Don’t get me wrong, I’m not harping on Aaron Hill—he had a phenomenal first half of the season and deserves all the accolades and praise he is getting. But there are a couple of reasons why I think Hill is a good hitter and not a great hitter.
The first red flag is Hill’s .333 on-base percentage. That’s just 41 points above his .292 batting average; it’s good but not great. A quick glance at similar players like Ian Kinsler shows that his OBP is 77 points higher than his batting average.
So first thing’s first, Hill needs to draw more walks and be a little more like his teammate Marco Scutaro whose OBP is 95 points higher than his batting average.
The second red flag that tells us where Aaron Hill needs to improve his game is base on balls percentage which is correlated with OBP. Over the course of his career, Hill has seen his BB% steadily decline and this season it sits at 5.5 percent. That basically means 5.5 percent of all Hill’s at-bats result in a walk.
Finally, the third and most glaring of red flags is Hill’s first pitch swinging percentage. This is something that I’ve picked up on lately and noticed about Hill for most of the season, that he goes after the first pitch quite often. The numbers don’t lie; 38 percent of the time Hill swings at the first pitch.
So is this a lack of plate discipline or is it just an aggressive approach? Since 66.4 percent of pitches to Hill are first-pitch strikes, that can probably explain why he has been so successful at increasing his home run total; the first pitch is often the best one to hit.
After 90 games, I think that opposing pitchers have finally caught on that Hill is swinging for the fences on the first pitch and have adjusted accordingly. Hill, on the other hand, has not.
He needs to work toward pushing the count and making the pitcher work, rather than just taking the green light on the first pitch.
I think by making these adjustments, Hill can adapt into a truly feared hitter in the American League. With a little more patience and a little more discipline at the plate, Hill can cross into the stratosphere of superstar second basemen.
Amateur research backed by stats from Baseball Reference and Fan Graphs