Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Aaron Hill: From Regression to Resurgance


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It was not all that long ago that many (including myself) had already written off the 2010 season for Aaron Hill and his partner in crime Adam Lind.

At first, it didn't seem so bad because others such as Jose Bautista, Alex Gonzalez and John Buck were picking up the slack. Eventually though, the facade was revealed and behind it stood a slumping Aaron Hill.

It got to the point where I could no longer defend the actions of the Silver Sluggers from last season. I can't tell you how many times I heard the phrase "if Hill and Lind can turn it around ... yadda yadda yadda ... this team could do some damage".

I think the low water mark for Aaron Hill was back on June 24th when he was dropped down from the coveted two slot in the lineup. Since then, Hill struggled to get his batting average up above the Mendoza Line but finally climbed the mountain on July 20th.

Now here we are though in the final three weeks left in the season and an interesting thing is starting to happen: Aaron Hill is hitting his power stride once again. 

His BABIP continues to be ridiculously low at .204, however Fangraphs had a great article a few weeks back explaining troubles with batting average on balls in play and attributes it to Hill's increased fly ball rate.

Consider it the opposite of the Jose Bautista effect: while Jose has increased the degree of loft on his swing and is hitting more balls out of the park, Aaron Hill is doing the same but more are turning into fly outs.

Aaron Hill really doesn't have the kind of towering swing that Jose Bautista does. Hill is more of a line-drive home run hitter, and any slight adjustment in his swing is probably going to have a more more significant effect on his home run totals compared to a player who is your typical home run hitter.

I'm not exactly sure what got into Aaron Hill after the All-Star break, but it seems to be working. Since the break, Hill is hitting .259/.304/.494 with 11 home runs and 26 RBI's.

Does it have anything to do with him hitting predominantly in the number six spot in the lineup? The answer is arguable, but I believe having a hacker like Hill down there plays better to his strengths.

Maybe Cito was trying to have Aaron Hill do too much by plugging him into the lineup card as the go-to number two hitter. Getting on base isn't really Hill's strong suit and that is a big requirement for your prototypical number two guy.

Over the final three weeks of the season, Aaron Hill will likely see a parade of September call-up spot starters and hopefully he will continue his path to resurgence.

The last few months have been very promising and are very quickly painting a positive picture for the Blue Jays second baseman for 2011 and beyond.

8 comments:

  1. It's still an ok thing that 22 home runs can be considered a terrible year. If he gets his average up by .50 points then I think all of those option years are a bargain(providing the power and defence are still there).

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  2. That's the thing Mattt, we all expected Hill to drop off a little bit compared to 2009 ... but not nearly this much.

    The black sheep is that batting average, but since his BABIP is so damn low, hopefully his AVG does bounce back and the Jays pick up those options.

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  3. Hill's OPS since July 1 is .783

    It's just that it was a very deep hole.

    He has 12 homers in those 53 games - which is a pace equal to last season.

    I think the "real" Aaron Hill is beginning to look like a low OBP guy who's gonna hit 30-35 homers during his peak years.

    Maybe his effort to draw more walks early on is what messed him up?

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  4. Southpaw, and those numbers really aren't that bad at all - maybe they're just trying to get him to do too much? Like you mentioned, I think he's just going to be a player who doesn't draw all that many walks, but who can hit for power. There's no sense in trying to transform Hill into something he's not.

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  5. I was going to post about this back in May about how Hill's terrible season isn't a fluke (and how Bautista's isn't either) and he should be sent back to the minors to work on his swing.

    His BABIP is not a fluke, because his linedrive rate is only at 10.2% vs his career linedrive rate of 18.6%, a number dragged down by his current season. Linedrive rate becomes stable at around 150 plate appearances. Hill is at 502. That would have to be one hell of an outlier for it not to be a fluke.

    You also can't say "he's like Bautista except his flyballs aren't dropping for hits". Bautista's flyball rate rose while his linedrive rate stayed the same. His increased flyballs are entirely from balls that use to be grounders. Hill's new flyballs are entirely from balls that used to be linedrives. Thay is a significant distinction.

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  6. Peter, all great points. I don't know if Hill is TRYING to pull the ball more this season, but it seems like he's getting underneath it a lot more in 2010.

    Again, this is all an unsubstantiated guess on my part, but I'm not exactly sure what the solution is for Aaron Hill other than hit the cage over and over and over.

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  7. Honestly? A nice long offseason is probably all he needs to get out of whatever bad habits he's gotten into this year. It's the same reason I hated the Rios waiving so much.

    Actually, now that I think about it, Rios' swing last year looked broken in the same ways Hill's does this year i.e. uppercutting like crazy, falling backwards during his swing. It wouldn't surprise me if this a result of some bad coaching.

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  8. Peter, Rios' swing did seem different last year as well, didn't he? Maybe the combination of the off-season and some extra work with Murph and whoever is the next manager will cure whatever is ailing Hill. It's not like he needs to re-tool his swing from scratch, just a little bit of fine-tuning, that's all.

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