Player Update: What Happened to Aaron Hicks?
|Photo credit: MLB.com|
We haven’t seen much of Aaron Hicks over the past few years. In 2019, he only made 59 game appearances and in 2021, he made 32 game appearances, all thanks to injuries. Yankees fans were excited for Hicks’ return in 2022, but with that excitement has come disappointment with his performance at the plate.
At present, Hicks is hitting .213, with one home run and seven (yes, SEVEN) RBIs. He still draws a decent amount of walks -- 19 so far on the season – but has also struck out 22 times in 89 at-bats. And while he’s stolen five bases, he’s been caught stealing twice.
Over the course of the past few games, Hicks doesn’t even appear as though he’s looking for a resurgence. His contribution on May 15 was, as per usual, a walk, albeit with the bases loaded. He recorded one hit in the 10-4 blowout of the White Sox on May 13, and while his teammates managed to bring 15 runs to the plate on May 12, Hicks went 0-for-5 without even a walk.
In watching Hicks’ ABs, the strikeouts are an obvious problem, but he has also failed to come up big in important spots. Over four plate appearances with two outs and RISP, he's recorded one hit in those spots with one RBI. In situations with a High Leverage Index, Hicks doesn't even have a batting average (yes, .000). Yet, in situations with a Low Leverage Index, Hicks' batting average is .257. Still not great, but much better than zero than in High Leverage Index situations.
While Aaron Boone has tried moving Hicks to a lower position in the lineup (he batted ninth on May 13th and 15th) and has also tried resting Hicks (he came in the game only to pinch run on May 14th) to “stop the bleeding,” the Yankees have an Aaron Hicks problem and it’s not going to change with rest or changes in batting order.
So, what seems to be the problem? When asked by the New York Post if the surgically repaired torn sheath in Hicks’ left wrist is still giving him trouble, he answered, “The wrist is great.” However, while the wrist injury itself is not the immediate cause, lost playing time as a result of the injury has been identified as part of the problem.
“I just think a lot of it is seeing big league pitching and how it’s evolved and changed,’’ Hicks told the Post. “There’s more offspeed stuff now than fastballs and I’m trying to game plan against it.”
Is the reasoning of lost playing time since 2019 legitimate, or is it an excuse? It’s difficult to analyze with certainty. It is an issue that has plagued other players (the Post article cites Mark Teixiera having the same problem when he suffered a similar wrist injury to Hicks). So, if lost playing time truly is the reason for Hicks’ problems at the plate, Boone keeping him out of the lineup isn’t going to solve the problem.
Predictably, Boone has stayed positive with the press when discussing Hicks’ issues.
“The one thing Aaron’s doing really well right now is still getting on base,” Boone told Newsday Long Island’s Erik Boland.
To sum up, Hicks’ disappointing offensive numbers have not halted the Yankees in their current upward trajectory -- they’re still comfortably in first place in the A.L. East at 27-9, 5.5 games ahead of the second-place Rays. Hicks’ teammates have contributed enough that his lack of contributions (as well as a notable recent lack of offensive contributions from Kyle Higashioka and Isiah Kiner-Falefa) have essentially not mattered. But Judgey and Big G can’t do everything all the time. If Hicks has continued issues at the plate, something in his game needs to change.