It's All Right: Hicks Gives Up Switch-Hitting
The skills that have carried Hicks to this point aren't keeping him afloat. But to his credit, the 24-year-old has proven willing to look inward, and is now implementing a drastic change.
Hicks announced on Monday that he is giving up switch-hitting, and will bat exclusively from the right side going forward.
Whether going by the eye test or the numbers, it has been obvious for some time that the switch-hitting approach just wasn't working out for Hicks. Ostensibly hitting from both sides is intended to produce a double platoon advantage for a hitter, but Hicks performed worse from the left side than you'd expect from any lefty-against-lefty, or righty-against-righty, or major-leaguer-against-anyone.
In 331 plate appearances as a left-handed hitter, Hicks batted .179/.261/.285.
In light of those numbers, it's no surprise that the center fielder told his manager he has "no confidence" in the lefty swing that he adopted at a young age.
Will this help? It can't hurt. Hicks' problems run deeper than switch-hitting -- his numbers against lefties as a righty aren't that great either -- but he'll now be taking 100 percent of his swings from his natural side. He'll need to adapt to a different look in the majority of his at-bats, and even Ron Gardenhire admitted that this process would ideally play out in the minors, but at least when Hicks makes contact he'll have a better chance of doing something with it.
This is a rare step for a major-league player to take. Shane Victorino gave up switch-hitting at age 32 last year, initially because of an injury, but outside of that the list of examples of players implementing such a change has been exceedingly short.
A study on the subject conducted by James Gentile of Beyond the Boxscore in 2012 reached the following conclusion:
For the most part, the practice of switch-hitting and then un-switch-hitting seems reserved for quad-A lifers, glove-only types, fringe utility-players, or general disappointments of one kind or another that were willing to try anything to keep their careers alive. It's a desperate act, perhaps, reserved only for when your back is against the wall. Consider that Bruce Ruffin made the list and he wasn't even a position player. He simply spent 11 years in the National League as a pitcher.
Well, that sounds extremely discouraging, particularly when you consider that Hicks is only 24 years old and in his second big-league season.
But the numbers have been bad enough -- and disparate enough from what you'd expect out of his talent -- that desperation is warranted. Hicks needs to be a more confident player. Taking his admittedly inferior swing into 75 percent of his at-bats is not a disadvantage he needed added to his plate.
What do you think? Can eliminating the left-handed swing help Hicks straighten out his offensive game? And should the Twins allow him to reinvent himself in the majors or search elsewhere for an interim replacement?