Friday, July 17, 2009

Why Aaron Hill is good but not great at the plate

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not harping on Aaron Hill - he had a phenomenal first half of the season and deserves all the accolades and praise he is getting. But there are a couple of reasons why I think Aaron Hill is a good hitter and not a great hitter.

The first red flag is Hill’s .333 on base percentage. That’s just 41 points above his .292 batting average; it’s good but not great. A quick glance at similar players like Ian Kinsler shows that his on base percentage is 77 points higher than his batting average. So first thing’s first, Aaron Hill needs to draw more walks and be a little more like his teammate Marco Scutaro whose OBP is 95 points higher than his batting average.

The second red flag that tells us where Aaron Hill needs to improve his game is base on balls percentage which is correlated with OBP. Over the course of his career, Hill has seen his BB% steadily decline and this season it sits at 5.5 percent. That basically means 5.5% of all Aaron Hill’s at bats result in a walk.

Finally, the third and most glaring of red flags is Aaron Hill’s first pitch swinging percentage. This is something that I’ve picked up on lately and noticed about Hill for most of the season, that he goes after the first pitch quite often. The numbers don’t lie; 38 percent of the time Aaron Hill swings at the first pitch.

So is this a lack of plate discipline or is it just an aggressive approach? Since 66.4 percent of pitches are first pitch strikes to Aaron Hill, that can probably explain why he has been so successful at increasing his home run total; the first pitch is often the best one to hit.

After 90 games, I think that opposing pitchers have finally caught on that Hill is swinging for the fences on the first pitch and have adjusted accordingly. Hill on the other hand, has not. He needs to work towards pushing the count and making the pitcher work more rather than just taking the green light on the first pitch.

I think by making these adjustments, Aaron Hill can adapt into a truly feared hitter in the American League. With a little more patience and a little more discipline at the plate, Aaron Hill can cross into the stratosphere of superstar second basemen.

Amateur research backed by stats from Baseball Reference and Fan Graphs

5 comments:

  1. Great analysis. The OBP keeps Hill from becoming one of the elite hitters in the game. It will be interesting to see if the first pitch strike percentage ot AHill drops in the second half.

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  2. Good work Ian. I think a key for Aaron Hill in the future is walking the line between aggressive and predictable. Vernon Wells is aggressive but pull happy, thus making him an easy out if you make your pitch. Aaron Hill excels at using the whole field and driving outside pitches the other way.

    Compare his hot zone to Vernons. Vernon doesn't seem capable of dealing with the outside pitch nearly as well.

    I won't begrudge his lowish OBP if he continues providing big time pop and uses the entire field. Ichiro doesn't really walk but he's still awesome.

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  3. Thanks for the comments, guys. I was apprehensive about posting this because I knew you guys are better at doing stat analysis and crunching numbers ... so I guess this one actually worked out well!

    I had a hunch that Hill was a little swing happy early in the count and it just so happens that the numbers matched up.

    Drew, thanks for linking to the Hot Zones - I've never seen those before, they're very telling about the differences between Hill and Rios. Hill only really has trouble low inside where Vernon has trouble with pitches at the belt and below.

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  4. Great post, Ian. Hill's still pretty young. I think he's got the work ethic and the smarts to take his game to the next level. Here's hoping it happens before we give him a Vernon Wells style contract.

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  5. I keep forgetting that Hill is only in his 5th major league season. Hopefully this is something that Tenace will work on with Aaron in the offseason.

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