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Where has Aaron Hicks’ power gone?

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Hicks’ power output has decreased dramatically, and there may be a change in approach to blame.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

All in all, Aaron Hicks has had an extremely successful 2018 season. By WAR, he has been the Yankees’ third-best player. As hard as that may seem to believe, it makes sense! He gets on base, has good power, is a plus fielder and also one of the club’s top base-stealers. He even has the team’s third-best walk rate and fourth-best strikeout rate.

Despite this, Hicks’ excellent season has somewhat flown under the radar at times. Part of this is because Hicks has long been labeled as “streaky.” And during the stretch run, Hicks’ power has totally disappeared. He has just 11 extra base hits since the All-Star Break! While his overall offensive output has also dropped, he hasn’t been a total zero at the plate, either. But where has his power gone? This has gone on too long to be just a slump.

Hicks may have made a small change in approach that has both helped and hurt him as a hitter. Take a look at his pull-center-opposite field percentage graph:

Hicks is pulling the ball much less since the All-Star Break. This isn’t usually a bad thing! Hitters who can hit to all fields are incredibly valuable. Hicks was getting shifted on more frequently this year, and he solved that problem by pulling the ball less. That in itself is a remarkable feat that few pull hitters can execute.

However, there is a catch. Hicks is hitting for way less hard contact over these last two months. To the graph, we go:

Even though he’s been a more complete hitter, Hicks has become a less powerful one. For a switch-hitter in the middle of the Yankees’ order, he needs to provide more power than the .383 SLG he’s put up since the All-Star Break. While it’s great that Hicks has been hitting to all fields, the Yankees need him to start swatting homers again, even if that means sacrificing some batted ball versatility.

Hicks is also swinging significantly less as the season has gone on. Take a look at this graph:

As is usually the case when evaluating Hicks, things are tricky. Hicks has always been a patient hitter, but lately, he’s barely swinging at 33 percent of pitches! This wouldn’t be too noteworthy if it wasn’t affecting his walk and strikeout rates. However, they have both climbed. In kind, Hicks’ on-base percentage has skyrocketed since the All-Star Break, but his average has sagged.

It’s understandable to see why Hicks tried to change things up. He was accused of being a Yankee Stadium special when he succeeded earlier this year, as his lefty swing parlayed itself into many Bronx dingers. He was also seeing more and more defensive shifts deployed against him. However, with the playoffs right around the corner, Hicks needs to get back to being himself again. He is one of the Yankees’ most important players, and he could be a real x-factor in the playoffs if he gets on one of those patented Aaron Hicks hot streaks. A small change in approach could make it all possible.