Posted by Steve
It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and the Brewers are comfortably ahead by a score of 7-0, so I decided to work on a Rickie Weeks post while I watch the rest of the game.
(At this point, Rickie Weeks broke an 0-21 slump with a massive home run. I’m claiming at least 40% responsibility for that one.)
It’s been a struggle for Weeks. He’s suffered from some crappy luck at times during his career, and his BABIP this year is alarmingly low (.208 before tonight’s game), but a number that low certainly can’t all be placed on luck.
I’ll use Fangraphs for some eye-opening numbers that show Weeks just isn’t making as much solid contact this year as he has throughout his career.
His line drive percentage for his career is 17.0%. This year, it’s 11.3%. That’s a huge difference; the lowest he’s ever finished a season is 15.4% in 2010. At least as alarming is his infield fly ball (pop-up) percentage. For his career, it’s 13.9%. This year, it’s 22.6!
So, he’s hitting far fewer line drives, and he’s popping up a ton. He’s also striking out at the highest clip in his career, although his walk rate is also higher than normal.
Some strange results from Weeks. Let’s try and see what’s going on.
The eye test, at least from me, tells me that Weeks is guessing more at the plate. He’s kept his great batter’s eye on balls out of the strike zone, but it seems like he’s struggling on balls inside the strike zone.
The numbers seem to back up that assessment. For his career, Weeks has swung at 21.5% of balls outside of the strike zone. This year, it’s 23.2%–nothing too crazy there. Where it gets interesting is the amount of balls he’s swinging at inside the strike zone. For his career, it’s 61.0%, but this season, Weeks is only swinging at 55.7% of balls within the strike zone. That’s pretty extreme; only 13 qualified players in baseball are swinging at strikes at a lower rate.
Numbers also show he’s struggling on the pitch on which he’s always feasted: the fastball. Fangraphs/BIS data show Weeks has not gained any offensive value off the fastball this season. To me, this is the best indicator that he’s either guessing or not seeing the ball well.
Someone on Brewerfan made a comparison to Bill Hall tonight, which I just can’t get on board with. Hall had less than two years of success when he got his contract, while Weeks has always been a highly rated prospect who’s had several years of success. There’s no reason to think Weeks is headed toward the total collapse that Hall suffered.
Still, there is some reason for a little concern. Unlike times in the past, luck isn’t the main culprit for this slump. It seems he either isn’t seeing the ball well, or that he just isn’t reacting as quickly as he used to. The home run he blasted tonight was sure encouraging, so maybe he’ll pick it up here soon, but the Brewers likely aren’t going anywhere this year if he doesn’t.