Day two of this five day run of “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” finds us 23 days away from Opening Day at Miller Park.
Spring Training is getting to the point where starters will begin to go a bit longer into games as they ramp up their preparation to playing all nine innings. The Brewers are missing a handful of starters to the World Baseball Classic right now, but most remain in camp based at Maryvale.
One team leader and veteran presence who is healthy and ready to contribute from the jump is today’s focus…
The Brewers second baseman is the second-longest tenured Brewers player at this point in his career behind only Corey Hart. Weeks was drafted way back in 2003. He was taken second overall in the draft behind Delmon Young. Weeks signed about two months after the draft and, as an incentive of signing, made his MLB debut as a September call up later that year. There wasn’t much worry about his service time clock or his options as nobody in the Brewers organization expected the reigning Golden Spikes Award winner to be in the minors very long anyway.
Weeks wouldn’t get back to the Major Leagues until 2005, but that was by design. Avid with the bat, Weeks had a hole in his game as college…his defense. He worked hard on it and became passable to the point of working out the rest of his shortcomings at the big league level. He has done an admirable job of becoming a solid second baseman now. He has plus range, gets good jumps, has a strong arm, if at times still not the most accurate on the diamond. Once in a while he rushes when it doesn’t appear as though he needs to and his though his glove-work is fine, it’s still the weakest part of his defensive toolbox.
The other thing that’s held Weeks back from realizing the full potential he showed collegiately have been injuries. He’s had surgery on both wrists at different times after tearing tendon sheaths in them. Wrist injuries are notoriously impactful on hitting power. Weeks eventually recovered from both, but it sapped his power for periods of time. The most poorly timed injury in his career though came in the NLCS season of 2011. In his consistent, maximum effort in busting it down the first base line on a grounder, Weeks stretched out to try to beat a throw. His foot hit the base at the wrong angle and he rolled over his ankle.
It looked horrible. I remember watching at the time with a friend and we assumed Weeks had broken his ankle. If he somehow avoided a break, it looked like he shredded some tendons, ligaments, and anything else holding his ankle together. That was on Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Many of us thought Weeks’ season could be over, but x-rays came back negative for a fracture. Weeks was still placed on the disabled list, of course, and ultimately missed a month and a half of play. He returned in September but struggled in the playoffs that year.
I mention it because last year, entering 2012, Weeks was quoted during the winter as saying he wasn’t 100% with the ankle at the end of January but he felt he was “close”. Then, at the end of February he still would only call himself 95% back. Weeks entered the 2012 season as the starting keystoner and played in 157 games overall. He never once complained about his ankle or the lingering problems that seemed present, but the results on the field told the tale.
By the end of April, Weeks was hitting just .186 despite still getting on base at a comparatively robust .320 clip, but only slugging .360. By the end of May, Weeks was down to .158/.292/.294 overall after hitting .132/.266/.231 in the month. Simply put it was a horrendous month and many fans were calling for him to at least take a couple of games off here and there. There were others who were clamoring for Scooter Gennett to be called up, or to “Free Taylor Green” again to play second. People wanted Weeks sent to the minors (which wasn’t an option anyway) and there were even the extremists who were calling for Weeks to be cut outright. I will never understand that line of thinking, but that’s a different topic for another day.
Quiet, calm, measured, reserved, methodical, stoic…all of these words described Weeks’ approach to questions about his play, his health, his future. If he was really healthy, what in the world was going on at the plate? If he wasn’t healthy, why was he playing every day? The questions kept coming and to his credit, Weeks never backed down from them. He simply went about his work and knew that the process would get him back to where he needed to be. Eventually.
And eventually it did just that. Beginning on June 12th, Weeks would start his rise from a .158/.298/.287 slash line all the way back to .230/.328/.400 at the end of the season. He would actually peak slightly higher in all three stats earlier in September, but getting back to where he finished was nothing short of remarkable. The final three months of the 2012 season were much more of the player that Brewers fans had come to know over his career.
- July: .272/.380/.533, 25 H, 9 2B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 12 BB, 1 SB
- August: .279/.359/.413, 29 H, 8 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 9 BB, 2 SB
- Sept/Oct: .258/.319/.492, 32 H, 1 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 18 RBI, 11 BB, 7 SB
You can see in those numbers how the speed was returning, the power was returning, and he was becoming his usual self. Some of it was finally good fortune after two months of awful luck (his BABIP in May was .189 versus .351 in August, for example) but as he finally admitted this past off-season, most of it had to do with his ankle finally feeling right. He was no longer hindered by a physical limitation.
So now we find ourselves just over three weeks from the start of the 2013 regular season. How is Weeks? Healthy. I even joked the other day on Twitter that he was in mid-season form after he was hit by a pitch. Small sample size and all that, but in 20 plate appearances as of posting this column, Weeks is sitting at .333/.400/.556 as he’s got a double and a home run among six hits to go along with one walk.
We’ve seen what a healthy Weeks can do at the plate over the course of a full season. We’ve only seen it once, but we have seen it. If 2013 can finally be that second fully healthy year, I expect plenty of big things for the now 30-year-old veteran.
Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:
- #24 Mat Gamel
- #27 Carlos Gomez
- #29 Jim Henderson
- #31 Burke Badenhop
- #32 Tom Gorzelanny
- #37 Mark Rogers
- #38 Chris Narveson
- #41 Marco Estrada
- #45 Kelvim Escobar
- #46 Hiram Burgos
- #48 Donovan Hand
- #49 Yovani Gallardo
- #51 Michael Gonzalez
- #53 Brandon Kintzler
- #54 Josh Stinson
- #57 Khris Davis
- #58 Josh Prince
- #59 John Axford
- #60 Wily Peralta
- #61 Darren Byrd
- #63 Tyler Thornburg
- #64 Mike Fiers
- #65 Miguel De Los Santos
- #67 Santo Manzanillo
- #68 Jesus Sanchez
- #70 Nick Bucci
- #71 Johnny Hellweg
- #73 Ariel Peña
- #74 Michael Olmsted
- #75 Travis Webb
- #77 Jed Bradley
- #78 Taylor Jungmann
- BONUS ARTICLE: #91-94 Adam Weisenberger, Hunter Morris, Kentrail Davis, Rafael Neda