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Rickie Weeks: Plumbing the Depths

What Rickie Weeks is doing this season – or not doing, depending on your perspective – is bordering on historical. Given Weeks’ successful past (and anticipated future) and the facts that he is still fielding well, he is being well compensated under a long-term deal, and the Brewers are suffering from a number of injuries to their infield and don’t have many options, we can anticipate Weeks to continue starting at second base for a long time yet.

Truly, the man is suffering. Whatever it is that a person learns over the years that gains them sufficient comfort in the batter’s box to swing at baseballs in an efficient manner, Weeks has lost. For the time being we are under the impression that this is just a horrible, horrible slump and that Weeks will recover at some point.

But if he doesn’t recover this season he is on his way to making history in a bad way. I’ve provided a list of the people who in the entire history of the game have as many or more plate appearances than Weeks and a lower batting average. When you’re on a list with names like Bob Uecker and Bill Bergen, you know you’re in some very rare (bad) territory.A couple things to note about Weeks and the rest of the players on this list – none of them were ever considered an above-average offensive player at any time in their careers, none of them we able to draw walks the way Weeks continues to do, and none of them ever struck out as much as he has so far. I’m not sure what this means, other than it’s a slump, not an accusation that he’s incapable of hitting.

AVG

PA

Year

Player

OB%

K%

.122

216

1912

O'Rourke, Frank

.177

.231

.124

215

1910

Bill Killefer

.184

.149

.132

250

1911

Bill Bergen

.183

.168

.135

247

1968

Ray Oyler

.213

.239

.139

372

1909

Bill Bergen

.163

.134

.141

211

1902

Jack O'Neill

.214

.133

.141

287

1904

Fritz Buelow

.204

.164

.144

231

1906

Charlie Armbruster

.242

.117

.146

243

2010

Brandon Wood

.174

.292

.150

221

1967

Bob Uecker

.243

.271

.150

222

2011

Tyler Colvin

.204

.261

.152

251

1975

Jim Mason

.228

.195

.153

203

2012

Rickie Weeks

.286

.305

Here’s some information about the players on this list that Rickie is threatening to pass on his way to #1.

Jim Mason was the SS for a 1975 Yankees team with Bobby Bonds, Sandy Alomar, Catfish Hunter and Thurmon munson. He slowly lost his job to Fred Stanley because of his terrible hitting, and after kicking him into a backup role they managed to get to the World Series in ’76. Mason struggled for many years to hit his weight, ending with a career average of .203 in over 1700 PA.

Tyler Colvin in 2011 had a terrible sophomore season for a terrible Cubs team, and the team lost enough faith in his ability that he was traded to the Rockies in the offseason. He seems to have rebounded quite nicely in his new environment, and may eventually be a productive player some day.

Bob Uecker in 1967 was playing the last year of his career, starting with the Phillies and then traded to the Braves for Gene Oliver to back up Joe Torre at catcher. The highlight of his season was hitting a grand slam off of Ron Herbel of the Giants. Uecker joked that “the manager of the Giants came out to the mound to take Herbel out and with him was Herbel's suitcase.”

Brandon Wood in 2010 is the only player on the list who comes close to Weeks in the percentage of strikeouts per plate appearance. After a horrible 2010 and slow start in 2011 he was picked up off waivers by the Pirates, who kept him for only one season. He currently toils for the Rockies’ AAA affiliate in Colorado Springs.

Charlie Armbruster was a catcher for the 1906 Boston Americans. His .196 average the year before was an illusion of small sample size, and given more opportunity to play he showed his true inability to hit the ball. In 1907 he was purchased by the Chicago White Sox and never hit safely again.

Fritz Buelow – another catcher – split his time in 1904 not hitting for the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Naps. Despite his clear inability to hit a baseball he held on for a few years in a reserve role, ending his career with the St. Louis Browns.

Jack O’Neill, a catcher in his rookie season in 1902 for the Cardinals, rewarded his manager’s faith with a miniscule .371 OPS. He was never given a full-time opportunity and played 5 years for the Cardinals, Cubs, and Boston Beaneaters.

Bill Bergen – born William Aloysius Bergen – was the Granddad of Hitting Bad. He was 6’ tall and looked like Clint Eastwood, but at the plate he swung the bat like Clint Howard. Amazingly, Bergen played 11 years in the majors. His plague of a career was unleashed on the league in 1901 by the Cincinnati Reds, but he played most of his years with the Brooklyn Superbas. He held the record for consecutive hitless at bats for a non-pitcher for over 100 years (until it was broken by Craig Counsell), and his career average of .170 is the lowest of any player in the majors with over 2000 PA, including pitchers. His 1909 and 1911 seasons appear on this list, two of his 8 consecutive sub-.200 seasons.

Ray Oyler was an all-glove, no-hit shortstop for the Detroit Tigers. After his horrendous 1968 season in which he hit .135, he was drafted third by the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969.

Bill Killefer was not actually a terrible hitter, especially for catchers in his era. In his 2nd season with the St. Louis Browns he was still a kid, backing up Jim Stephens. In his limited chances though, he hit a terrible .124 in 1910 to place 2nd on this list. He was traded the following year to the Phillies, and began a pretty successful career in a platoon role, playing in over 1000 games over 13 season with the Browns, Phillies, and Cubs. After losing the 1918 World Series with the Cubs he enlisted to fight in WWI, but mustered out in time to join the 1919 season. Far from his humble beginnings, Killefer ended with a .238 career average. After breaking a finger in 1920 he became the Cubs manager (after Johnny Evers) from 1921 to 1925, and he spent the rest of his life as a manager, coach, and scout with multiple organizations.

Frank O’Rourke has the honor of being first on this list, by merit of having one short, terrible hitting season as a rookie for the Boston Braves in 1922. It didn’t discourage him however, and he bounced between different organizations for a number of years, playing in the majors and minors, until landing with the Tigers in 1924. The Tigers traded him to the St. Louis Browns in 1927, where he had his best season, finishing 13th in the MVP balloting that year. He finished his career as a .254 hitter, and went on to be a manager, including managing the Milwaukee Brewers of the AA from 1931-1933.

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