Aaron Hicks is having one of the strangest starts to a season I can remember. His month-to-month splits are beyond confusing. He was solid in the first month with a 137 wRC+ despite a .367 slugging percentage. He followed that up with a dreadful 27 wRC+ in May where his power disintegrated completely. In June, he has been nothing short of excellent with a 147 wRC+ while boosting his power numbers up to a .434 slug on the month. He’s had a few big hits and continues to get on base at an elite rate.
Over the weekend, he had a handful of crucial at-bats against the Rays and Jays, but one in particular was a standout to me. On Saturday, in a tough situation, he managed to get ahead in the count against the strike-throwing Alek Manoah and laced a bases-clearing double. It was a great swing in a big spot against a division rival. The kind of at-bat that gives you a big jolt of confidence. Before diving into the at-bat, I want you to look at the swing he took against Manoah in his first at-bat.
This is a perfect pitch from Manoah. Your goal when throwing this is to get a rollover. Perfect execution and perfect outcome. Hicks tends to over rotate in his lefty swing. This is a perfect example of that. The low and away location is a nightmare for him when he over rotates like this. Now, let’s jump into the at-bat in the fourth inning.
After starting the previous at-bat with a changeup, Manoah switched it up and went to the high fastball, which was called a ball but was a borderline pitch. This is a good take from Hicks. It’s not a good pitch to do damage on. My favorite thing about this take is that even though he only half swings, you can tell he is in swing mode. He wants to do damage on something in the zone and come through with a clutch hit. Extremely controlled aggression. 1-0 count.
Same exact pitch and Hicks takes an aggressive hack. Unfortunately, he fouled it back, but you can tell by the timing and swing control that he is on this one. He got a little too spinny and lost his barrel a bit, but you hope that he feels that and adjusts accordingly. 1-1 count.
For somebody with a feel for the strike zone as good as Hicks, this is an easy take. It’s a nasty diving changeup but he is obviously locked in on zone. After rolling over on a similar pitch, albeit that one was in the zone, he made the conscious adjustment to not attack this pitch unless it was necessary. 2-1 count.
Yes, yes, yes, no. That’s exactly what is going on in Hicks’ head as this ball travels to the plate. Another very good take where you can see his hands entering the swing zone early enough to get a fastball in his ideal zone. He is ready to hit in an advantage count. With a 3-1 count, expect to see the same mindset from Hicks. As far as Manoah is concerned, he is an attack-first pitcher. He won’t fool around with a batter. He will give him his best stuff and say hit it.
Well, Hicks definitely hit this one. After over rotating on a changeup low in the zone in his first at-bat, he makes the conscious adjustment to stay locked and loaded in his hip and fire away at the right time.
In May, we got used to Hicks missing these. This month has been a completely different story. He is punishing hittable pitches. He doesn’t need to be a big home run masher. All it takes is the gap-to-gap swing and his great plate discipline for him to make his own unique contribution to the team. It’s happening more and more often, and this swing against Manoah was icing on the cake.