Doug Melvin was on WSSP for a 20+ minute interview early in the week, and the most newsworthy thing he discussed was a potential extension for Rickie Weeks. You all know my feelings on this (SIGN THIS MAN), but something else stuck out to me while Melvin was talking about Weeks.
For the most part, Melvin was very complimentary of Weeks, calling him one of the 5 or 6 best offensive second basemen in the league (probably didn’t do yourself any favors there when it comes to negotiation, Doug). Then they asked him about Weeks’ tendency to strike out, and how he could cut them down.
Melvin’s full answer is transcribed after the jump. I’ll just say it worries me.
How does he cut the strikeouts down?
“Probably be more aggressive early. I think anybody that… you know, there’s only two guys who walked 100 times last year, and that was Pujols and Fielder. There’s like 90 that struck out 100 times. But with Rickie, and all these young kids that strike out, you know… Michael Bourn strikes out 150, Dexter Fowler, guys who don’t hit home runs are striking out 100 times… but we’ve gone into this transition, sort of the Moneyball, you’ve got to take pitches, you gotta get walks. Well if you’re going to take that many pitches, you better be a good two-strike hitter, and you’re gonna find yourself with two strikes on you a lot of times. So I think just being more aggressive early in the count will cut your strikeouts down, but you’re also going to say, you know, ‘Well why didn’t you take that pitch and try to work for a walk?’ so… but I think Rickie could be a little more aggressive early in the count, and that, because… And the other part, if you brought the stolen base back into his game, maybe teams wouldn’t want… maybe would throw him early in the count, and that, too. He stole bases in college, he hasn’t really done that in the big leagues as much.”
To me, this is a sign the organization’s philosophy is fundamentally flawed.
For one, we’ve been through this — “Moneyball” does not mean “not swinging and taking a bunch of walks.”
Two, the perception is apparently still there that trying to draw a walk is the same as being selective or waiting for a good pitch to hit. We saw what happened with Corey Hart two years ago. The Brewers wanted him to get on base more, but instead of telling him to focus on hitting good pitches, they told him to simply “walk more.” He did, but he also had one of his worst seasons as a pro. “Walking more” isn’t as important as “not getting yourself out.”
Three, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Rickie’s approach at the plate. His career OBP is over 100 points higher than his career BA. You do not change a guy’s approach after he puts up a 6+ WAR season. If you want him to cut down his strikeouts, there’s a very good chance it will mess with his power — just take a look at Ryan Braun, who has cut down the strikeouts every year he’s been in the league, but has also seen his power drop every year at the same time.
If Ron Roenicke wants to send Weeks more on the bases, that’s fine. He has the speed to make the stolen base a positive event more often than not. But if part of Roenicke’s “Angel Way” is an emphasis on making contact just for the sake of not striking out, it’s going to be a long year.