A little less than a month ago, I wrote about Aaron Hicks and his slow start. Since then, it really hasn’t gotten better. Hicks is still scuffling at the plate, to be generous, despite some flashes here and there.
Back then, the issue was strikeout rate and pop-up rate. The former has come down to a more manageable level at about 24%, but that’s still high for him. The latter number has ticked up to 16.1%, so he’s still getting under things too much.
At the time, the one positive for Hicks was his walk rate, checking in at the 63rd percentile in MLB. Now, that’s dropped down to 58. Still better than average, but way off for Hicks, who’s routinely in the mid to high 90’s with his walk rate percentiles. Last year and at other times, walks kept Hicks’ production afloat.
This year, they’re dropping and that’s concerning when he’s not hitting. Let’s take a look at why.
The logical place to start is, as always, chase rate. Is Hicks expanding the zone? The answer is yes, on all pitch types. After what were essentially career low chase rates in 2020, he’s setting career highs in the worst way.
It seems as if Hicks’ normally patient approach, that’s paired with good strike zone judgement, is faltering a bit this year. To boot, he’s got a first pitch swing % of 27.4, a mark so high he hasn’t hit it since 2016. We should note that, per B-R, he’s 1-11 on the first pitch this year, so even when he’s trying to jump on something, it’s not working.
Perhaps that’s because, first pitch or not, he’s not attacking the right pitches. His meatball swing% is down to a career low 73.1%. If he’s letting good pitches go by and then chasing other ones, well, you can guess what happens.
If there’s any consolation here, it’s that, per Statcast, he’s got some positive regression coming…maybe. His “X” stats, expected stats, show he should be doing better, but…he’s not. Maybe once he stops chasing and stops getting so under the ball things will even out. There’s still plenty of time.