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Appreciating the Brewers second base platoon

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The season is over and now is a time for reflection. At least as far as the second base platoon is concerned, I will always look back fondly.

Andy Lyons

There was a lot of talk in the off-season, and even during spring training, about trading Rickie Weeks. Those talks ranged from including money in a deal to get something like a reliever back to just straight up trading him for nothing (and usually still including some money) just to get him off the team. The Brewers probably looked into it, but ultimately decided it wasn't worth it to trade him. Instead they used him in the light side of a platoon with Scooter Gennett at second base. It was a good thing they did.

With the combined efforts of Scooter Gennett and Rickie Weeks, the Brewers ranked a pretty respectable 11th in team fWAR (3.0 fWAR) at second base. That is also the 4th best mark in the National League. I had high hopes for the platoon, but even I'm surprised to learn the duo combined for the 4th best offensive mark (113 wRC+) in all of baseball at the position. Defensively though, they ranked 28th which also surprised me a bit.

Let's take a look at some of their full season numbers side by side:

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ Offense Defense fWAR
Scooter Gennett 474 289 320 434 104 1.0 1.5 1.8
Rickie Weeks 286 274 357 452 127 9.1 -7.0 1.2

As you can see, unsurprisingly, Rickie Weeks was responsible for dragging down the platoon's defensive rating. Scooter Gennett was no defensive wizard, but he wasn't bad and his 1.5 Def score ranks 9th among second basemen (min. 450 PA).

The troubling figure is Gennett's offense. Earlier in the season Gennett was raking. Then in the second half he cooled off significantly. That's concerning, however I warn anyone against using half season splits. They are not good indicators of future production. Or at the very least, they're not as good as full seasons. If Gennett is only good for around league average production offensively, then that's going to be a huge problem next year.

He's likely going to face left-handed pitching which is something he really didn't do this year. Let us take a look at the splits by the two second baseman. First, opposite handed pitching:

PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wRC+
Gennett vs RHP 401 4.9 13.0 307 338 464 118
Weeks vs LHP 155 10.3 22.6 256 361 504 146

Yowzers! Rickie Weeks absolutely punished left-handed pitching. I had high hopes for him, or at least I thought they were, and he surpassed them. Gennett was solid versus RHP. If we can expect a similar number next year, that's fine when he's facing RHP. But it's less than one would hope and it's not going to be enough to hold up he season numbers when you add in a significant increase in plate appearances versus left handed pitching.

So finally, let's see how each fared against same handed pitching:

PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wRC+
Gennett vs LHP 42 2.4 26.2 103 125 128 -39
Weeks vs RHP 131 6.9 29 294 351 395 109

Once again, wow Rickie Weeks. He really did have a very nice season in a reduced role this year. His numbers against right handed pitching are far less impressive than LHP, but still slightly above league average. I had my doubts about his future, and his defense might keep him from getting full time work, but if a club is smart they'll pick him up cheap and probably have a nice player on their hands.

Now about those atrocious numbers by Gennett. He's never really been able to hit left handed pitching so they don't really surprise me. They probably aren't indicative of his true talent level vs LHP though. First off, it's only 42 plate appearances which is a really really small sample size. Also, most if not all of those plate appearances were against relievers. In other words, the opposing team put in their one pitcher that is super effective against left-handers to face him. If a full time role Gennett will see those guys, but he'll also see the mediocre to bad lefties too.

Next year Rickie Weeks will be playing for a different team. If you couldn't stand him while he was with the Brewers, well kid gloves off: You should be ashamed of yourself. He was a top 10 second baseman for years and his career was dampened by injury. Yet, in his final season with the Brewers he was his old self, if only in a smaller role. I will miss him.

Next year, Scooter Gennett will likely play full time for the Brewers. That worries me. I think there is reason to believe he can improve on that 118 wRC+ vs RHP. If you'll recall, he was suffering from a quad strain for a lot of the second half. He's also young enough and inexperienced enough that it's reasonable to assume some improvement over the next couple of years. I also think he can do better than the -39 wRC+ vs LHP. However, he will never hit LHP as well as Rickie Weeks did. And for that reason I'm cautioning you to expect a moderate to substantial decline in overall offensive production at second base next year. However that should be mitigated somewhat by an increase in over all defensive efficiency.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs