Rickie Weeks' Influence on Milwaukee Brewers Offense
The Milwaukee Brewers have once again jumped out to a fast start, with a 14-11 record (.560 WIN%), two games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs.
However, over their last 13 games, the Brewers are just 6-7.
The pitching is certainly not to blame. The Brewers have allowed 3.92 runs/game over the stretch (51 R, 50 ER, 3.68 ERA), despite ace starter Ben Sheets missing one of his starts. Brewers pitching has consistently put up 0's on the scoreboards and the offense cannot take advantage.
The Brewers lineup was predicted by experts to be one of the most explosive lineups in the league this season. They jumped out to a fast start in the first 12 games, scoring 64 runs (5.33 runs/game), despite slow starts from sluggers 1B Prince Fielder (.222/.308/.289) and LF Ryan Braun (.226/.226/.434). The offense was powered by outfielders Tony Gwynn and Gabe Kapler and catcher Jason Kendall.
They couldn't hold up the explosive pace, as Kendall's average dropped from .538 on April 10th to .308 after Sunday's game against the Florida Marlins, and Kapler and Gwynn both spent time injured.
In order to maintain the kind of offense that this team needs to keep winning, the Brewers mainstays will have to show up. Prince Fielder has regained his all star form over the last week (.304/.452/.696, 3 HR, 7 RBI), but the rest of the Brewers lineup has remained silent, for the most part.
Brewers fans believed that Prince Fielder's resurgence would rub off on the whole lineup. Clearly it hasn't, considering Fielder's monstrous numbers over the last week resulted in 3.42 runs/game for the whole team.
I think the blame can be placed on the top of the Brewers order. Specifically, the finger points squarely in the direction of second basemen Rickie Weeks.
The Brewers organization has placed a lot of stock in Weeks, and he seemed to have made a breakthrough after coming off wrist surgery last year, coming back and hitting .273/.442/.553 from August 10th when he returned until the end of the season.
However, that stroke has not been present in the early goings in 2008, as Weeks has been cold (.191/.315/.359). He needs to be setting the table for Braun and Fielder and not making them feel like they have to swing for the fences every at bat in order to score runs.
The correlation between Weeks's success and the Brewers success this year is obvious. In games where the Brewers win, Weeks is batting .226/.354/.453. These numbers are by no means all-star caliber, but they certainly eclipse his total season numbers.
The contrast is even more clear when you look at his stats in the 11 Brewers losses: .162/.295/.216. This hardly counts as setting the table, and with a lack of runners on base for young producers like Braun and Fielder, they've felt squeezed. Even when they do manage to hit for power, their hits aren't bringing in runs, and thus the bottom of the order must be relied on for offense.
My suggestion: move Weeks down in the order. Let Tony Gwynn and his .467 OBP. lead off.
Another option would be letting Corey Hart lead off, as he had success last year in the spot when Weeks was injured. Let Weeks build up some confidence hitting in the seventh or eighth spot, and in the meantime jump start this offense by getting more production out of the top of the order.
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