Aaron Hill improved his power game in a big way last season, breaking the Blue Jays’ record for doubles by a second baseman (41) by one, and tying the home run record (17). But he also struck out a lot and lost (number) points off his OBP. Towards the end of the year he went on fire, cutting down on his K’s and getting a lot more hits. Could he have been swinging for the fences a little too much after getting off to a torrid start?
One point of interest is his performance in 3-1 counts. Over the season, Hill went 3-16, with 2 home runs and a double. 16 balls in play is not a lot to go by, but if you look at the breakdown in results of the pitches recorded by pitch f/x, he also fouled off over 40% of all 3-1 pitches, almost twice as many as any other count.
Maybe he was trying too hard to hammer that pitch? They were good pitches to hit: 29/37 (78%) of those measured were 4-seam fastballs and only 2 were breaking pitches. He was right to be hacking away at them, but that’s a lot of grooved fastballs that he knew were coming down the middle and didn’t really do much with except foul off. At that rate over the full season, this would project to:
66 3-1 pitches
51 4-seam (non-sinking) fastballs
27 foul balls
16 taken for strikes
2 swinging strikes
So maybe he was getting a little too excited in that particular hitter’s count, as opposed to those earlier in the at-bat (such as 2-0, where he was much more selective, letting 64% of pitches go b). He also only swung at 22% of first pitches! So at least he’s trying to work the count occasionally.
Even at the cost of a little power next season, it would be nice if Hill could get on base a little more and settle into the #2 slot for the Jays’ future. He has such a quick, compact swing and maybe he was just trying to do too much with it at times last year as Brantley was trying (successfully) to develop his power. Consider this the first test of Gary Denbo- to mold a still-developing Aaron Hill into the kind of hitter that best matches his tools as he enters his prime.