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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Rickie Weeks is struggling again at the plate for the Milwaukee Brewers. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi )

Weeks' early season struggles are no surprise


When the Milwaukee Brewers' lineup card was posted before Wednesday evening's contest against the Texas Rangers, the name of Rickie Weeks had been pushed down to the seventh spot in the lineup.

In his pre-game media scrum, manager Ron Roenicke was asked several questions about the move, what it meant, what it could mean.

A few hours later, following an 0-for-3 performance and Weeks' removal late in the game on a double switch, Roenicke was grilled again about his .188 hitting former All-Star second baseman.

The questions are fair, because through 32 games and 136 plate appearances Weeks is clearly having issues at the plate. And, more importantly to Roenicke, the Brewers are 15-17 and in fourth place in the National League Central.

The thing is, this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

Before the game, Roenicke talked about Aramis Ramirez's slow start at the beginning of 2012. He wasn't sure how long it lasted, but that veteran players with track records of hitting should be given time to progress back to the average.

Roenicke thought Ramirez slumped for about 100 at-bats last year, but it was actually 170 plate appearances from April 6 through May 21. In that time, he hit just .219 with a .294 on base percentage with 25 strikeouts and 17 extra base hits.

Then, from May 22 through the end of the year, Ramirez hit .329, slugged .597 and finished with impressive numbers in home runs (27), RBI (105), doubles (50) and batting average (.300).

What happened on May 22, 2012 for Ramirez? He went 2-for-4 in a 6-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants. There was absolutely no indication that meant anything, as he came into that game with two hits in his last 19 at-bats.

But, we all know Weeks is not the hitter Ramirez is. Never was, never will be.

So, let's look at Weeks' track record.

I'm going to hit you with a bunch of numbers here, but it's important to do in understanding Weeks' career and why no one should really be that surprised, let alone upset, about the way 2013 has started for him.

Last year, in 196 plate appearances from April 6 to May 27, Weeks hit .152 with a .291 OBP with 12 extra base hits. Then, from May 28 through the end of the season he returned to his average, hitting .259 with a .343 OBP and 42 extra base hits.

The All-Star season of 2011 was the anomaly in Weeks' career, as he started hot with a .288 average over 249 plate appearances from March 31 through May 31. From June 1 through the end of the year – which included missing all of August and the beginning of September with an ankle injury – he returned to his average, hitting .252 with a .338 OBP.

The same thing happened in 2010, only he began the year hitting his average of .255 through May 31, then "got hot" and hit .276 the rest of the season.

His 2009 season, which ended prematurely, was another "hot start" with a .272 average.

Weeks struggled early in 2008 as well. From March 31 through May 17 – 198 plate appearances – he hit .193 with just 12 extra base hits. From May 17 through the end of that season, he again returned to average to hit .256 with a .353 OBP and 31 extra base hits.

In 2007, the first time he made over 500 plate appearances, Weeks hit .243 from April 2 through May 29. He was then put on the disabled list through June 17, and upon return (307 plate appearances) he hit .229 with an .392 OBP.

He is a career .246 hitter in the first half of the season, a career. 254 hitter in the second half. Heading into this weekend's series against Cincinnati, he has hit .243 over 368 career games in March, April and May, a span of 1,429 at-bats. That's more than enough of a sample size to just say "it is what it is."

Weeks was drafted by the Brewers 10 years ago this summer as the No. 2 overall pick of the amateur draft. He was the best player in college baseball and expectations were high.

That's where, it seems, people are stuck.

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder were high draft picks that turned into an MVP and perennial All-Stars. That doesn't always happen. Sometimes, you get a .250 career hitter who, when hot, can be an All-Star for a half a season.

Ramirez is a career .258 hitter in March and April, .273 in May and then a career .295 hitter in June through October.

In those cases of comparison, it's apples to oranges.

While everyone is frustrated – even Weeks admitted as much last week – baseball is a long enough season that every player (usually) returns to form.

It's just that it seems that everyone outside of the ballpark needs to realize what that form truly is.


Talkbacks

tservo | May 10, 2013 at 10:09 a.m. (report)

Right On! At the very least, he needs to be benched for a while, better yet sent down to AAA, if possible. Of course the big problem is that he is ridiculously overpaid ($12 Million this season!) which makes the trade that many fans would like to see pretty much impossible. Too bad that there isn't a good 2nd base prospect in AAA at the moment...

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