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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

#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.

#21 PeanutsFromHeaven

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 07:35 AM

I know the focus on Hicks' performance is first and foremost in the minds of dedicated Twins followers, and the explanation of his struggles is both logical and clear. But the thing that makes me keep coming back for more on this site is this:

[COLOR=#3E3E3E]He probably has visions of scorching liners into the right-center gap or sending a shot into the overhang in right field. He pictured himself dancing off of first and swindling second with blaze of dust behind him. Instead, he has made so little contact at the plate that his bat is going through separation anxiety.[/COLOR]


Great writing, just great.

#22 Shane Wahl

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 08:16 AM

I would tell him that he should be a bit more free-swinging before I would move him in the order or demote him. They probably should have told him that a few games ago. I can imagine it being difficult with one's first taste of the big leagues as having to be a patient leadoff hitter while struggling at the plate. That's gotta be hectic. Compare that to Brian Dinkelman who hit .300 in his limited time because it was basically his only shot, he knew it, and he was a honey badger at the plate. Hicks needs to get more honey badger in him.

#23 h2oface

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 05:21 PM

I want Hicks to succeed as much as anyone, but the dream is over. At least for now. 3 more K's today. Paralyzed by hope. Time to make the change.

#24 ThePuck

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 05:25 PM

I want Hicks to succeed as much as anyone, but the dream is over. At least for now. 3 more K's today. Paralyzed by hope. Time to make the change.


Gardy was just asked if he was gonna move Hicks down in the lineup and he said 'no'...then he said, 'I'll let you know when I'm gonna do it so you don't have to keep asking every day.'

Classy...

#25 Pius Jefferson

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 07:07 PM

Gardy was just asked if he was gonna move Hicks down in the lineup and he said 'no'...then he said, 'I'll let you know when I'm gonna do it so you don't have to keep asking every day.'

Classy...


Gardy is really starting to lose it. I guess with no safey net (contract) he's got nothing to lose.

#26 StormJH1

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 07:11 PM

Aaron Gleeman was right about this, but not for the reasons I thought he might be right. I wasn't overly concerned about the arbitration stuff or the 2019 free agency. But if he's going to play THIS bad (and there really aren't any signs as to why that might change), Gardy's absolutely poisoning Hicks by trotting him out there every day. Poisoning him with the fans, who were told this guy was the "next big thing", but more importantly, poisoning Hicks' own confidence in his abilities. After dreaming of being in the bigs your whole life, it'd have to be hard to resist the temptation to think about that Billy Beane montage from the beginning of Moneyball.

#27 ashburyjohn

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 08:29 PM

Hicks also went after the first pitch on a couple of occasions today - bunted once (foul), swung once (missed). Also took two first-pitches for a ball, so it's not like he was automatically lunging at everything. I dunno, at this point I'd be inclined to put him out of his misery and send him to Rochester, but I keep hoping one more game and he breaks through.

#28 Alex

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 09:39 PM

Aaron Gleeman was right about this, but not for the reasons I thought he might be right. I wasn't overly concerned about the arbitration stuff or the 2019 free agency. But if he's going to play THIS bad (and there really aren't any signs as to why that might change), Gardy's absolutely poisoning Hicks by trotting him out there every day. Poisoning him with the fans, who were told this guy was the "next big thing", but more importantly, poisoning Hicks' own confidence in his abilities. After dreaming of being in the bigs your whole life, it'd have to be hard to resist the temptation to think about that Billy Beane montage from the beginning of Moneyball.


It's clear at this point, imo, that his anointing was poor evaluation by the Twins. Additionally, it kept them from filling CF with at least a stop gap this season, for which they are likely scrambling for now. Sure, they can give it to Maestro, but they still need someone to play a decent backup unless they are going to try Benson or Clete Thomas.

I know Nick tweeted something about him now knowing what he needs to learn when he gets sent back down, but I think that's a really optimistic view and I really think it's nearly impossible to justify his spot on the major league team right now and the initial handing of the starting spot. I didn't even think he'd be this bad, and I even allowed myself to hope a bit after spring training (even though I don't put stock in it myself).

What frustrates me even more is the patience they've had with Hicks while Hendriks gets sent back down even those he's had moments where he's been pretty good. It doesn't fit for me. I do think they had to give Hicks some time once he's been up, but much more of this....I just think the different handling of the two situations is odd.

Edited by Alex, 13 April 2013 - 09:41 PM.


#29 h2oface

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 07:17 PM

Hey........ the cancellation on Sunday means that HicKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKs (I think I got all 20 in) didn't strike out today!

#30 Nick Nelson

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 10:31 PM

I agree that Hicks is obviously overwhelmed and should be sent down at this point, but I don't think that necessarily means the Twins made the wrong choice by bringing him north out of spring training. When he gets demoted (which I'm guessing will occur this week) he'll head to Triple-A with a clear idea of what he needs to work on, and when he returns he'll be fully prepared for what's coming. Meanwhile, the whole service time debate becomes totally moot, as expected.