Did a change in batting stance benefit Aaron Hicks?


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TAMPA — Aaron Hicks is used to hearing it now that Yankees fans appear to have lost patience with the outfielder. The 33-year-old switch hitter was met with boos from the Tampa crowd during his first at-bat of Spring Training. When Hicks hit a single to right field, the boos turned into cheers.

During the Yankees’ 2023 spring training, Aaron Hicks, who was subject to hostility by fans, tried to resurrect his career in the Bronx with a changed batting stance. He ended up playing 18 games and making 49 plate appearances with 41 at-bats. His production included 12 hits, 8 runs, 1 double, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 1 stolen base, 8 walks, 14 strikeouts, a .293 batting average, a .408 OBP, .390 slugging, and .798 OPS.

Aaron Hicks had a terrible year at the plate last year, so he spent the offseason working on getting his hands higher. The same stance helped him in 2018, which was one of the best years of his career. He thought that it would help him control the top of the strike zone better as he tried to be the Yankees‘ left fielder.

“Making sure I’m able to take advantage of the ball up in the zone and being able to, instead of miss those, actually make solid contact and put those hard in play,” Aaron Hicks said. “My hands were really low the last couple of years. All my success, my hands have been higher.”

Aaron Hicks with CC Sabathia

Even though Aaron Hicks had a rough 2022 season, the Yankees didn’t sign a major league left fielder this offseason. This left the door open for him to get back into the starting lineup. The 33-year-old player, whose contract has three years and $30.5 million left, hopes that the mechanical changes will help him get back on track offensively.

“I think if you look at his swing in 2018 versus what it’s become over the last three years probably, the leg kick has gotten bigger, there’s been more counterrotation in the load and then you’ve got basically the hands get pinned down and behind,” hitting coach Dillon Lawson said of Hicks during the early spring training camp. “So for him to keep the hands up, just trying to have him be a little bit more free and a little bit more of a direct line to any of those pitches that he should be able to cover, that he wants to be able to cover, that he used to be able to cover. That’s the plan.”

Aaron Hicks’s numbers went down as his hands got worse, especially last season. The switch-hitter hit just .216 with an OPS of .642, and he lost his starting job in the outfield because of it. His problems got the worst on September 9, when he struck out in his first two at-bats and made two mistakes on defense that caused manager Aaron Boone to put him on the bench in the middle of the game.

Aaron Hicks came back and bettered. However, he was forced out of the playoff after being collided with Oswaldo Cabrera during a game. He hurt his left knee and had to wear a brace for six weeks. By January, he was able to run, hit, and throw again.

Aaron Hicks worked hard to get his mechanics back to how they were in 2018 when he hit .248 with a .833 OPS and a career-high 27 home runs in 137 games. In the 275 games he has played since then, he has hit .220 with 30 home runs and an OPS of .702.

During those four years, Aaron Hicks also missed time because of injuries. In October 2019, he had surgery for Tommy John, and in May 2021, he had wrist surgery.

“Whether that’s played into him getting into some of these habits where he doesn’t necessarily feel right so he’s just reaching back and trying to generate and do more, I think that could have played a part,” Lawson said. “But it definitely slows the momentum, the confidence.”

The elimination of extreme shifts could also help Aaron Hicks, who was moved more than any other Yankee last season. But Aaron Hicks also wants to hit like he did before the Yankees gave him a seven-year, $70 million contract extension.

“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “I feel like the changes I made are going to make a difference.”

Aaron Hicks mad at Aaron Boone, fans

During the offseason, Aaron Hicks healed his knee, went on his honeymoon to Turks and Caicos, took a vacation to Antigua, and played with his three kids back home in Arizona.

But the pain of September 9 is still there. Aaron Hicks was unhappy for missing two fly balls in a row and the way the Yankees treated him, and Aaron Boone‘s action in putting him on the bench after that.

That horrible night at Yankee Stadium was the worst part of Aaron Hicks’ terrible season, which ended five weeks later when he got hurt again. During the Division Series, he ran after a fly ball and ran into a rookie teammate named Oswaldo Cabrera.

Aaron Hicks was in a terrible slump when the Yankees played the Rays in the Bronx on a Friday night. This was his fourth year in a row where he hadn’t done well. He was up to bat. Overall, he hit .212, and in his last 28 games, he hit just .119.

At home games, fans booed Aaron Hicks whenever they find him at bat. He was the new Joey Gallo, who had escaped the anger of Yankees fans by being traded to the Dodgers five weeks before.

By September 9, Hicks thought it might be best for him to move somewhere else.

When Hicks looks back, he finds himself to blame. He feels he didn’t prepare well during the three-week spring training that came after the lockout. He started off well by hitting. In April, he hit .306 in 21 games, but by May, he was hitting only .200 and was on his way to another bad year in which he was often put on the bench. That was Hicks’s first home run since he started out with the Twins from 2013 to 2015.

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