Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks has been covered over the course of his nine seasons in the Major Leagues equally for what he has and has not done.
For many people in Milwaukee and baseball fans outside of the state lines, he has become a favorite member of the team. He was part of that crew of young players – Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and in some respects Corey Hart – that was supposed to grow with the team and turn it into a contender.
The Brewers did, in fact, turn into that contender – believe it or not the team is actually in the Wild Card race this season – but there’s simply no way you can attribute any large portion of that to Rickie Weeks.
Over the course of his career, Rickie Weeks has had potential somewhere between ‘up the wazoo’ and ‘coming out of his ears,’ but is it just wishful thinking to assume it’s ever going to materialize?
Short answer: yes.
In fact, I’m willing to go so far as to say that the contract Rickie Weeks is currently living out might be one of the most disappointing decisions the team has made in recent memory – up to and including the deals that brought Eric Gagne and Jeff Suppan to Milwaukee. The numbers ought to back this up.
Rickie’s career as a whole is barely mentioned – more often than not the 2009 and 2010 seasons are brought up as evidence that he is, as Sports Illustrated and Yahoo! Sports once reported, one of the most under-rated players at his position. Rickie Weeks’s career batting average is .252.
In his most productive years – the aforementioned period of 2009-2011 – Rickie hit .272, .269, and .269 respectively. They were good years, yes, but really only good years for him. They weren’t the best numbers in the National League in those years – or even the best numbers at his position. Except for his home run numbers in 2010, when he knocked 29 balls out of the park, he barely grazed the top ten of all second basemen in offensive categories amongst other second basemen. So the argument that many have used – including myself – in defense of Rickie that the talent level at second base is not as high as it used to be is not only wrong, it actually works against his case.
Weeks only reached those numbers one other time in his career, in 2006. Perhaps it’s time to accept that those seasons were the exceptions to the rule. He will make $10 million this year for stats that are barely above the average player who could potentially replace him. And that’s just on offense.
If you’re looking to see what statistics Rickie Weeks has led the National League in over the course of
his career, you need to see the column marked ‘Errors.’ At 122 botched plays, no one has been more effective at not being effective than Weeks at second base. He is not only the leader amongst all active second basemen right now, but has also led the league in errors five times in his career including most of 2012. He has also consistently performed under the league average in fielding percentage, despite being the 23rd ranked active player at his position with a lifetime average of .9689. That, by the way, is not as good as it appears on the surface when you consider that there are 30 Major League teams and his major league service is comparable to nearly everyone above him on the list.
So, if we are willing to assume that a second baseman’s defensive ability is more important than his offensive output, we must again assume that Rickie Weeks falls below the level of expectation for a second baseman on this team.
Now, the real question is what to do with Rickie now that we find ourselves holding onto an enormous contract for a roughly average player. In my opinion, you can’t lose by being rid of him. Even if the Brewers did have to eat the bulk of his contract, which runs through 2014 with an option for ’15 – the team would still be potentially just as well off with a generic replacement, at least in the short term. I know nobody is willing to walk away from that kind of money, but the truth is regardless of whether he’s on your team or just simply collecting a check, he’s a liability.
I would rather have a liability off the team, with a cheaper replacement under team control.
So is the verdict still out on Rickie Weeks? If you are willing to take yourself away from the sentimental value of Weeks, there’s barely a case to be made in his defense.