Weeks Has Had Enough Time

Rickie Weeks

Rickie Weeks is not a natural at second base defensively or at the plate as a lead-off hitter. So what is the solution? Read and find out.

Don't get me wrong. I've been a Rickie Weeks fan since interviewing him during his first few days in the professional ranks at Class A Beloit of the Midwest League back in 2003.

I could only marvel at the raw power and talent that he exuded even then. The idea of seeing those tools on display in the big leagues some day was exciting to say the least.

Well, that time is now, or has been since June 2005. The problem is that those displays of power and speed have been overshadowed by injuries and inconsistency.

I'm not saying that the Brewers should give up on Weeks because I, like most other observers and the Milwaukee brass, would love to see him break out and become the star performer that everybody envisioned when he became the team's top draft pick. The organization and Weeks have invested a ton of time and energy into making him a topnotch player.

I'm simply saying that we've seen a representative sample of his work and I don't believe it will happen for him offensively or defensively. He could prove me wrong tomorrow, but I've come to the conclusion that it won't be at second base or as a lead-off hitter.

It isn't Weeks' fault that wrist and thumb injuries stunted his growth in 2006-07, but he's been healthy this season and the results are no better. If the Brewers, as skipper Ned Yost and general manager Doug Melvin have said, are trying to win games and go for it all, then the situation needs to be addressed, and soon, if they want to stay in the pennant race.

That's not to say that second base is the only weak link—the lack of production from the Nos. 6-8 spots in the batting order and dearth of left-handed hitting options are topics for another discussion. Part of the solution could be to move Weeks out of the lead-off spot, where he has been miscast.

My main contention is that Weeks is not natural at either the No. 1 spot in the order or defensively at second base, and Monday night's 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and double-play gaffe are only the latest examples of that.

First, his batting skills or lack thereof. He hit .239 with 13 homers and 42 RBIs in 2005; showed promise with a .279 average, eight long balls and 34 RBIs before missing August and September of 2006; and then went .235, 16 and 36 with a stint on the disabled list and a demotion to the minors last year.

This year's statistics are eerily similar: .224, nine and 32. His on-base percentage is .330, which is pretty good considering his dismal batting average. He leads the team with 66 runs scored, but just think what that number would be if he was hitting even .250 or .260?

Again, I believe he's played long enough to have improved more. He obviously can't or won't bunt, which even the element of that in his game would help considerably and create problems for opposing defenses. Also, he apparently doesn't know how to hit to right field, so moving runners over isn't part of his arsenal either.

So, if the decision is to keep putting him in the lineup every day, then they should move him down to sixth or seventh.

As for defense, he has improved dramatically, but not enough: .951, .952, .976 and .978. He committed 22 errors in 2006 and has nine this season. However, numerous other double plays and outs weren't ruled errors but should have been made. Again, I'm not an expert on the nuances of playing second base—my high school baseball and rec league softball background is at third base and shortstop—but he's not a natural, neither with his technique around second base nor his fundamental positioning for ground balls. He's always trying to snare them from the side instead of getting in front of the ball and at least knock them down.

What's the solution? They've switched Bill Hall and Ryan Braun from the infield to the outfield, why not Weeks?

Fans clamoring for Milwaukee to trade for Baltimore's Brian Roberts won't get their wish, at least not this season. Although it's nice to dream: Roberts is hitting .286 with a .368 OBP and has fewer Ks in 71 more at-bats than Weeks and is fielding at a .990 clip with more chances.

So, if the organization wants to end its 26-year postseason drought, something needs to be done. And they already have two possible answers on the roster: Craig Counsell and Ray Durham.

Counsell, albeit in only 14 games, has a 1.000 fielding percentage at second base and provides a huge upgrade and comfort zone in the field. He also is hitting .239 with a .342 OBP. Durham has a bigger sample having played more regularly in San Francisco. He has a .989 fielding percentage, while his offensive numbers are .289 and .381, plus he's a switch hitter.

Both of these veterans, who have postseason experience, are prototypical defensive infielders and are much better offensively when it comes to putting the ball in play, moving runners over and bunting, basically all of the little things that help win ball games.

I'm not saying that the Brewers relegate Weeks to the end of the bench or banish him to the minors. I just don't see him as the full-time solution at second base, at least not right now, when the team needs every advantage possible to reach the playoffs.

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