2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: The Rickie Weeks Conundrum

About 90 years ago, a relatively young Yankees first baseman seemed on the path to a long and prosperous career. Coming into the 1925 season, Wally Pipp was coming off of two consecutive 100+ RBI campaigns. He had three other 90+ RBI seasons to his credit before that point. There had yet to be an all-star game at that point, but if there had he likely would have gone to at least a few. Then, he decided to take a day off one day in 1925 and the rest as they say is history.

He would be replaced by a young first baseman who hailed from Columbia University (and with some minor league experience). That first baseman? Lou Gehrig. Gehrig would then play in 2130 consecutive games until he succomed to the disease named after him. Maybe Gehrig was just an iron man that didn’t believe in taking days off. Maybe he remembered the place that Pipp held in the game before he took a day off. As for Pipp, he would go on to have another all-star like campaign in Cincinnati in 1926 before leaving the game in 1928.

Of course, this is just the most famous example of a young player supplanting a veteran. It happens all the time. Coaches love to talk about how injuries should not affect your status as a starter. Yeah right. That line goes down as one of the great lies in sports and life. It belongs right next to, “the check is in the mail” and “hi, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Rickie Weeks looked like he was just the latest in line of hundreds of such stories last season. He got injured and Scooter Gennett seemed more than capable of taking his place.

In a little more than two months of action, Gennett hit .324 and six home runs. Coming into the 2014 season, the job seemed to belong to Gennett. You could hardly blame the Brewers based on his performance and the performance of Weeks. Weeks always offered tantalizing power and speed, but seemingly little consistency. The hidden value was also there for Gennett. He was a neutral defender in 2013 while Weeks never came close to that.

Like Pipp, there seemed little chance of Weeks getting another chance. No one was making any offers for him via trade and he is incapable of playing in other positions. So, he began the season on the bench while Gennett seemingly picked up where he left off. Unfortunately, sweet lady regression can be a real winch when regression works against you. Gennett never hit any better than .309 in any minor league season (according to baseball-reference.com). So, is it any real surprise that he has slumped to .269 average and a .696 OPS.

Enter RIckie Weeks. in a scant 58 plate appearances (as of this writing) he is hitting over .350. We can only assume that the customary power and speed will come even if the batting average can’t last on that level. A .439 BABIP doesn’t portend well for the future, but the Brewers are perfectly willing to ride the hot hand. Unfortunately, there will come a time when they will have to make a tough decision. Do they want Gennett’s steady performance or do they want Weeks’ explosive potential. As usual, we will look at the numbers, but we’ll look at the career averages for both players on a per 162 game basis.

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

R

RBI

SB

UZR/150

Player A

.303

.339

.443

12

60

46

7

+4.8

Player B

.249

.347

.423

22

101

63

19

-8.2

Of course, all of you can figure out who is who by now, but looking at players through the Player A and B prism is a liberating experience. We can dial out the preconceived notions and simply make an unbiased decision. Then again, it’s hard to do that when fantasy sports are involved. Sometimes the best player for wins and losses is not the best player for fantasy wins and losses. Player B (Weeks) is a much better fantasy option because of the increased speed and power.

Yet, Player A (Gennett) might be the better real baseball option because of the 13 runs separating them in the fielding department. The trouble is that we are still talking about four months of one player versus nearly a decade for another. So, we might look at the plate discipline data to determine what we might expect in the future for both players. Again, we are looking at career totals.

BABIP

SO%

BB%

Oswing

Contact

Player A

.352

16.9

4.8

41.1

84.1

Player B

.304

23.3

10.5

21.6

75.1

As you can see, Player B (Weeks) has a much better chance at long-term success than Gennett. This is one of those instances where they will probably be glad that they weren’t able to trade Weeks. Gennett swings at far too many pitches outside the zone and it is something that pitchers will be able to exploit as they see him more often. Weeks certainly swings and misses more often, but laying off of those pitches has also allowed him to have a very good walk rate in his career.

Much like the early part of a season, the beginning of a player’s career often has way too much weight applied to it. In this case, Gennett got off to a good start and therefore people probably read too much into that. Furthermore, when we look at the power numbers we will see that the Brewers are better off with Weeks in the lineup.

ISO

SecA

LD%

GB%

FB%

HR/FB

Player A

.140

.198

23.8

40.7

35.5

8.2

Player B

.174

.321

17.3

46.6

36.1

10.6

I think these numbers pretty much say it all as it pertains to offensive production. Gennett is a limited player because he does not have a great deal of patience, speed, or power. Weeks has all three skills in abundance even if he struggles with contact and struggles with the glove. At the end of the day, he will likely end up being the guy for at least this season. Gennett may end up getting his opportunity again down the road. Unfortunately, he isn’t nearly as good as Lou Gehrig was.

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2 Comments

  1. Henry Titlebaum
    May 22, 2014 at 6:23 am — Reply

    I think Weeks is worth a speculative pickup a week or so before the trade deadline just in case the Brewers do decide to deal him to a contender with a gaping hole in the middle of the infield. a team like the Padres would probably love to have that kind of production at 2B right about now.

    • May 22, 2014 at 8:13 am — Reply

      It will be interesting to see what happens with Headley. The Padres are flush with both Headley and Gyorko for the moment, but if they move Headley then Weeks would be an intriguing fit. I’m not sure if the Brewers will trade Weeks during the season. The problem for them is that they will need something (likely pitching) in return to help them down the stretch, but any team looking to add Weeks will likely be a contender as well. Contenders don’t like giving away valuable big league pieces down the stretch. It will be an interesting situation to watch though.

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