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View Full Version : Article: Time For Hicks to Make a Switch?



Nick Nelson
08-28-2013, 09:32 AM
You can view the page at http://twinsdaily.com/content.php?r=2274-Time-For-Hicks-to-Make-a-Switch

Shane Wahl
08-28-2013, 09:40 AM
Learning to hit right-handed pitching from the right side is going to be a major adjustment. Why on earth do we want Hicks going through a major adjustment in 2014? That's another guaranteed lost season for him, or at least half a season . . . if it even works out at all in any way that makes him better from the right side than the left side.

Here's an idea: admit that the Twins really messed with him and his rather natural path of development . . . one damn level at a time, which isn't such a crazy idea! He was AAA prepared for major league baseball, and he probably would have been only around a .700 OPS with a full season at AAA.

I am going to expect a .700 OPS with the full season with the Twins in 2014.

mike wants wins
08-28-2013, 09:47 AM
Should have happened 2 years ago. If his arrival is pushed out a year, but he's actually good, that might be a good idea......but this is a great example of being conservative, don't change anything, even if it isn't working.

Oldgoat_MN
08-28-2013, 09:57 AM
......but this is a great example of being conservative, don't change anything, even if it isn't working.

True.

I get that batting as a RH against RH pitchers is going to suck, but it likely won't be worse than what he is getting now.

Either that or have him pitch. And I'm not kidding.
The way he's going now he does not belong on a Major League roster. (and I really like the kid)

Shane Wahl
08-28-2013, 10:11 AM
Have people forgotten the trajectory and performances year-to-year in the minors for Aaron Hicks? People are *this* down on him even though he clearly didn't belong in MLB for 2013? Granted he didn't need an extra year to figure out AA, but that one time occurrence in his career (!) didn't warrant *skipping* a level. The Twins were patient with him, then they really weren't patient and jumped him a level. I think being patient with him is a good idea. Projecting 2013 forward in such a negative way as to consider ending his switch-hitting!?

Nick Nelson
08-28-2013, 10:26 AM
This isn't really about his performance this year, Shane. Hicks has been dreadfully bad hitting from the left side at almost every level.

Oldgoat_MN
08-28-2013, 10:31 AM
.... but that one time occurrence in his career (!) didn't warrant *skipping* a level. The Twins were patient with him, then they really weren't patient and jumped him a level.

No argument here, Shane, but a .447 OPS? He may need a full year of AAA. That wouldn't be all bad, maybe, but we should have a crowded outfield soon after that.

Absolutely agree that his history did not suggest that skipping a level would go well. But Joe Benson played poorly, Mastro got hurt and Hicks hit and fielded (in ST) like he was ready. Cannot fault the Twins for starting the year with him in CF.

twinsin17
08-28-2013, 10:53 AM
Hicks should definitely drop LH hitting. Improving from a .447 OPS vs. righties is almost a given. Or maybe they should platoon him - RP when we face a righty and in the lineup vs. lefties. The chance of watching a position player pitch would put fans in the seats!

nicksaviking
08-28-2013, 11:34 AM
That headline was a tease. I thought we were going to discuss putting Hicks back on the mound.

mike wants wins
08-28-2013, 12:06 PM
Shane, given that I said "should have happened 2 years ago".....it should be obvious I am not thinking about 2013....

Willihammer
08-28-2013, 12:18 PM
Here's an idea: admit that the Twins really messed with him and his rather natural path of development . . . one damn level at a time, which isn't such a crazy idea!

Another possibility: Hicks failed as an MLBer because he's not an MLB talent.

jareddejong42
08-28-2013, 01:00 PM
Has anybody seen what Shane Victorino has done over the past couple weeks since a hamstring injury relegated him to give up switch hitting? Of course this is a small sample size, but could be considered hope that a change for Hicks could be a good thing.

Thrylos
08-28-2013, 01:33 PM
Learning to hit right-handed pitching from the right side is going to be a major adjustment. Why on earth do we want Hicks going through a major adjustment in 2014? That's another guaranteed lost season for him, or at least half a season . . . if it even works out at all in any way that makes him better from the right side than the left side...

If it will happen (and should happen) will not be in 2014. It will be in a Caribbean Winter league, maybe supplemented with instructs and will continue in ST.

Since he is hitting RH anyways, there will be no mechanical adjustments, just learning how to pick up the ball off a RHP's hand. And this can be done in a batting cage. And as a matter of fact, he has already been hitting as a righty off righties during BP, when the next team starts a LHP. Not that huge of an adjustment.

I think that it is overdue in a lot of respects and I am surprised that the Twins (being such a LHB-rich team) did not make the switch earlier. But remember who the MiLB Director was...

nicksaviking
08-28-2013, 01:43 PM
I think we are overestimating the challange of hitting right-handed vs. right-handed pitchers. Sure there will be an adjustment but it's not like his swing would need to be reworked. It would simply be adjusting to a different angle and picking up the pitch from a different release point. I don't see how it would be all that different than learning how to hit off a side-armed pitcher or a pitcher that often changes arm angles and is good at hiding the ball until it is released.

stringer bell
08-28-2013, 01:49 PM
At this point, no, no, a thousand times no. If Hicks were hitting from his "strong" side 75% of the time and he had to piece together at-bats occasionally facing the same handed pitcher, it might be different. Also, if he was forfeiting batting right handed which costs a number of infield hits for a fast guy, it also might be something to consider. Further Hicks has been switch hitting exclusively for six or seven years. It would take years to catch up again. Hicks' history has been to struggle early and then catch up and the left side catches up last. I still have confidence that Hicks will be a good ballplayer and contributor when the Twins are good again and if he is, it will be as a switch hitter. Break is over. More to say later.

Nick Nelson
08-28-2013, 01:57 PM
Further Hicks has been switch hitting exclusively for six or seven years. It would take years to catch up again.
To "catch up" to what? A .500 OPS?

Winston Smith
08-28-2013, 02:21 PM
Let him pitch. Never mind we have so much quality pitching we don't need more. As far as it goes he could pitch and still play in the field worked for Babe Ruth how hard can it be?

twinsin17
08-28-2013, 02:30 PM
We're not asking to have him learn to throw left handed here. We just want him to do what he has proven to do more successfully (bat RH vs LH) more often. I don't think that idea is too far fetched.

diehardtwinsfan
08-28-2013, 02:30 PM
I don't see why he cannot just try it for a few weeks and see what happens. If this is something he can adjust to easily, there would be a noticable performance jump, which could justify continuing the experiment. That won't forestall any of his development. If it fails, then you decide.

Don Julio
08-28-2013, 03:01 PM
If I remember correctly, Hick's dad didn't want him to play baseball and only allowed him to play if he switch-hit. I believe it had something to do with a beaning his dad had in the minors.

darin617
08-28-2013, 03:10 PM
I thought was going to about changing him into a pitcher, not to become a full time righty.

Siehbiscuit
08-28-2013, 03:37 PM
The reason he switched in HS was due to his father wanting him to be protected from getting hit in the head, which is far likelier to happen when batting RH vs RH. Hicks' father was hit this way and it was kind of a family decision. It may not be an easy sell.

Shane Wahl
08-28-2013, 03:50 PM
I am in the minority here, clearly. Was his performance in AA in 2012 against righties just an aberration, then?

Steve Lein
08-28-2013, 03:54 PM
Learning to hit right-handed pitching from the right side is going to be a major adjustment. Why on earth do we want Hicks going through a major adjustment in 2014? That's another guaranteed lost season for him, or at least half a season


In my opinion, you're blowing the adjustment it would take way out of proportion. He'd instantly be better batting RH vs. righties than he is batting LH vs. righties now, I think.

Nick Nelson
08-28-2013, 05:27 PM
I am in the minority here, clearly. Was his performance in AA in 2012 against righties just an aberration, then?

I'd hope not, but I think it's hard to conclude otherwise, looking at the last four years as a whole. Even in 2012 his Isolated Power was 100 points higher from the right side, so his strong numbers as a lefty were driven far more by plate discipline than authoritative hitting.

Would his plate discipline elude him if he switched to seeing most pitches from a completely different perspective? I guess that's a strong possibility, and the most compelling argument against such a move. But from what I've seen, I don't know that Hicks -- swinging left-handed in the vast majority of his at-bats -- is an MLB-caliber hitter, especially in a corner spot. I see much, much more potential in his righty swing.

Shane Wahl
08-28-2013, 07:00 PM
Anyone know what the average split gap is between righties vs. lefties and righties vs. righties? Wouldn't this be a baseline to see how far Hicks' numbers would fall from the right side?

h2oface
08-28-2013, 07:27 PM
If he hits like a pitcher, and throws like a pitcher........ maybe the rest of the teams were right...... he should be a pitcher. I was really rooting for him, though. After his progress last year, and the spring training run, I really thought he would do well. I guess you have to give him one more half season in AAA to see if he can become. He sure is a monster in the field. I really enjoy a center fielder that will dive forward for the ball - something Span would never do.

LaBombo
08-28-2013, 09:32 PM
Anyone know what the average split gap is between righties vs. lefties and righties vs. righties? Wouldn't this be a baseline to see how far Hicks' numbers would fall from the right side?
From what I've read the average hitter loses about .050-.065 points of OPS when facing same-side pitching.

That should mean that in ideal world where Hicks is adapted to rightie-only, his .713 MLB OPS against lefties would probably put him somewhere around .660, or 100 points higher than his .559 LHB OPS.

Jdosen
08-28-2013, 10:56 PM
Is there a player anyone can think of that scrapped switch hitting this late in his career and went on to become a successful big-leaguer?

mike wants wins
08-29-2013, 07:56 AM
He is only 24

Shane Wahl
08-29-2013, 08:13 AM
He is only 24

That doesn't answer the question. I am pretty curious about how common this is for anyone who has touched the majors or gotten even to AA.

Shane Wahl
08-29-2013, 08:17 AM
From what I've read the average hitter loses about .050-.065 points of OPS when facing same-side pitching.

That should mean that in ideal world where Hicks is adapted to rightie-only, his .713 MLB OPS against lefties would probably put him somewhere around .660, or 100 points higher than his .559 LHB OPS.

Thanks. And I do think that is pretty ideal, and wonder how long it would take him to get to that. If it is so damn easy to make this switch I imagine more players would have done it.

mike wants wins
08-29-2013, 08:20 AM
I think a better question is, if he doesn't scrap it, can he be successful? Who is going to walk him in the majors? No one is. And the umps (since they give people calls and don't) aren't going to help him. What, exactly, is the downside? An OPS the same as he has now?

Shane, I was answering the post about "this late in his career".....

And, I'd guess that guys that are this bad from one side were never successful in the majors, because they were so bad they never made the majors. So it is hard to give an example of someone who was......I am almost certain I read on Fangraphs in the spring that NO MLB player that started out this bad has ever turned out to be good.....that, to me, would imply they should make a dramatic change

But, I don't expect it. It would be way too daring for this team.

Shane Wahl
08-29-2013, 08:39 AM
What was his OPS against righties from May onward?

jimbo92107
08-29-2013, 08:39 AM
Oh come on, it's not that hard. Not like we're asking him to start throwing the ball left handed or swap his left and right shoes. Aaron Hicks has been swinging a stick at some kind of ball since he was a little kid. It'd probably take him a couple weeks to start whacking rightie curve balls and sliders again from the right side of the plate.

Remember: The guy's an athlete. Not like us.

Shane Wahl
08-29-2013, 08:58 AM
Oh come on, it's not that hard. Not like we're asking him to start throwing the ball left handed or swap his left and right shoes. Aaron Hicks has been swinging a stick at some kind of ball since he was a little kid. It'd probably take him a couple weeks to start whacking rightie curve balls and sliders again from the right side of the plate.

Remember: The guy's an athlete. Not like us.

If it isn't that hard, why don't more players do it when they struggle more from one side of the plate. I do think there is too much fuss about Hicks. April was terrible for him, but I wouldn't have expected much else from him than what he did the rest of the year, which is around .700 OPS. He was NEVER someone to do well right away after a promotion until he did it in 2012 in AA. Skipping a level altogether? Having the pressure of being the leadoff hitter right away (which demands plate discipline . . . a skill that he has, but is a different beast if you haven't SEEN MLB pitching!).

Shane Wahl
08-29-2013, 09:03 AM
How many players have skipped AAA altogether and then been asked to be the leadoff hitter for the major league team to begin a season?

Badsmerf
08-29-2013, 09:59 AM
Shane, I don't understand your argument. So far, I've pieced that you think he is too young to give up on that side, skipping a level has more influence then his ability for that side and there isn't enough evidence to support that the move would be worth it. Let me have a few points.

1. Progress into his career is irrelevant. Think of this as eliminating a slider or adding a split-finger. Baseball players (and people in general) have to evolve and grow to become better players (or better people). So far in his career, he has been terrible hitting from that side. While, he has been good hitting from the other side. This isn't a new argument, I've advocated this move for 2 years and stated he will not be a legit MLB hitter from the left.

2. Skipping a level, or for that matter just making a jump to the MLB, highlights weaknesses. Yes he starts out slow at other levels, but he was historically bad. You could bring up any of the Twins top 5 prospects and they wouldn't come close to how bad he was. There is really no way to slice it.

3. Evidence? Like there are only 13.4% switch hitters in the MLB? Some guys can do it effectively, most can't. The drop-off for him specifically hitting RH pitching as a RH bat just really can't be worse than hitting LH. Its possible... but it would be pretty difficult.

4. Twins are changing nothing in his approach, swing, style etc. All they would be doing is focusing on him hitting from the same side. Which might actually help him hitting lefties as well. Since 76.6% of MLB hitters do not switch hit, it tells me hitting from the same side is better for more people. He is one of them IMO.

5. He is an employee of the Twins. If they want him to do it, he better listen. His dad having him switch hit in high school better have absolutely no factor in this decision. This is the real world, not little league. Come on!!!!

Moderators be proud, I wanted to swear 50 times just now and didn't. Living up to my promise to Ashburry.

markominne
08-29-2013, 11:48 AM
"The list of players who have given up switch-hitting this deep into their careers is rather short." Not the same level of talent as Hicks, but I believe the Twins tried this back in the 90's with Rich Becker, with less-than-stellar results. With that said, hard to imagine that he couldn't equal or improve upon a .447 OPS batting right-handed exclusively, and it's equally difficult to believe that he will improve - and he would have to improve substantially - from the left side of the plate. Remember the definition of insanity?.... Perhaps he should head for winter league ball and try it there. It's hard to be concerned at this point about him messing with his left-handed swing...

Shane Wahl
08-29-2013, 12:41 PM
Badsmerf,

1. After April, Hicks posted about a .700 OPS.
2. It is true that Hicks only adapted quickly to a promotion when moving to AA.
3. If he had started 2013 in AAA I would have been 50/50 on whether or not he would adapt that quickly again.
4. Starting with the Twins, there is no way to *expect* a quick learn, especially from him given his minor league history.
5. Thus, a .700 OPS for a full season is kind of a realistic expectation for Aaron Hicks' first year in the majors.
6. I still want to see how many players have (we'll say in the last ten years) skipped AAA and been put into the leadoff position for the major league club to start a season. And if there are such players, I wonder how well they did and how long it was before they headed to AAA.
7. I remember one player, Alex Gordon, who skipped AAA and was put around 6th in the Royal lineup in 2007 (I think). He was pretty bad and he was the number 2 prospect in all of baseball going into that year.
8. Batting leadoff has certain expectations about recognizing pitches and having good discipline. Hicks hadn't seen real MLB pitching. Hence, look at that April.
9. A guy who has taken time with each promotion jumps a level and then starts in the leadoff position and fails badly. Is that a surprise?
10. Hicks hit well from the left side in 2012. It is not a forgone conclusion that he can't do it effectively.

Shane Wahl
08-29-2013, 02:12 PM
Badsmerf,

Also, 10 > 5. So there's that.

Willihammer
08-29-2013, 03:32 PM
IMO Hicks and Parmelee are exhibits A and B in why you value raw hitting ability over "polish" in a spec.

Look at the Mariners - they built a roster out of top 100 specs who put up gawdy walk inflated OPSes in the minors. But Smoak, Saunders, Franklin, and Ackley are struggling just like Hicks and parmelee did.

The only guys keeping that lineup afloat are Morales, Ibanez and Seager - the one guy who *hit* in the minors (and was left off the top 100 lists).

hansob
08-29-2013, 03:48 PM
Has anybody seen what Shane Victorino has done over the past couple weeks since a hamstring injury relegated him to give up switch hitting? Of course this is a small sample size, but could be considered hope that a change for Hicks could be a good thing.

No kidding. Victorino has always been a right-handed hitter who was switch hitting. It can't be THAT difficult to change to just hitting from the right side. Jason Varitek reacted to suggestions that he give up switch hitting like someone asked him to hit cross handed. I think, especially for hitters whose strong side is right-handed, that they are more afraid of getting pegged as a platoon player, and their perceived value would go down as a result. I remember thinking the same thing for Bobby Kielty.

YourHouseIsMyHouse
08-29-2013, 05:29 PM
Everyone keeps saying how big a change this is, but he's already swinging well right handed. A lot of people are making it out as if it's harder than teaching a same side hitter TO switch hit. The pitcher is the only thing that's really changing. Hicks knows how to hit right handed and it will help him. He'll just have to make the adjustments to the pitcher, not himself.

ashburyjohn
08-29-2013, 06:24 PM
Badsmerf,

Also, 10 > 5

>> Jeff Gray

MichiganTwins
08-29-2013, 06:54 PM
He just hit a double left handed btw.

Shane Wahl
08-30-2013, 12:33 AM
haha, Michigan Twins!!!!

Anyway, if ending one's switch-hitting were so easy, more players would do it. They don't do it. So . . .

stringer bell
08-30-2013, 12:34 PM
Thank you Shane Wahl for taking the right position and saving me making a bunch of posts. Despite Aaron Hick's relatively tender age, he has been switch hitting his entire professional career. He has a pattern of hitting better right handed, but I believe the die is cast. I suspect part of his relative success vs. left handers is that lefties tend to throw fast balls and changeups to right handers. Hicks has demonstrated "trouble with the curve" and probably has faced less of them vs. lefties. If Hicks were to try to hit exclusively RH, I think the best he could hope for is platoon play and platoon play for a RH hitter means that basically he would be a bench player. Probably the #1 component in hitting success is confidence. If Hicks went all RH all the time at the insistence of the club, would he be a more confident hitter? I doubt it.

Badsmerf
08-30-2013, 04:19 PM
stringer, we will see what happens with Hicks... but at this point a platoon player might be all he is anyway. He doesn't have much time until elite talent starts trickling up the system.

70charger
09-01-2013, 04:55 PM
A couple things. The "if ending switch hitting were easy, more players would do it" argument is entirely specious. There's nothing driving most switch hitters to drop hitting from one side. Nobody's asking Ryan Doumit to cut it out, for example, because he's a major league caliber hitter. Aaron Hicks showed that this year he wasn't. The only reason we are talking about it at all with regard to Hicks is because of how badly he sucked. To my knowledge there were exactly zero switch hitters in the big leagues this year with comparable problems, meaning you're actually comparing Hicks to nobody else and expecting draw a useful conclusion from an illusory comparison.

Secondly, how difficult would it be to try it out in winter ball? Just do it for a few weeks or a month and see what happens. There's no way to know how he'd respond without just doing it, and in winter ball there's really nothing to lose.

Finally, whether he drops the switch hitting or not, I think Hicks has enough talent to eventually grow into a good major leaguer. He's not there now, and that's fine. Some people take longer. But I think he'll get there.

Mr. Brooks
09-02-2013, 10:35 AM
I am in the minority here, clearly. Was his performance in AA in 2012 against righties just an aberration, then?

Didn't you already deem 2012 an aberration in your "2nd year at a level" argument?
Is 2012 only an aberration when it fits your argument, and not the opposing argument?