Over the course of this fantastic season, perhaps more than anyone else, Aaron Hicks has fallen out of favor with much of the Yankee fanbase. This is not without valid reason; even after last night’s heroics, he has been a below-average hitter overall, and has hit for almost no power this year. All of this is also happening in the shadow of several stellar starts from the Yankees’ biggest sluggers, along with a few resurgences from players who were also struggling.
The title of this piece is not meant to say that Hicks has been good this season, as he has not. But he has been at times, and at others, has struggled more than ever. In April, and now two-thirds of the way through June, he has been a very solid contributor. In May, he was one of the worst players in baseball. Hicks has obviously struggled, but he’s having a nice month so far and his season numbers might be a bit misleading.
Overall, Hicks has a 95 wRC+ in 2022. Obviously, this is not where you would want him, but it may be a bit closer to average than what might be indicated from watching him this season. That number is probably a little misleading too, as the disparity between his April/June and his May has been dramatic.
Perhaps most importantly, Hicks has been good recently. As of the end of play of June 19th, the outfielder has put up a 134 wRC+ this month, while posting an on-base percentage over .400. He has also begun hitting the ball harder and more in line with his standards. He’s doing it more often as well, with a hard-hit rate of 40 percent, much higher than the lackluster rates he was putting up in April and May.
Hicks is also making better decisions at the plate, which has likely help lead to the aforementioned improvements. In April and May, he contrasted the rest of the lineup by being extremely selective at the plate. So far in June, he has upped his overall swing percentage while actually lowering his swing percentage on pitches outside of the zone. Hicks is maintaining his selectivity at the plate, but is beginning to attack strikes with a higher frequency — as both of his recent game-winning hits demonstrated:
As Hicks continues to hit the ball harder, as well as in the air and to the pull side more often, this is an encouraging change to see.
The story of Hicks’ season so far, has largely been its oddness. Not only has there been incredible discrepancy between his production in different portions of the season, but when he has been successful, he’s done it in unusual fashion. In April for instance, he hit to the tune of a 137 wRC+, a very solid number and the third-best in the Yankee lineup. He did this while walking nearly 18 percent of the time and notching just one extra-base hit.
Then came May. The month brought plenty of struggles for the outfielder, and brought down all of his numbers with it. He hit for an abysmal 27 wRC+, walked less, struck out nearly twice as often, and slashed .127/.253/.141 as the hometown fans booed him. His wRC+ was the fifth-worst in the majors among players with 80 plate appearances, and his .014 ISO was at the very bottom in the sport.
Essentially, Hicks was among the better contributors in the New York lineup in April, and has been once again so far in June as well. He also happened to split that with one of the worst months in the Majors in May.
Although Hicks’ stretches of productivity have been achieved in a weird manner, and likely not the ideal manner, he has been good at times, even with his measly five total extra-base hits. I would venture to say that he won’t be a 130 wRC+ hitter for the rest of the season, but he’s much closer to that than he is to a sub-30 mark.
The lack of any real power whatsoever, is of course concerning, and would put a cap on how productive Hicks can be. But even if it is diminished, this could still be a bit flukey. Regardless, he has had positive stretches, and his overall numbers have been dragged down quite a bit by a miserable month in the middle. Hicks is looking a bit better of late, and is making good decisions at the plate. Even if it’s just a league-average presence, Hicks may still have something to provide to this lineup.