All signs point to the Milwaukee Brewers turning second base over to Scooter Gennett, relegating Rickie Weeks to backup duty while trying to find a desperate team to take him off their hands. Much of the focus has been on Weeks’ bat and the drop off in his numbers the past couple of seasons, but it would be less of an issue if his defense wasn’t so awful. Gennett isn’t a stud in the field either, but Weeks has been historically bad, making the move to an average fielder a huge bonus for Milwaukee’s pitchers.
It had been preached in recent seasons that Weeks improved defensively to the point where he wasn’t a liability. That wasn’t entirely true. While you can’t argue he got better in his 10 seasons with the big club, he was still the worst fielding second baseman in MLB — and it hasn’t even been close.
Troubles can be easily seen in the field. While his general range is above average thanks to some quick feet, it’s negated by a horrible first step and poor instincts.
He has also lost a step in recent years with some added weight and injuries taking their toll. Weeks also has the bad habit of waiting until the last moment to flip down his glove, which only increases the chances of a hard-hit ball getting past him or a bad hop eating him up.
Finally, he is a mess throwing the ball to first base. The little sidearm toss, especially when turning double plays, fails to utilize his strong bottom half and causes the ball to sail all over the place. Add it all up and you have a huge detriment in the field, and it comes across in the defensive statistics as well.
Over the past four seasons, among second sackers with 1,000 innings played at the position, Weeks is the worst out of 48 players in defensive runs saved (DRS). In judging players based on expected defense for the position, and with zero being average, Weeks has a -66 since 2010.
The next worst player, the Atlanta Braves‘ Dan Uggla, has a -37 during that period — almost 30 runs better. Thus, Weeks has essentially cost the Brewers 16.5 runs per season, a simply awful output. For reference sake, the top performer over this time has been Dustin Pedroia, who has saved the Boston Red Sox more than 12 runs per year. That amounts to an insane difference of nearly 29 runs a season and a handful of games lost on defense alone.
Another reliable statistic is ultimate zone rating (UZR) as it incorporates double plays, range and errors. Weeks actually moves up for this rating, though only to 47 out of 48 second basemen. Again, with zero being an average defender, Weeks checks in at -23.1 or almost -6 per season. Pedroia is No. 1 in this category as well, sporting a 43.3, almost 10 per season.
These numbers should give you a tangible idea of how ridiculously bad Weeks has been in the field, and how much it has hurt the team. As much as Gennett may end up with a slight edge at the plate, his average defensive skills will be a vast improvement for the Brewers’ defense.