Is Rickie Weeks' Power Surge Real or a Product of the Era?

Jesse MotiffSenior Analyst IMay 14, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 19:  Rickie Weeks #23 of the Milwaukee Brewers at bat against the New York Mets at Citi Field on April 19, 2009 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

One of the most popular targets for criticism by Brewer fans over the last few years has been Rickie Weeks. Whether it was in the field or at the plate, it seemed Rickie could do nothing right in the eyes of the fans.

This season, Weeks has not only improved in the field but also has performed at the plate better than at any point in his career. As happy as everyone is for Weeks' turnaround, I can't help but wonder if he is living up to years of hype or if he is nothing more than a product of the steroids era.

I am in no way accusing Weeks of taking any illegal substances and cheating himself or the game, but if you take a look at the numbers, more than a hint of doubt arises in your mind.

Prior to this season, Weeks was a .247 hitter and had a slugging percentage of .414. After Wednesday night's three-hit performance, Weeks is hitting .286 and slugging a very good .543.

It is easy to attribute the rise in average to Weeks just getting more luck at the plate. He has always made good contact at the plate, but now the ball is falling more in play after contact instead of being caught for an out.

What is harder to explain is all the power in Weeks' bat. His career high for home runs is 16. He hit that in 2007 in 118 games.

In only 34 games this season, Weeks has already hit nine home runs, leading the team. In total, Weeks already has 16 extra-base hits, well on his way to surpassing his career-high total of 43 in a season.

One part of Weeks' game has gone away: his ability to steal a base. He has only one stolen base this season, and that came on opening day against the Giants. He has averaged 20 steals a season since being called up, but it appears that aspect of his game is being put aside.

His success could very well be the result of new coaching from Willie Randolph and hitting coach Dale Sveum. Randolph was brought in to mentor Weeks and help him defensively.

Although his errors are up a bit, Weeks is playing solidly at second base and appears to have settled down and does not rush himself when a ball is hit his way.

With the rampant use of steroids becoming commonplace in baseball, it is very hard not to think the worst any time a player has success that doesn't match up with his career numbers.

The signs are all there: more power and a decrease in the running game.

While no one can be above suspicion, it would be a crushing blow to Brewer fans if one of their own was caught as a steroids user.

I don't think that is the case with Weeks though. He is maturing as a major leaguer and coming into his own.

Weeks was brought up to the majors in 2005, probably well before he was ready for the opportunity. He has suffered since then trying to learn "on the job" and has looked like he was overwhelmed by the moment.

Brewer fans should rest easy with the success of Weeks. He has now found his way as a player and is starting to have the success everyone thought was possible.

The question is no longer, "Will Rickie ever become a good big-league player?" but instead, "Just how good of a player can Rickie Weeks be?"