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Rickie Weeks: All-Star

Apr 22, 2010, 6:30 PM EDT

We know who the NL’s best second baseman is, and Chase Utley doesn’t figure to lose his title any year soon. Second in line is an open question. Brandon Phillips is an excellent defender and a solid hitter, albeit one who is miscast as a cleanup man in Cincinnati. Dan Uggla last year reached the 100-home run mark faster than any second baseman in major league history, doing so in his 502nd career game. However, he’s a liability defensively who probably belongs at the hot corner.
It’s possible we’re seeing a couple of new All-Star candidates emerge this year. Martin Prado, who overtook Kelly Johnson for a starting job in Atlanta last year, went into Thursday with a .400/.469/.545 line in 55 at-bats. Rickie Weeks has been even better. He’s batting .339/.473/.610 after Thursday’s 20-0 rout of the Pirates. In 15 games, he’s scored 16 runs and knocked in 12. Only Matt Kemp has more runs scored among National Leaguers.
Of course, Weeks has always scored runs, even when those whining about his subpar batting averages wanted him removed from the leadoff spot in the Brewers order. In 497 major league games, Weeks has scored 350 times. He’s scored 0.163 runs per plate appearance in his career. Let’s compare that to the rest of the guys who have spent the bulk of the last five years batting leadoff:
Career runs scored per plate appearance
Rickie Weeks – 0.163
Johnny Damon – 0.157
Grady Sizemore – 0.152
Rafael Furcal – 0.151
Jose Reyes – 0.150
Ichiro Suzuki – 0.147
Jimmy Rollins – 0.146
Chone Figgins – 0.146
Brian Roberts – 0.143
Juan Pierre – 0.132
If you want to throw Derek Jeter into the mix, he’s also at 0.163 in his 608 career games as a leadoff man, but much of that was achieved during a higher-scoring era. In 160 games since he returned to the leadoff spot last year, he’s at 0.151, even though he’s a better hitter than Weeks batting at the top of a better lineup.
Weeks’ knack for finding home plate really is remarkable. He hasn’t played for particularly strong offenses, and while he has more power than most leadoff men, he doesn’t match Sizemore and Rollins in the department.
What remains to be seen is whether this will be the year Weeks puts it all together. He was off to a fine .272/.340/.517 start in 37 games last year, only to be undone by the latest in a string of wrist injuries. Weeks averaged just 95 games per season from 2005-09.
Weeks also has a poor defensive reputation, though the numbers say he’s gotten a lot better and I think most scouts would agree. UZR has him at negative 24.4 runs from 2005-08, but at positive 5.1 runs in 49 games since the beginning on 2009. It’s far too early to say that he’s now an above average second baseman, but I do believe he’s a whole lot better than he was.
If Weeks stays healthy, then I fully expect him to be the NL’s second-best second baseman this year, even if he ends the year hitting .270 or so. He’ll have a nice OBP regardless, and he could well score 110-120 runs. He’s also a possibility to hit 20 homers. Maybe Phillips has more upside if he turns in a career season, but I don’t think anyone else does.

  1. JayT - Apr 22, 2010 at 6:54 PM

    “Weeks’ knack for finding home plate really is remarkable.”
    I think it would be more acurate to say:
    Weeks’ knack for hitting in front of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder really is remarkable.

  2. Matthew Pouliot - Apr 22, 2010 at 7:07 PM

    Braun and Fielder were an awesome 3-4 combo in both 2007 and 2009, which makes up about one-third of Weeks’ leadoff career. Someone could try to figure it all out, but I doubt Weeks has gotten more support from the 2-3-4 hitters in his lineup than most of the guys on that list.

  3. A-RODGE - Apr 23, 2010 at 12:00 AM

    Yah he hit in front of Fielder and Braun,but your not going to get to homeplate infront of pitchers will you?Saying that is dumb.He gets on base like a beast and get driven in.
    Isn’t that how it works?

  4. JayT - Apr 23, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    I’m not sure why you would leave out 2008…Weeks was the lead off hitter in 113 games that year and Braun and Fielder both had great years. I still don’t see how you could say he isn’t getting more support then the other guys on the list. Over the last five years Fielder has a 150 OPS+ and Braun has a 146. Without looking it up, I’m guessing that Damon is the only one that comes anywhere near that much protection, and it would make sense that he would score fewer runs since he has a lower OBP. And Aside from A-Rod, Damon had a whole lot of Abreu, Matsui, and Giambi batting behind him, who are all good, but not Braun/Fielder good.
    A-Rodge: I’m not trying to take anything away from Weeks. I think he’s a solid, underappriciated player. He get’s on base very well–I wouldn’t say he’s a “beast”, but he’s well above average. My problem is with the thought that he’s somehow better at scoring runs then those other guys. Weeks gets on base and is a pretty good baserunner. That’s all he controls. Look at someone like Ichiro. He get’s on base more and he runs better, yet he doesn’t score as many runs. It’s not because Weeks has some hidden talent to score runs, it’s because Ichiro has been a part of some horrible line ups the last five years.

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