Before landing on the disabled list in late June of last year, Aaron Hicks was in the midst of a breakout season. An oblique injury sidelined Hicks, who was hitting a stellar .290/.398/.515 (144 wRC+) in 242 plate appearances before being shelved. When he returned in August, he struggled offensively (and went on the disabled list again in September). Unfortunately, his woes in the batter’s box have carried over into 2018.
Prior to 2017, the center fielder was never much of a hitter. From his debut in 2013 through the 2016 campaign, Hicks had a 76 wRC+ in 1,289 plate appearances. Since his return to action last August, Hicks has sported a lackluster 89 wRC+ in 236 trips to the plate. That strong period between certainly seems like an aberration at face value.
To be honest with you, I started to write this article with the idea that Hicks really isn’t very good. I had presumed that what he did to start last season was a fluke and that his body of work prior to 2017 was still representative of who he is as a player, especially considering how poor he’s hit to begin 2018. I thought the data would support my instinct, but it certainly does not.
|4/2/17 – 6/25/17||0.349||0.385||144|
|8/10/17 – Present||0.351||0.305||86|
Hicks did have some good fortune in his hot start last season, but it’s not as if he wasn’t stinging the ball. A .349 xwOBA is quite good. Since his return late last summer, Hicks has had slightly better contact quality but doesn’t have anything to show for it.
Since Hicks is a switch-hitter, it makes sense to see how he’s done from each side:
|vs. RHP||4/2/17 – 6/25/17||0.349||0.384|
|vs. RHP||8/10/17 – Present||0.349||0.314|
|vs. LHP||4/2/17 – 6/25/17||0.347||0.396|
|vs. LHP||8/10/17 – Present||0.354||0.289|
The story remains the same.
Furthermore, Hicks is still excelling in other facets of his game. The 28-year-old’s plate discipline has been stellar, as his career-low 19.9 percent out-of-zone swing rate indicates. That’s resulted in Hicks walking 14.5 percent of the time and striking out a reasonable 19.7 percent of plate appearances. In the outfield, he’s played his typically strong defense. The only thing not going Hicks’s way is what happens when he makes contact. Surely, his .233 BABIP won’t last.
Is it frustrating that Hicks isn’t getting results? Of course. As I said, before digging deeper, I was ready to write him off. He was terrible with the Twins and his short spurt of success last season was an anomaly, right? It appears that my gut was wrong and it seems like a correction is looming. Given his approach at the plate and quality of contact, it’s only a matter of time until we see him get positive results. Just what the Yankees need, another good hitter.
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