MILWAUKEE — Since everything seemed to be click for Rickie Weeks — a point that seemed to come, judging by his stats, in the 2010 season — the Milwaukee Brewers second baseman had been a picture of consistency.
His batting average had rarely fallen below .250. In fact, most of his statistical categories remained around the same mark since that season — a testament to his ability to deal with adjustments. No baseball season is without them, and for Weeks, they’d always worked.
That is, until the beginning of the 2012 season. Nothing seemed to be working for Weeks. And as stoic and proud of a player that Weeks is, even he admitted he didn’t know what was wrong. The only way he knew to answer the problem was to keep doing what he was doing. For a while, that didn’t work.
Weeks’ batting average has been below .250 all season in 2012, and he even has spent a career-high (by a long ways) 71 games under the Mendoza line. His ineffectiveness at the plate saw him slide down the batting order for a good portion of the season and made us question whether Weeks was actually the All-Star-caliber second baseman the baseball world thought he was.
Of course, nothing had really changed about his swing. Weeks still possessed one of the fastest, swiftest swings in baseball. He had the ability to destroy a ball if he got a hold of it. The problem was he wasn’t getting a hold of anything.
During his 71 games with a sub.-200 average, Weeks struck out 39 more times than he reached base with a hit. He had just six home runs and 27 RBI in that span, while his batting average on balls in play — which often illustrates whether a player is lucky or not on balls hit into play, with .300 as the baseline — showed that Weeks’ wasn’t getting much going his way (.255).
Weeks made minor tweaks to his approach, but even hitting coach Johnny Narron admitted there weren’t any overarching problems that were keeping Weeks off the basepaths. Weeks agreed: “It’s just baseball,” he’d repeat like a broken record. A friend of his and a former teammate in college, Fernando Puebla, said he could see the minute signs of frustration in Weeks’ body language. But he might have been the only one.
Still, even Puebla conceded that Weeks would figure it out. Because, well, he’s Rickie Weeks.
“He doesn’t give up,” Puebla said in June. “He’s not going to ask for anything. He’s going to keep working and sooner than later, he’s going to figure it out.”
So Weeks remained one of the Brewers’ only fixtures in pregame batting practice, hitting as many balls as he possibly could. While some only take BP to make small adjustments, it became a part of Weeks’ normal routine. Eventually, the results started to slowly turn his way.
After hitting .186 in April and .132 in May, Weeks hit .231 in June. And then .272 in July. And .279 in August. And finally, with 24 days down in September, Weeks is hitting .280 for the month. Ever since crossing the Mendoza line for good, Weeks has only been getting better.
In fact, if you extrapolate the numbers since Weeks’ crossing of the Mendoza line over the course of an entire season, you have a .269 batting average with 29 home runs and 77 RBI over the course of a year — pretty much identical statistics to his 2010 output, which included just six more RBI.
Match those extrapolated numbers up against the rest of baseball, and you’ll find that Weeks’ second half of the season marks him again as one of the best at his position. Among batters with 200 plate appearances this season, Weeks’ extrapolated totals would give him the third-highest slugging percentage at the position, behind only Robinson Cano and Aaron Hill.
It appears that Weeks may have been right all along. Maybe there’s not always a way to explain someone’s struggles other than simply: “That’s baseball.” Truthfully, it’s a theme that could probably be extended to the whole of the Brewers’ roster this season.
But for the rest of the season, there’s no doubting Weeks will still remain a fixture at early batting practice, taking swings to stay in his rhythm, hoping to maintain the consistency he finally found at the end of June. Because, after all, you never know when the seemingly omnipresent, yet sometimes dormant, slump will strike again.