First off, I want to say thanks to KLSnow for inviting me on board as an official contributor instead of occasional FanPost poster (FanPoster?). Basically the difference is the random and long-winded FanPosts I put up now will show up on the front page. Aren't you guys lucky?
For my first actual story, I thought I'd look at one of the most controversial Brewers: Rickie Weeks. Ask a random Brewers fan what he thinks about Weeks and you'll probably get one of three reactions: (1) He's a disappointment who struggles to consistently hit his weight or field his position and the team should look to upgrade, (2) he is what he is: an average hitter with a pretty good on-base percentage and more than his share of defensive struggles who is unlikely to improve further, or (3) a future star who will have his breakout year in 2007 2008 2009. The debate about which of those three reactions is correct has gone on plenty of times in plenty of places and it will go on until Weeks breaks out for a full season or is no longer in a Milwaukee uniform. I'm not really interested in re-kindling that debate today, but that doesn't mean I can't talk about Rickie.
Regardless of what his future may be, here's what Rickie is now with the bat: a career .245/.352/.406 hitter, good for a 97 OPS+. Since 2005, when he first became a regular major leaguer, major league batters have put up a .266/.334/.422 line. This confirms what everyone already knows: Rickie Weeks has a low batting average, is above average at getting on base, and has a lower than average slugging percentage. Mixing those last two traits makes him the slightly below average hitter his 97 OPS+ says he is.
Well, nothing groundbreaking there. What I really want to do is put together a team of players from MLB history who were like Rickie Weeks. Specifically, I want to find a player at each defensive position with an ugly batting average, a good on base percentage, and an unimpressive slugging percentage when compared to his contemporaries. For each player I've selected, I've listed his career batting line along with the league average batting line for the years spanned by his career as a regular major leaguer (forget brief call-ups on either end of his career). Finally, I've ignored each player's defensive ability when considering putting him on the team--if it turns out the player was good with the glove, woo hoo, but if he wasn't then he's even more like Rickie Weeks (cue another debate about his defensive merits). Now that that's out of the way, my attempt at the All-Time All-Rickie team is after the jump.
The Starting Lineup
Catcher: Wes Westrum Career: 1947-1957 Team(s): Giants
Career Batting Line: .217/.356/.373, 94 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .261/.335/.388
A two-time All-Star, Westrum started out splitting time behind the plate for the Giants before taking over as the regular starter in 1950. After four seasons as the primary Giants backstop, a rough 1954 campaign at the age of 31 shifted him back into a part-time role. Westrum's 1950 season put him on the map, as he rapped out 103 hits, socked 23 homers and walked 92 times en route to a .236/.371/.437 line. His best season in terms of OPS+ was in 1951 when he walked 104 times (he had 25 more walks than hits!) to put up a .400 OBP while slugging .418. That made everyone look past his abysmal .219 batting average, right?
First Base: Mike Jorgensen Career: 1968-1985 Team(s): Mets, Expos, Athletics, Rangers, Braves, Cardinals
Career Batting Line: .243/.347/.373, 101 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .258/.323/.380
Lefty Mike Jorgensen never made an All-Star team, never hit more than 18 home runs in a season, hit above .260 only twice, and finished his career with 833 hits over 17 seasons. Used mainly as a platoon player, Jorgensen had a couple good seasons in Montreal to start his career but a trade for future Hall of Famer Tony Perez left him without a position. After being traded to Oakland in 1977, he bounced around the majors as a pretty good bench player. Interestingly, he stole 28 bases in 1972 and 1973 combined but stole only 27 more bases over the rest of his career.
Second Base: Rickie Weeks Career: 2003-2008 Team(s): Brewers
Career Batting Line: .245/.352/.406, 97 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .266/.334/.422
Shortstop: Eddie Joost Career: 1936-1955 Team(s): Reds, Braves, Athletics, Red Sox
Career Batting Line: .239/.361/.366, 99 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .261/.334/.377
Eddie Joost broke into the big leagues with the Reds and played during most of World War II, though he did miss the entire 1944 and 1946 seasons. It wasn't until he joined the Athletics in 1947 that he really broke out. Whereas his time in the NL was spent as a decent but unimpressive shortstop with the bat, he managed to join an AL team just in time for the American League to start squeezing pitchers (the AL walk rate back then was at 4 BB/9). This bit of luck turned an already patient hitter into a walk-drawing monster who drew over 100 free passes for six straight seasons. He made two All-Star teams and drew MVP votes in five different years. Don't confuse him with fellow All-Star and walk-taker Eddie Yost, a.k.a yosted01.
Third Base: Wayne Garrett Career: 1969-1978 Team(s): Mets, Expos, Cardinals
Career Batting Line: .239/.350/.341, 95 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .255/.322/.374
I could have gone with the aforementioned Eddie Yost here, but I thought Garrett fit the bill even a little better. Originally drafted by the Milwaukee Braves, Garrett was plucked by the Mets in the 1968 Rule 5 draft. He suffered through a terrible rookie year as a 21-year-old on the Miracle Mets, but had a stunning turnaround the very next season. Unfortunately, that turned out to be his best year. Military service cost him the first half of the 1971 season and he struggled upon his return to baseball. A successful year as a part-time player in 1972 earned him a starting job over the next couple years but struggles against lefties contributed to his eventual return to part-time duty. After the 1978 season he went to Japan for two years.
Left Field: Joe Lahoud Career: 1968-1978 Team(s): Red Sox, Brewers, Angels, Rangers, Royals
Career Batting Line: .223/.334/.372, 103 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .251/.319/.367
The outfield was tough to fill for this team and left field was the toughest spot. Amongst a group of career bench players, Lahoud stands out as the guy who actually got a decent amount of playing time in more than one season. An okay 1971 season belied by a .215 batting average made him a member of the trade that brought George Scott to the Brewers. A disappointing 1973 season in Milwaukee earned him a trade to California where he lasted a couple seasons before fading away. Lahoud had an above-average (however slightly) slugging percentage, but hey, he'll have to do.
Center Field: Dwayne Murphy Career: 1978-1989 Team(s): Athletics, Tigers, Phillies
Career Batting Line: .246/.356/.402, 115 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .260/.324/.389
Dwayne Murphy would be the star of this team. I can see how there might even be questions about him being on the team, given his 115 OPS+ when everyone else is near 100. Given the lack of options in center, however, I think he makes a nice addition without straying too far from the spirit of the team. Call him Rickie's upside, if you want. Flanked by Rickey Henderson and Tony Armas, Murphy won six straight Gold Gloves from 1980-1985 while hitting over .256 only once in his career. Not a speed demon like his teammate in left field, he finished his career with an even 100 stolen bases. He also hit 166 home runs, including 33 in 1984, fueling that .402 career slugging percentage.
Right Field: Ted Savage Career: 1962-1971 Team(s): Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Reds, Brewers, Royals
Career Batting Line: .233/.334/.361, 95 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .248/.314/.372
An original Brewer, Savage changed teams about as often as the early 1960's Cubs changed managers. Originally born with the first name Ephesian, Ted was the 1961 MVP of the International League. This earned him a spot on the Phillies, where he had a good rookie season in 1962. Traded after the season for aging third baseman Don Hoak, Savage endured a number of up and down years and struggled to hit his weight in the majors. Two days before the start of the 1970 season, the Brewers purchased Savage from the Reds and he rewarded their faith with by far his best season as a regular. That didn't earn him a lasting spot on the team: after a terrible first month in 1971, he was shipped to the Royals. Even in a decade when the league as a whole struggled to hit .250, Savage's low batting averages doomed him to a journeyman's career.
Backup Catcher: Ellie Rodriguez Career: 1968-1976 Team(s): Yankees, Royals, Brewers, Angels, Dodgers
Career Batting Line: .245/.356/.308, 94 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .251/.319/.368
Infielder #1: Billy Grabarkewitz Career: 1969-1975 Team(s): Dodgers, Angels, Phillies, Cubs, Athletics
Career Batting Line: .236/.351/.364, 101 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .252/.321/.370
Infielder #2: Eddie Lake Career: 1939-1950 Team(s): Cardinals, Red Sox, Tigers
Career Batting Line: .231/.366/.323, 91 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .259/.332/.366
Outfielder #1: Warren Newson Career: 1991-1998 Team(s): White Sox, Mariners, Rangers
Career Batting Line: .250/.374/.401, 104 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .264/.333/.407
Outfielder #2: Ron Roenicke Career: 1981-1988 Team(s): Dodgers, Mariners, Padres, Giants, Phillies, Reds
Career Batting Line: .238/.353/.338, 92 OPS+ MLB Average Batting Line: .259/.324/.390
I have some quick notes about the bench. Newson and Roenicke were both career backups. Newson was likely hampered by his size (5'7" isn't as tall as it used to be). Roenicke was drafted five separate times by major league teams before signing and he wound up being released by five separate teams. He played for six teams in the majors without ever being traded for another player. Lake became a starter during WWII and managed to hold onto his spot for a couple seasons after the war. Grabarkewitz was a starter for one year (1970) and made the All-Star team. Tinkering with his swing and a shoulder injury after that season torpedoed his career. Finally, Ellie Rodriguez is who Jason Kendall now aspires to be. An early Brewer, he was the Royals' inaugural All-Star in 1969 and the Brewers' first All-Star catcher in 1972. He was good at getting on base, but hit for very little power. Useless trivia: In Rodriguez's 325 games as a Brewer, he had 39 extra base hits. Kendall had 34 extra base hits in 151 games last season.
So, that's my take on the All-Time All-Rickie team. There are a couple guys with power to fill out the middle of the lineup and everyone is good at getting on base. Would I want to try and win a pennant with this crew? Probably not, but if I did it would be fun trying to set a new record for lowest team batting average by a pennant winner.