Should the A’s Demote Weeks?

My good friend co-host cuppingmaster had a good front page post today where he talks about Jemile Weeks and whether or not it is time to hit the panic button. He writes in conclusion,

"Weeks is actually being a little more selective at the plate (his BB% is actually improved over last year) while maintaining identical contact rates…

…in all likelihood, Weeks will be just fine offensively. Just give it time."

Not all contact is created equal of course. While there are few mechanisms available to us the general public to decipher the strength of contact and such the eyeball test – something I don’t often resort to but will here – says he just doesn’t look good. He isn’t hitting like Josh Reddick did to start the year, screamers that happened to be right at outfielders, he is hitting loopy line drives (that account for his low BABIP on LD’s at .471). Weeks has been bad and the results bear that out, a .181/.260/.309 slash line. A .256 wOBA and a 61 wRC+. It is normal and often that players in their sophomore season have some additional problems that they didn’t have as pitchers were unaware of how to pitch him, hence the term sophomore slump. But the thing we need to do first is look at Weeks’ 2011 season, a season that in many ways was filled with smoke and mirrors as he put up a .303/.340/.421 slash line in his 437 plate appearances.

In 2011, Weeks benefited from a BABIP of .350, and while Alan and some commenters chose to focus on contact rate as being similar and also the line drive BABIP being dissimilar (last year Week’s LD BABIP was .675 to this year’s .471) the big difference really is the ground ball BABIP. Last year he was, benefited by his speed in some cases I am sure, but benefited far more so by a luck a .321 BABIP guy on grounders. This year the BABIP on grounders is .118. That is a significant difference especially with the 2:1 ratio of grounders to line drives he has exhibited this year. Some of that is indeed luck, balls finding holes, but there is no reason to believe that it can swing that much. When all the BABIP numbers are down that isn’t luck, that is evidence of somehow the contact not being as forceful. Slow rollers result in outs, hard hit balls find holes. Loopy line drives find gloves, screaming liners bounce to the walls. Weeks is clearly not the same hitter he was last year and giving it time will not solve the problem at all, perhaps a trip to the minors to regroup is what is in order. The A’s have two players there who can fill in at second base, not as a permanent thing, just as Weeks regains what he had last year, in Brandon Hicks and Adam Rosales.

While, I am not buying on Weeks like many other A’s fans – this whole piece says nothing of the very real injury concern with him as he has proven anything but durable in his professional career – he is someone who is a long-term piece for the Oakland A’s, and I believe he will be a productive above average second baseman for the A’s for years to come. With any long-term investment you need to coddle and nurture it. Having Weeks go out there day in day out and struggle stunts his overall development. A time to regroup and work things out and return can be just the change of scenery he needs. Yesterday in Boston he had two defensive errors, one on the first play of the game a very easy routine ground ball right to him, and another on an easy throw to first. The offensive pressing seems to have bled into his defensive game. It is time to nip this one before it grows to become an even bigger problem. If not demoted, Weeks shouldn’t be batting leadoff – his skill set never really warranted it with an OBP (.340) so highly based upon his BABIP (.350) last year along with a pathetic 4.8% BB% – he should be batting ninth in a lesser pressure spot. Let Weeks be the player he can be, send him to Sacramento for some fine tuning.