A player expected to be major contributor to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 may end up hurting the club in the long run.
Aaron Hill is entering his seventh season with the Jays, and even though 2009 was his breakout campaign, his track record has been spotty.
Second base has, more or less, been his natural position since 2005. With no other legitimate candidate to take his position, Hill has had the time to develop and become a consistent major league infielder. Hill has been money in the field with a .984 fielding percentage; his hitting is where the problem lies.
In 2007, Hill went deep 17 times, a pleasant surprise for someone who hit nine total in the previous two seasons. The 2008 campaign was a write-off due to a concussion. Even though his season was cut short, signs of a struggle were prevalent: 205 at-bats, two home runs and a .324 OBP.
With a full year of recovery under his belt, the warning signs of plate discipline issues were the last thing anyone was concerned about. With that being said, 2009 was Hill’s coming out party. The baseball world took notice of this slugging second baseman from Toronto after dialing it up with 36 big flies, 108 RBI and ranking 12th in the MVP voting.
The 2010 season, however, was a completely different story.
The power was very evident: 26 long balls and 108 hits. Unfortunately for Hill and the rest of the team, a .205 average coupled with a .271 OBP, pardon my negativity, was bad. Hill struggled from day one, and things never became any easier. Wild swings, bewilderment at the plate and a sense of helplessness sums it up pretty clearly.
I mentioned earlier that the struggles were evident in previous seasons; no surprise to Hill or the rest of the pitchers that he faced that lack of discipline and pitch selection became a bigger detriment than once thought.
Since entering the league, Hill swings at 50 percent more pitches outside of the strike zone and makes contact with those pitches more than 70 percent of the time (stats courtesy of FanGraphs). In Layman’s terms, swinging at pitchers' pitches equals weak grounders and pop outs.
It makes perfect sense that Hill is getting fewer pitches in the zone these days. And when things aren’t going your way, you get anxious, your confidence takes a hit and things go from bad to worse.
Hopefully Hill turned the offseason into a six-month study session watching tapes and breaking down his swing, because if he can’t regain his form from 2009, the confident Brett Lawrie is waiting in the wings to pick up the slack.
Management, the opposition and the fans will without a doubt know what path Hill is on by late May. If things aren’t looking up, it’ll be time to cut your losses and go in a different direction.
Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective