Throughout one of many New York Yankees-Milwaukee Brewers video games over the weekend, I discovered myself watching a well-known state of affairs. Aaron Hicks was on the plate. He fell behind within the depend 1-2 to Brewers pitcher Jason Alexander.
However Hicks stood sturdy. He let a pitch go for ball two. Then he fouled a ball of. He was making the pitcher work.
Usually, that’s signal. The longer you make a pitcher work, the extra possible they’re to get pissed off and make a mistake.
Sadly, Hicks has not skilled a lot of that this season. Nor did he on this at-bat. Alexander struck him out, swinging, with a sinker.
Hicks has been to the 2022 Yankees what Gary Sánchez was in 2020 and 2021. His previous success, coupled along with his current struggles, have made him the Yankee pariah.
But, ever the optimist, I’ve stored my eyes open for indicators that the outdated Hicks remains to be in there … someplace. I’ve seen that even when Hicks’ at-bats finish fruitlessly, he by no means goes down with out a combat.
My in-game observations proved right. This season, Hicks is averaging a career-high 4.42 pitches/plate look. Whereas he hasn’t had fairly sufficient taking part in time to qualify for the Baseball Reference leaderboard, had been he to qualify, he’d be in first place. The present chief in pitches per plate look is Max Muncy with 4.32.
What shocked me throughout my analysis is that I assumed Hicks’ potential to attract pitches whereas having a under common offensive season was uncommon. It’s not. Muncy has been a below-average offensive participant this season. So have fellow pitch-drawers Ryan McMahon, Mike Yastrzemski and Cody Bellinger.
And possibly that shouldn’t be shocking. A participant’s potential to command respect and intimidate pitchers into throwing away from the strike zone could be primarily based on their popularity — not simply their plate expertise. I belief the title Cody Bellinger nonetheless strikes concern within the coronary heart of many a pitcher.
Plate self-discipline has lengthy been considered one of Hicks’ strengths. And that energy has remained on show within the 2022 marketing campaign. His on-base-percentage is .326. Alone, that’s not a fantastic quantity (.350 is the commonly benchmark for .OBP), however when one considers that Hicks’ batting common is a mere .213, out of the blue that .OBP seems spectacular. Hicks’ potential to attract walks has raised his .OBP by 113 factors!
To additional contextualize this quantity, the imply batting common in baseball this 12 months is .243. The imply on-base-percentage is .312. Hicks has managed to place up an on-base-percentage 14 factors above the key league common, regardless of hitting at a charge 30 factors under common.
So what can we count on from Hicks going ahead? Can he hold drawing walks and preventing out lengthy at-bats if his different offensive expertise don’t return? There’s purpose for doubt.
Once more, with a view to draw walks, a hitter has to place at the very least some strain on pitchers to throw exterior of the strike zone. If Hicks had been to proceed taking part in along with his present method, pitchers would finally be taught they might afford to throw him strikes, making it inconceivable for him to attract walks.
That mentioned, maybe Hicks’ hitting potential is just not completely decimated. His exit velocity has dropped, however not drastically (it’s 0.8 MPH under his profession common and 1.8 MPH under his profession excessive). It doesn’t actually appear to be all of his energy has been sapped by his lengthy string of unlucky accidents over the previous couple of years.
Skilled sports activities have a each a bodily and psychological ingredient. It’s doable that Hicks’ baseball instincts, and never his physique, are the issue. A number of years of interrupted baseball could have set Hicks’ hitting sport again, however don’t rule out a extra full comeback in 2023 … if he’s nonetheless right here.