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Time to be concerned about Aaron Hicks?

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#21 afurry91

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:30 PM

Fangraphs chat had some information on this last year, no player that started as badly as Hicks has ever turned out to be "good"....but that comment (made by one of their staff, not a random fan) was buried in a weekly chat....so no idea the depth of the analysis that went into that.


Carlos Gomez

#22 mike wants wins

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:36 PM

Do we know Gomez was this bad? .....

http://www.fangraphs...=8&players=5297

but as I said, I have no idea how much depth went into the analysis, I was pointing out what someone said.....

What I just typed is probably an opinion, not a fact. I mean, I'm usually right, so you should maybe assume it is or will be a fact soon, but that's up to you. :) Also, I am NOT trying to convince anyone I am correct, I'm just talking here, not arguing.


#23 mike wants wins

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:37 PM

Feel free to ignore how bad he has been, if you want. Even if you can find 10 players that have done it in history, how likely is it that he becomes good after this start? If they are competitive, do you keep giving away at bats?

What I just typed is probably an opinion, not a fact. I mean, I'm usually right, so you should maybe assume it is or will be a fact soon, but that's up to you. :) Also, I am NOT trying to convince anyone I am correct, I'm just talking here, not arguing.


#24 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 12:57 PM

Fangraphs chat had some information on this last year, no player that started as badly as Hicks has ever turned out to be "good"....but that comment (made by one of their staff, not a random fan) was buried in a weekly chat....so no idea the depth of the analysis that went into that.


That's probably close to accurate, certainly during his epic early 2013 slump. And his possible similarity to early-career Hunter/Gomez is lessening as his struggles continue into 2014.

Dozier had a pretty comparable career start, OPS wise, and he didn't begin turning it around until almost 500 PA into his career (about 100 more than Hicks currently has). Of course, Dozier's turnaround was fairly unlikely too, largely attributed to some specific adjustments, and it was also accompanied by a shift to a slightly less demanding defensive position, and a shift in the shape of his offensive production (more power, more K's, less BA).

#25 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:01 PM

Carlos Gomez


Gomez actually had a decent offensive start with the Twins, which buoys his early career stats a bit. And if you factor in defense, Gomez was always useful even with the weak bat.

#26 tobi0040

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:02 PM

Do we know Gomez was this bad? .....

http://www.fangraphs...=8&players=5297

but as I said, I have no idea how much depth went into the analysis, I was pointing out what someone said.....


A ton of similarities here. Both came up at 22, CF, highly touted without a ton of sucess in the minors. Hicks had the one year that was pretty good, but not blowing you away.

Here are Gomez numbers in his first three years (1100 ab)

2007 - .232 avg/.592 OPS.
2008 - .258 avg/.656 OPS
2009 - .229 avg/ .624 OPS

Hicks (400 ab)

2013 - .192 avg/.597 OPS
2014 - .167 avg/.492 OPS

Here is the glaring difference. BABIP. Gomez had .273, .330, and .286. Hicks .241 and .233.

This suggests we should give Hicks more time. We don't want him becoming an all star somewhere else.

#27 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:09 PM

Per 500 PA, Fuld is a 1.4 rWAR player over his career, Hicks is 0.3. 2012 onward, though, the difference is more like half a win, though, and all defense.

Probably not enough to displace Hicks yet, although if early trends continue (Hicks playing poorly, team around .500, Fuld rebounding from career low OPS), it could be a move worth making.

#28 mike wants wins

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:10 PM

I never said stop playing him.....I said I'm worried about him. He also is a switch hitter, who takes the majority of his ABs from his weak side, unlike Gomez who didn't need to figure out how to fix two different approaches to hitting. He could be good. He could be great. Right now, he's not.

What I just typed is probably an opinion, not a fact. I mean, I'm usually right, so you should maybe assume it is or will be a fact soon, but that's up to you. :) Also, I am NOT trying to convince anyone I am correct, I'm just talking here, not arguing.


#29 Brad Swanson

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:17 PM

Interesting, although it should be noted those are full careers sub-.200. What would be more interesting is how many guys began their careers with 340+ AB of sub-.200 AVG like Hicks, and where they ended up. Or more generally, how guys responded to sub-.200 rookie seasons.

It was pretty easy to write off 2013 as a lost season, rushed to MLB, pressured by the leadoff spot, etc. But the small sample this year suggests that maybe Hicks just isn't much of an AVG hitter right now -- those guys exist, and unfortunately when they start their career that way, they are probably bench guys at best or are out of the league fairly quickly.

But I'm all for giving players chances, in lieu of better options, and Hicks certainly has more rope.


I can't compare the first 340 PAs of a player's career because Baseball Reference's play index is only so awesome. But...

Here are 157 players who had a sub-.225 batting average as a rookie getting at least 250 PA. They are then sorted by their career OPS. Obviously, a .225 BA is much better than .192, but they are statistically comparable when you factor eras and BABIPs and other factors that a small sample cannot necessarily capture.

http://www.baseball-...re.cgi?id=UUwfT

There are some great names on this list, some not-so-great names and Dave McCarty. Hicks's start is not ideal, but he can pull out of it. Hicks's ceiling might be a .250 BA, but if he can bat .250/.340/.430 or something along those lines, he could be a really valuable player.

I'm concerned, but I'd give him through May. The Twins are going to battle to be a .500 team this year, they should find out for certain if Hicks is worth reserving a roster spot for in 2015 when their aspirations are much higher.

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#30 LaBombo

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:30 PM

A ton of similarities here. Both came up at 22, CF, highly touted without a ton of sucess in the minors.


Don't mean to pick nits, but Gomez was 21 when he debuted in the majors with the Mets, and 22 his first season with the Twins. Hicks was 23 and a half on opening day and was 24 a week after the season ended. That's a significant difference. Hicks also had nearly 1000 more plate appearances in the minors than Gomez did prior to reaching the majors.

Hicks' babip initially looks like bad luck that will eventually even out, especially for a fast hitter who should scare up a few extra hits by legging out grounders.

But the complete lack of power suggests that even when he's making contact, it's not the good kind. That's backed up by a line drive rate (less than 15%) and a ground ball rate more than double his fly ball rate, and a GB/FB ratio nearly twice what it was last season.

#31 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:37 PM

Here is the glaring difference. BABIP. Gomez had .273, .330, and .286. Hicks .241 and .233.


Well, the glaring difference would actually be defense. Gomez rated very well at the time defensively, offsetting virtually all of his shortcomings with the bat to make him an average overall CF; Hicks looks to be an average glove at best so far, which makes him about replacement level (or worse).

Also, Gomez was significantly younger. Hicks debuted last spring at age 23 years (and 6 months). Before his 23rd birthday, Gomez already had a full MLB season of 77 OPS+ and 2.1 rWAR under his belt, plus his partial Mets season of similar stellar defense. Hicks also had 4 full years of full-season minor league ball, versus Gomez's 2.

Finally, low BABIP does not automatically equal bad luck -- it could just mean a lower AVG hitter. That Hicks' low BABIP is continuing into 2014 isn't a good sign.

Although I agree, too early to pull the plug, given the alternatives. If he doesn't get going by June, though, establishing himself in AAA might be the best way to salvage his career?

#32 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:48 PM

I can't compare the first 340 PAs of a player's career because Baseball Reference's play index is only so awesome. But...

Here are 157 players who had a sub-.225 batting average as a rookie getting at least 250 PA. They are then sorted by their career OPS. Obviously, a .225 BA is much better than .192, but they are statistically comparable when you factor eras and BABIPs and other factors that a small sample cannot necessarily capture.


Thanks!

But while .225 may be statistically comparable to .192, some of those .225 guys were hitting for serious power too. Actually, most of the guys near the top of that list were low-AVG sluggers. Mike Schmidt batted .192 as a rookie just like Hicks, but he clubbed 18 HR and had a 92 OPS+. Buhner hit .215 with a 99 OPS+, Bonds .223 with a 103 OPS+, etc.

If Hicks had shown that kind of power last year (or at any time in his pro career), I think he'd have a much longer leash. As it is, his leash is already lengthened a bit by his walk rate, but when that only brings your OPS+ up to 61, it's still not a real long leash.

#33 LaBombo

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:49 PM

I can't compare the first 340 PAs of a player's career because Baseball Reference's play index is only so awesome. But...

Here are 157 players who had a sub-.225 batting average as a rookie getting at least 250 PA. They are then sorted by their career OPS. Obviously, a .225 BA is much better than .192, but they are statistically comparable when you factor eras and BABIPs and other factors that a small sample cannot necessarily capture.

As spycake noted, the top half of the list contains some of the most notorious swing-and-miss power hitters of their eras. Also, the bottom half of the list contains a whole bunch of hitters whose eras were less offense-friendly than the one that Hicks is playing in.

And while Hicks certainly seemed to have been somewhat snake-bitten with regard to BABIP last season, he's lagging in that regard this year primarily due to the fact that he's putting the ball on the ground three out of every five times he makes contact.

Also, while I understand the rationale for raising the average to .225 to expand the number of possible comps, the simple fact is that .200 is an unforgiving, hard threshold in most franchises, and batting .190 instead of .225 is a much greater impediment to sticking in the majors compared to, say .210, than a 20 point spread that doesn't bracket the .200 cutoff would.

In other words, there's a reason .200 has a name, and .225 and .210 do not.

That said, yes, he should have until at least the end of May (if not longer) to get it in gear, regardless of whatever veneer of competitiveness the team may still have by then.

Edited by LaBombo, 22 April 2014 - 02:03 PM.


#34 tobi0040

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:50 PM

Well, the glaring difference would actually be defense. Gomez rated very well at the time defensively, offsetting virtually all of his shortcomings with the bat to make him an average overall CF; Hicks looks to be an average glove at best so far, which makes him about replacement level (or worse).

Also, Gomez was significantly younger. Hicks debuted last spring at age 23 years (and 6 months). Before his 23rd birthday, Gomez already had a full MLB season of 77 OPS+ and 2.1 rWAR under his belt, plus his partial Mets season of similar stellar defense. Hicks also had 4 full years of full-season minor league ball, versus Gomez's 2.

Finally, low BABIP does not automatically equal bad luck -- it could just mean a lower AVG hitter. That Hicks' low BABIP is continuing into 2014 isn't a good sign.

Although I agree, too early to pull the plug, given the alternatives. If he doesn't get going by June, though, establishing himself in AAA might be the best way to salvage his career?


One of the biggest knocks on Hicks has been missing the cut off, I remember Gomez doing that regularly with us. I am not suggesting Hicks has his range and frankly, for the purposes of this I was just looking at offense anyway. Here is Hicks BABIP in the minors, .367, .303, .359, .346, .308, .346, .314. I get that one could hit balls pitched by minor leaguers harder than major leaguers, but that is a huge gap from what we have seen thus far.

#35 spycake

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 01:59 PM

Here are 157 players who had a sub-.225 batting average as a rookie getting at least 250 PA. They are then sorted by their career OPS. Obviously, a .225 BA is much better than .192, but they are statistically comparable when you factor eras and BABIPs and other factors that a small sample cannot necessarily capture.

http://www.baseball-...re.cgi?id=UUwfT


Looking at this list again, Michael Saunders looks to be the best of those remotely comparable to Hicks in skill set / performance. Maybe Brady Anderson. But both of them had more consistent success in the minors than Hicks, and arguably better early MLB results too. And Brady Anderson was kind of surprise late bloomer at age 28 -- certainly more of an exception rather than the rule, which is was a positive Hicks career might be too.

#36 TheLeviathan

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:11 PM

One of the biggest knocks on Hicks has been missing the cut off, I remember Gomez doing that regularly with us. I am not suggesting Hicks has his range and frankly, for the purposes of this I was just looking at offense anyway. Here is Hicks BABIP in the minors, .367, .303, .359, .346, .308, .346, .314. I get that one could hit balls pitched by minor leaguers harder than major leaguers, but that is a huge gap from what we have seen thus far.


It would be easier to compile a list of what Hicks does well in the field. (Hint: It ain't much)

That LD% and GB/FB ratio tell me his BABIP has far more to do with weak contact than bad luck.

#37 Brad Swanson

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:20 PM

Looking at this list again, Michael Saunders looks to be the best of those remotely comparable to Hicks in skill set / performance. Maybe Brady Anderson. But both of them had more consistent success in the minors than Hicks, and arguably better early MLB results too. And Brady Anderson was kind of surprise late bloomer at age 28 -- certainly more of an exception rather than the rule, which is was a positive Hicks career might be too.


If I had more time, I'd look to see which players shared Hicks's pedigree (1st round pick, top 100 prospect, etc) because I think that pedigree still works in his favor, at least for a couple more seasons. Most of the guys on that list are not former high-round picks, I would guess.

As for power, Hicks did slug .460 as a 22-year-old in AA in 2012. That's not superstar power, but it's really good for a would-be CF. His isolated power in a truly disappointing rookie season still ranked 149 out of 276 MLB players with 300 or more PAs. Again, not great, but power was actually one of the few things that I thought wasn't a complete negative for Hicks in 2013.

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#38 LaBombo

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:30 PM

It's odd that Hunter and Revere's names have come up so frequently, and yet there's been no mention of two other former Twins outfielders, Rich Becker and Bobby Kielty.

Yes, Kielty was less athletic than Hicks and not a center fielder, but they were both switch hitters who were vastly (for Kielty, historically, it turns out) better from one side of the plate, and they were also low-average hitters who struggled to make contact despite being patient and adept at drawing walks.

Here's a link to an article about the relative rarity of switch hitters dropping switch hitting at the major league level. There are a few notable names (including Becker), but it's a pretty short list.

Then there's another one specifically about why the bleep Kielty never gave up switch hitting despite the largest switch hitter platoon split in history, and his weak side being the more frequently used left-handed side. He never stopped switch hitting despite lingering in AAA until age 35.

#39 LaBombo

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:38 PM

If I had more time, I'd look to see which players shared Hicks's pedigree (1st round pick, top 100 prospect, etc) because I think that pedigree still works in his favor, at least for a couple more seasons.

But the offensive bar rises to 'corner outfielder' the day Buxton enters the lineup as a center fielder. That may not be this year, but it won't be two full seasons from now. Not unless something goes so wrong with Buxton that it positively dwarfs the disappointment with Hicks so far.

So Hicks will have to improve considerably at the plate just to tread water in a corner spot, and he'll need to basically become a completely new hitter to be a real asset. It could happen, and there's no reason not to keep sending him out there and hoping for the best, but it doesn't look good.

#40 Siehbiscuit

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 03:00 PM

But the offensive bar rises to 'corner outfielder' the day Buxton enters the lineup as a center fielder. That may not be this year, but it won't be two full seasons from now. Not unless something goes so wrong with Buxton that it positively dwarfs the disappointment with Hicks so far.

So Hicks will have to improve considerably at the plate just to tread water in a corner spot, and he'll need to basically become a completely new hitter to be a real asset. It could happen, and there's no reason not to keep sending him out there and hoping for the best, but it doesn't look good.


Keith Law said in the off-season (paraphrasing) that when Buxton is ready to come North that Hicks (if he's become an everyday caliber player) will be shopped. His ability to play centerfield will make him valuable to other teams. Law said that Hicks will never have the bat to justify putting in a corner OF position.