We’re certainly NOT here to insert ourselves into the largely angry conversation focusing on the New York Yankees‘ decision to bat Aaron Hicks third, but providing some context should help all parties.
Hicks, though he worked a two-out, bases-loaded walk on Monday night in the team’s 7-0 win, has been the textbook definition of awful through his first four games.
Eighteen plate appearances. One hit. Slashing .067/.222/.067. Three walks. Two RBI. A -15 OPS+. Ugh.
Is that a big enough sample size to judge whether the veteran slugger can handle duties in the three-hole? Absolutely not.
So, initially, when manager Aaron Boone faced questions about the topic after Sunday’s loss, he tried to fan the flames by insisting it wasn’t a big enough sample size to make a judgement, he wasn’t necessarily wrong.
But we do have a larger sample size of Hicks’ history batting third in addition to his tendencies as a hitter, which could indicate the Yankees are missing the bigger picture here.
Hicks has actually appeared in the three-hole the second-most times of any spot in the lineup in his career. We have 101 games to sift through. His 150 appearances batting eighth are his highest total.
Nonetheless, here are the numbers:
- .229/.351/.415 with 49 runs scored, 14 home runs, 53 RBI, 61 walks and 96 strikeouts
For reference, Hicks’ best career numbers by far come when he’s batting sixth:
- 62 games slashing .287/.384/.483 with 30 runs scored, eight home runs, 29 RBI, 28 walks and 39 strikeouts
If the Yankees are being honest with themselves, the only reason Hicks is hitting third is because of the righty imbalance in the lineup. Hicks is a switch-hitter, so the need for someone to hit from the other side of the plate closer to the top of the lineup is dire, especially when your other lefty hitters are Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman — two bench players.
Lindsey Adler of The Athletic broke down what went into the Yankees’ decision to put Hicks there in the lineup, and a couple of the logical factors were his extremely low double-play rate and high walk percentage.
But what about his strikeout percentage? Chase percentage? Contact percentage? Batting average on balls in play? Isolated power? Let’s look at those quickly:
- Strikeout Percentage: 21% (average is around 23%)
- Chase Percentage: 20.4% (average is around 44%)
- Contact Percentage: 76.7% (average is around 80%)
- BABIP: .269 (average is around .300)
- ISO: .166 (above average is .170)
Not particularly exceptional in all of those very important stats that help define a hitter. The guy batting third should be a walk machine, have exceptional power, be able to get hits with RISP, or hit for average. Hicks only checks the box for walk percentage (12.5%, which is considered great).
We hate freaking out about small sample sizes too, but Hicks has had a long enough career for the Yankees to better understand his role in the lineup. He brings a ton of value to this team, but it’s just not in the three-hole.