The Sports Daily > The Brewers Bar
The Case For And Against Rickie Weeks

Today we’re introducing a segment we’re calling “Point/Counter-Point” here at The Brewers Bar.  It’s a chance to show you the debates that sometimes only happen behind the scenes.  

Up for debate today – Should the Brewers Drop Rickie Weeks in the Lineup?

Andy: I don’t even think it’s a question of should they drop him or not, it’s more of where to hide him at this point.  He’s in a slump that you can’t really take him out of the lineup from either.  Why?  Taking him out of the lineup doesn’t do him any good at all.  He knows he’s S-T-R-U-G-G-L-I-N-G right now and the only way I see him getting out of his is to continue to attempt to hit.  

Not only that the backup at 2nd base, Brooks Conrad, hasn’t been able to hit his way out of a paper bag (0-16) and he looks like he is just lost at the plate.

The issue is that Rickie is not hitting at all right now and doing it in front of the Brewers most important hitter in the lineup, Ryan Braun.  Most of the time Braun is coming up to bat with 2 outs and not a single runner on.  Need proof?

Weeks has been up to bat 130 times this season and sports just a .154 batting average (which is last in the NL) and has an OPS of just .595 (160th in MLB & 80 out of 88 in the National League).  He’s got 48 strike outs, which only is topped by Adam Dunn and his 53 strike outs this season.  Weeks has only hit safely 20 times and combined with his 23 walks he still hasn’t been on base more than he’s struck out.  

Dropping him to the 6th spot in the lineup and insterting Lucroy as the 2nd hitter gives the Brewers the best chance to place runners on in front of the heart of the order.  It also gives a chance for Weeks to get it corrected with less pressure on him to get on base and the stats prove he’s gripping mentally.  

Check out his K%:
Graph1This clearly shows that Weeks isn’t up to snuff and he’s trying way too hard.  Putting him lower in the order doesn’t put as much pressure on him to get on base, which iswhat we need from that spot in the lineup.  

Now I know that as Brewers fans the 2 spot is an area we’ve really struggled with in the past.  I mean all you really have to do is look at the past 5 years and see how many times we’ve dropped a player in and out of that spot (ahem… think Corey Hart) to prove it’s been an issue for some time, but it’s been an issue of consistency at that position and that’s not Weeks’ issue right now.  He’s consistently bad, bad enough to drop him down and see if Lucroy, our most consistent hitter right now, can actually hit with Braun in front of him.

What say you Nick?

Nick: Yes, Weeks has been in a terrible slump to start the year, but I don’t think a change in the lineup is necessary to get him out of it. Everything in his track record suggests things will improve sooner or later, and it’s very possible that moving Weeks around will actually be counterproductive.

This has been a tired comment by now, but it still applies: It’s early. As of tonight, Weeks has 160 plate appearances, which has been shown to be an insufficient amount of time for taking numbers at face value. Weeks has been one of the Brewers’ best hitters for seven years, but is still bound to have a bad month every now and then. It happens, and isn’t reason to panic, even if the timing (the very start of the season) is a bit ominous.

Also, there’s no sign of the skills that made Weeks such a great player eroding in any way. Weeks has had all kinds of trouble hitting for average, but he is still getting extra-base hits at roughly the same clip, and hasn’t lost any of his plate discipline – if anything, he can be accused of taking too many pitches. Many of Weeks’ struggles can be traced to a miniscule (.205) batting average on balls in play. BABIP is a notoriously poor predictor of future performance, due to the wide range of factors that determine whether a ball is a hit or not. There’s plenty of reason to be confident that Weeks’ bat is alive and well, and will show itself soon enough.

Even if Weeks is moved down in the lineup, there’s no guarantee that it would help anything. In fact, taking him out of the 2-spot might cause even more problems. For all we know, the pressure that would come with a demotion in the batting order would put more pressure on Weeks than hitting in his current spot would. Arguably, in fact, the two-hole may be the best spot to break out of a slump: Hitting behind Ryan Braun, Weeks is going to see a steady diet of strikes from hurlers who don’t want anything to do with Braun. Travis Ishikawa has done well in limited duty, but he doesn’t figure to protect Weeks nearly as well.

The 2012 Brewers offense has underwhelmed as a whole, and there are plenty of guys with lines that don’t look like they should: Weeks, Aramis Ramirez, and Nyjer Morgan are all going through rough patches, and Jonathan Lucroy and Travis Ishikawa are both exceeding everyone’s wildest expectations. With time, every one of these players is most likely going to rise or fall to a level more in line with their true talent. Until then, there’s no use shuffling the lineup around to compensate for things that will correct themselves on their own.