Revisiting Aaron Hicks and Switch-Hitting
Last year, through 29 games, the outfielder was batting .133/.239/.214. This year, at the same point, his line is .170/.315/.239. While Hicks has shown an improved approach at the plate, he simply is not hitting the ball.
The Twins took the 24-year-old to task publicly this week, with Ron Gardenhire and Rob Antony both bemoaning his lack of preparation, and it's not the first time they've tried to light a fire under Hicks via media quotes (Antony also called out Hicks during spring training for failing to step up and take hold of the center field job).
On multiple occasions, Twins officials have hinted that they don't believe Hicks' mental commitment to the game lines up with his considerable talent. But as the athletic specimen continues to flail away from the left side of the plate, I can't help but wonder if his primary issue is simpler than that.
Batting from the right side against lefties last season, Hicks hit .203/.273/.441 for a .713 OPS that -- while not good -- was respectable enough for a rookie. His overall numbers were dragged down by a horrendous .189/.255/.311 hitting line from the left side.
After going 0-for-2 against right-handed starter Clay Buchholz on Thursday, Hicks is batting .113 while swinging left-handed this year, with one extra-base hit in 65 plate appearances.
He ended up delivering the game-winning hit in the 10th inning Thursday, and sure enough he did it while batting righty against southpaw Andrew Miller. Hicks had entered the game hitting .242/.390/.333 against left-handers.
On his blog this week, La Velle E. Neal III wrote about the club's frustrations with Hicks, stating that the outfielder is on the "hot seat."
Wow. Couldn't believe Gardenhire and Rob Antony before the game calling out Aaron Hicks for his poor preparation skills. Antony actually said he thinks Hicks goes to the plate without a plan sometimes. It's hard to learn how to be a good major leaguer, but those comments pretty much outed Hicks for his pre-game routine. When things get to this point, it means several people have tried to get Hicks to change his ways, without success.
If the Twins want Hicks to change his ways, maybe altering his pre-game routine is not the answer. It isn't like he's going up to the plate and completely getting blown away; his 30-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio is actually quite solid. He just isn't doing enough when he puts the ball in play, and that's mostly because he isn't making solid contact on right-handed pitchers, against whom he has a miserable .143 BABIP despite his high-end speed.
Photo by Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports
Hicks is a natural right-handed swinger who took up switch-hitting in high school. His numbers from the left were almost always worse in the minors, so the idea of moving him strictly to the right side has been brought up before, but it only seems to make more and more sense as he continues to look drastically worse against righties, who comprise the majority of all pitchers.
It's a big change. It would probably require heading to the minors and essentially rebuilding his approach. That might take some time, as Hicks hasn't regularly seen right-handed pitching from the right side in probably close to a decade.
But if the Twins are truly reaching the end of their rope with Hicks, it's worth a shot, right?
For what it's worth, Hicks strangely told Parker during spring training that if he were ever to give up switch-hitting, he'd probably want to swing from the left side exclusively, adding that he feels more comfortable there at this point.
"I tend to have more of a plan because I’ve had so much more at bats from the left side, where as right-handed I get 100 at bats a year so I kind of just come out ready to swing," Hicks said.
Of course, this quote serves as a reminder that perception doesn't always line up with reality. It also seems rather ironic in light of this week's comments from the manager and assistant GM.
"I don’t think he always has a plan--how that guy is going to pitch him, how he’s going to be prepared for it" said Antony.
Nowhere has Hicks appeared to have less of a plan -- or at least, been less able to execute a plan -- than from the left side. [/HR][FONT=Arial]Because the Twins won yesterday, you can get a half price large or extra-large pizza today (Friday) fromPapaJohns.com when you use the promo code TWINSWIN.[/FONT]