batting line from the first half wasn't good, but eight players qualified for the batting title in 2012 while posting a lower OPS for the full season:

Player Team OPS
Cameron Maybin Padres .656
Justin Smoak Mariners .654
Darwin Barney Cubs .653
Alexei Ramirez White Sox .651
Yunel Escobar Blue Jays .644
Dustin Ackley Mariners .622
Drew Stubbs Reds .610
Jemile Weeks Mariners .609

Weeks' .658 OPS in the first half was also better than the full-season lines for guys like Brandon Crawford of the Giants (.653), Ryan Roberts of the Diamondbacks and Rays (.656) and Daniel Descalso of the Cardinals (.627), who don't appear on the above list because they didn't qualify for the batting title.

Simply put, there's a big difference between "below what we typically expect from Rickie Weeks" and "bad."

Let's talk about strikeouts for a moment

Weeks' strikeouts have always been a point of contention, because he does make a lot of outs that way. He (169), Corey Hart (151) and Ryan Braun (128) were the only Brewers to strike out more than 100 times this season. It's worth noting, though, that the lion's share of Weeks' strikeouts came early:

Month K PA K%
April 28 103 27.2%
May 37 109 33.9%
June 29 105 27.6%
July 24 108 22.2%
August 25 117 21.4%
September/October 26 135 19.3%
Total 169 677 25%

At the end of June Weeks was on pace to strike out 197 times this season, which would have led the National League. He actually finished with 169, tied for sixth in the majors. There are 14 players who made at least 502 plate appearances this season and posted a higher strikeout percentage.

Finally, there's the matter of plate discipline. Weeks led all Brewer hitters by seeing an average of 4.07 pitches per plate appearance this season. He saw an average of 4.95 pitches in his at bats ending in a strikeout, meaning even his least productive outs were above average in regards to making pitchers work.

Furthermore, Weeks led the Brewers with 74 walks and 13 HBP this season. That's an extra 87 times he was on base at least partially because of his tendency to take pitches and have long at bats.

Giving the Brewers the best chance to win

Via hindsight the case has been frequently made that Weeks came back from last season's ankle injury too early, and the ankle was still hurting his game into the early months of this season. In an ideal world it's possible the Brewers would have shut Weeks down until he was healthy and ready to come back at full strength.

Unfortunately, this isn't an ideal world and the Brewers didn't exactly have a lot of internal options at the position. Let's look at some of the players who played second when Weeks was out this season:

Within the organization the Brewers also had Eric Farris, who hit .286/.329/.377 in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this season, and Scooter Gennett, a prospect who played above A ball for the first time this year.

You can make a strong case that the Brewers were better off playing Rickie Weeks below 100% than they would have been with any of those guys playing consistently in his place.

Adding some context

Finally, it's worth noting that major league caliber second basemen don't exactly grow on trees. MLB second basemen hit a combined .257/.318/.383 this season, finishing 27 OPS points below Rickie Weeks in the worst year of his career.

A look at the worst five second base collections in the majors this season includes three playoff teams:

Team AVG OBP SLG OPS Primary 2B
Tigers .213 .275 .301 .577 Omar Infante (59 games)
Orioles .213 .273 .323 .596 Robert Andino (99 games)
Twins .245 .296 .308 .604 Alexi Casilla (89 games)
Athletics .228 .303 .316 .620 Jemile Weeks (112 games)
Mariners .229 .299 .333 .633 Dustin Ackley (142 games)

Despite a disappointing season from Weeks, the Brewers' .719 OPS from their second basemen was the tenth highest mark in all of baseball.

Conclusion

You can make a strong case behind the argument that Rickie Weeks had a disappointing season and that his slow start was part of the downfall of this team, but I still think he's better and more valuable than a lot of people think. Weeks is probably one of the top ten second baseman in baseball going forward, and this team is still significantly better off with him than they would be without him.

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