Sunday, April 28, 2013

Let's Talk About Hicks, Man

The most exciting thing about sports is potential.  Actually, the most exciting part is having the chance to see what that potential escape the realm of the imaginary and turn into something real - whether good or bad.  There's a reason people are generally excited about a new Star Wars Trilogy and it's the same concept.  The interest in getting in early on something that has the potential to be great sucks people in whether despite being burned countless times before (think Phantom Menace, Rico Tucker, or Francisco Liriano).  This, of course, brings us to Aaron Hicks.  There's little more exciting than the team's most MLB ready top prospect tearing shit up in Spring and getting the nod to jump from AA ball right to the bigs and bat leadoff.  All that, of course, is why his debut has been mostly a bummer, bro.

Things have been looking brighter lately with Hicks in the midst of a 5-game hit streak, but that still raises his batting average to just .118, which ranks dead last among those with enough PAs to qualify for the batting title.  This obviously is less than ideal.  There are lots of people who seem quite riled up by Hicks' slow start, including one guy I talked to at a bachelor party (for Grand Slam, for those of you who follow along with the cast of characters in my life) who couldn't have spent more time telling me how Hicks sucked and should be sent to AAA to get his swing straightened out.  To this I say, "dude shut up."

First of all, his BABIP is .167, well below league average and far below where he's been at every minor league stop (usually a decent amount north of .300) and is fourth worst in the majors.  Granted he hasn't hit a ton of line drives (only 3 so far this year in 44 balls put in play) but it would essentially be impossible to play an entire season with a BABIP below .200 (worst in the majors last year was Justin Smoak at .242).  That alone basically guarantees his average will get up to a minimum of .200 or so, and I'd be stunned if it ended up anywhere near that low.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, Hicks hasn't changed his approach from his minor league days, despite the rough start.  He was billed as a patient hitter and that hasn't changed and that's why he's on pace for 85-100 walks despite barely hitting .100.  His walk rate of 14.3% is actually fantastic, and ranks 15th in the majors, better than guys like Albert Pujols and your precious Joe Mauer.   On the flip side yes he's struck out a ton (29.9%, 17th in the majors) but he's only whiffed four times in the last 10 games after racking up 20 in the previous 10 so I'd say that, along with the big five game winning streak, tell me he's figuring this thing out.  It's worth noting that Hicks current .238 OBP is nearly as good as Ben Revere who is at .242 despite Revere's average (.207) being nearly 100 points higher.  Actually that's something worth looking at further, so I will.

Hicks' OBP is .238 and his average is .118 - a difference of .120.  That is a substantial difference so I investigated further.  That ties him with Giancarlo Stanton and A.J. Ellis for the 11th biggest difference in the league, with such stars as Joey Votto, Billy Butler, David Wright, and Ryan Braun in his neighborhood.   What does that mean?  It means the guy knows how to hit, and a combination of bad luck and his own slump have combined to make the numbers look like he can't.  Watching the guy and diving deeper into the numbers tell me the guy is still going to be a stud.

Not to mention he's a dynamic player who makes things happen.  Despite just 8 hits he has seven RBI and has scored 10 runs.  He and Colorado's Josh Rutledge are the only players to have more runs scored than hits this year, and only five players have more RBI per hit than Hicks does.  He makes things happen.  Add in his excellent defense and great base running and you still have a future star on your hands here, despite the slow start and weird Kevin Smith looking guys at bachelor parties opinions.

You hear me?  I will say again:


And you can take that to the bank.

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