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Article: Breaking Bad: Aaron Hicks' Early Struggles

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#1 Parker Hageman

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 11:46 PM

You can view the page at http://twinsdaily.co...Early-Struggles

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#2 jimbo92107

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 12:36 AM

Yeah, he's got the wrong idea of how to adjust to different speeds. First, his rhythm is off, he's shifting his weight forward too soon. However, this isn't the problem, it's a symptom of the problem, which is that Hicks doesn't know how to adjust the size of the loop of his hands to the speed of the pitch. If it's a slow pitch, you do a big loop; faster pitch, smaller loop. If somebody tosses you a ball slowly, you follow the arc upwards, then downwards. If they throw it flat and hard, you do a smaller up-down.

Also, notice that as he extends his arms he's pushing his butt away from the strike zone, what I call "Doing The French Mistake" (h/t, Blazing Saddles). This is a great way to eliminate your ability to cover the far side of the plate, as well as getting rid of any significant power in your swing. No wonder Hicks has no home runs from the left side. He's long to, short through the ball, which makes him a sucker for dying duck curves like in the example.

Kevin Youkilis solved this problem by getting his hands up and forward, then pointing the bat head literally at the pitcher. He does let his hands come down to a more conventional position as he shifts his weight forward, and this is what lets him adjust the size of his loop during pitch recognition to be short to various speeds of pitch, with a good, long sweep through the hitting zone. Maybe that will work for Hicks.

#3 glunn

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 12:40 AM

I love how Parker always explains the problem and then proposes a solution. I hope that someone from the Twins reads this article.

#4 RodneyKline

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 02:20 AM

He is not in a slump. He is overmatched and has lost his confidence. He has no plan up at the plate. He needs to go to AAA to get his head together and build some confidence back. He can't even hit a fast ball any longer. He will eventually be a good hitter if they get him out of there and let him get his confidence back before he comes back. This happens to most young players. Span had issues. Carlos Gomez had big issues. It just happened to Ben Revere last year. Revere had to go back down a couple times before he was up to stay.

#5 clutterheart

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 02:57 AM

That AB was really bad. I remember seeing that live. I almost feel like the catcher felt sorry for him.

#6 Old Twins Cap

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 06:45 AM

With the Twins winning, Hicks could struggle and the team could put up with it. But, when the Twins lose, and the offense doesn't click, then everyone's problems are magnified. Without some kind of change in approach, and the Twins in sputter mode, there will be no alternative but to send the kid out. Funny how night and day Hicks is between Spring Training and the regular season.

#7 birdwatcher

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 07:34 AM

Parker, I always look forward to your articles. Thanks for your great analysis. And jimbo, thanks for your terrific insight. Very interesting stuff.

#8 70charger

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 09:33 AM

Aside from Tuesday, has he ever been given a day off?

#9 Dave T

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 09:41 AM

Mastroianni was injured, so, no.

#10 70charger

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 10:08 AM

Mastroianni was injured, so, no.


Right. Forgot about that injury. Tough situation to be in with pretty much no one to fall back on in center field.

#11 ashburyjohn

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 10:36 AM

I can't disagree with any of the points in the article (and wouldn't be qualified to comment on the fundamentals of hitting), but if I were writing I would take a different tack on "The first key to improvement is avoiding falling behind in the count so frequently." If pitchers are throwing strikes on the first pitch more often than not, then taking the first pitch means falling behind often. So I'd make the first key "Punish pitchers who throw first-pitch strikes". I don't mean swing at anything - sometimes it will be a ball, and sometimes it will be a "pitcher's pitch" that would get you out even if it's a strike. No, just a more aggressive approach that means if you see a pitch you like, whack at it.

And if *that* doesn't work, if you're swinging at strikes and still not raising that batting average, well, maybe it's indeed time for AAA after all.

#12 TwinsMusings

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:10 AM

Interesting analysis and comments. One more factor that is most likely contributing to his struggles is the lead-off hitter's role, at least in part, is to see lots of pitches to help the hitters behind him in the lineup. Is Hicks taking too many first pitches that are good pitches to hit because he wants to extend the first at bat?

#13 Aaron Cross

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:15 AM

Drop hicks to 9th and bat mauer leadoff. Problem solved.

#14 Willihammer

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:23 AM

Interesting analysis and comments. One more factor that is most likely contributing to his struggles is the lead-off hitter's role, at least in part, is to see lots of pitches to help the hitters behind him in the lineup. Is Hicks taking too many first pitches that are good pitches to hit because he wants to extend the first at bat?


I suspect thats how he's been coached. It is his "job" to look at pitch one strike one, by virtue of his spot in the order.

#15 Aaron Cross

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:26 AM

People get so bent out of shape over batting order, like its an art or something, when its pretty simple. Mauer is your best OB guy. Bat him leadoff. So what if he cant steal a base? Then put your best hitters at the top of the order and your worst hitters at the bottom of the order. Its a simple game, and we over-analyze it to death.

#16 kab21

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:36 AM

I suspect thats how he's been coached. It is his "job" to look at pitch one strike one, by virtue of his spot in the order.


I would consider to be his natural approach to hitting since he has done this at every level regardless of lineup position. He's a patient hitter but I'm not surprised that this approach doesn't initially lead to struggles jumping to the majors. Long-term it should yield very good results though.

#17 ashburyjohn

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 03:00 PM

I suspect thats how he's been coached. It is his "job" to look at pitch one strike one, by virtue of his spot in the order.


That's an excellent observation, and it's incumbent on his coaches to work around that or modify it or whatever. "Joe, for this series we're going to have Aaron try to shake things up on first-pitch, give him the green light, so it'll be up to you to take some extra pitches in the 2-slot to kind of work the pitcher over." Which of course is right in Joe's comfort zone anyway. Actually, as many first-pitches as Josh and Justin take, the top of the order will hardly notice if Hicks hacks a bit more. Right now it's more important to get Hicks going than it is to run up 100 pitches on the opposing starter by the 6th versus the 7th.

#18 mako83

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 09:48 PM

Is this organization to afraid of saving face for those trades, that they wont do anything to help him. New leadoff hitter flormion or escobar for a couple games, make him swing at the first pitch if its in the zone, give him a day off once a while.

#19 Oldgoat_MN

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 11:33 PM

I appreciate that in an ideal situation the lead-off hitter would take some pitches. I mean, when you get to the playoffs they will.... oh, wait.
With a couple of weeks practice I could hit .051 and I'm 200 years old! (possible exaggeration)

Hicks should be sent to AAA and Benson should be called up. He can't hit? Who will be able to tell the difference?

It would give Benson one last chance to earn the spot we (many of us) expected him to be in today anyway. Hicks can go learn how to hit a fastball again and maybe even a breaking ball.

In his defense, the difference in pitching from AA to MLB is night and day. It's not surprising that he is overmatched. Give him time. But make that time in AAA.

P.S. Until tonight's game I was all for keeping him in MLB and moving him down in the order. No longer. He needs to go away for a long lesson. He is really bad right now. I'd rather have the pitcher bat.

#20 fairweather

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 04:34 AM

I'm sure many will think I'm over-reacting but I think he should quit switch hitting. He looks absolutely awful from the left side.