Overall, switch hitters in Major League Baseball (MLB) still comprise about thirteen percent of all hitters. But for the Yankees, they’re a dying breed…
Aaron Hicks, though he may not look like it, is a dinosaur. Whether by design or coincidence, switch-hitting Yankees are in decline. In fact, the Yankees played the first 40 games of the 2019 season with no switch-hitters in their lineup. With the return of Aaron Hicks from a back injury and the recent acquisition of Kendrys Morales, they now have two on their 25-man roster.
Reaching to their 40-man roster, add Breyvic Valera to make three. Shortstop Cliff Pennington, currently playing at Triple-A Scranton and Francisco Diaz, a catcher with the Yankees Double-A team adds two more to make five in the team’s upper levels organization.
Yankees fans will recall a time not too long ago when Yankee’s manager, Joe Girardi, had the luxury of writing the names of four switch-hitters into his regular lineup. Jorge Posada, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, and Carlos Beltran batted both ways for the 2016 Yankees.
The most heralded of all Yankee switch-hitters, without argument, is Mickey Mantle. Of Mantle’s 536 home runs, 372 came from the right side and only 164 batting left-handed. On ten occasions, The Mick hit a home run from both sides in the same game.
Baseball fans will argue incessantly when choosing the Greatest Switch-Hitter of all time, but that depends on your preference for the all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, or the sheer power produced by Mickey Mantle.
Aaron Hicks: An Experiment Almost Ended
Interestingly, Aaron Hicks almost ended his experiment with switch-hitting when he walked into a surprised Ron Gardenhire‘s office when he was with the Minnesota Twins announcing he’s done with it. Struggling at the time, Hicks was shipped out to Double-A ball, whereupon he received a call from Twins Hall of Famer, Rod Carew, who challenged Hicks…
It’s still a work in progress for Aaron Hicks, but his entire focus (now) is centered on being productive from both sides of the plate. Hick’s “natural side” is as a left-handed batter, so the bulk of his work is to better himself when facing left-handed pitching. Which helps to explain his splits in 2018…
Make no mistake though – Aaron Boone‘s comfort level in filling out a lineup card increases exponentially when Hicks is healthy and available.
Today, Aaron Hicks says he focuses mainly on a consistent bat path and ”Being able to stay long through the zone and line drives, hitting line drives all over the place and constant hand positioning, being able to constantly get that slot long and through the zone.” (Brandon Kuty, River Avenue Blues)
No question, though, that Aaron Hicks adds an element lacking in the Yankee’s lineup. But that’s only half of the story as Hicks has a knack for recognizing and freezing on the strike zone. 3-2 counts come easily and often with Hicks, which makes him an ideal lead-off hitter when Aaron Boone moves Brett Gardner deeper in the lineup.
Aaron Hicks is the perfect compliment to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton as a cog that makes the machine run. For now, though, Hicks is the type of player who can step in like a juggernaut to make the Yankees and the B-Bombers continue their assault on the American League East.
Today, Aaron Hicks contributed heavily to a Yankees win propelling them back into first place over the Tampa Bay Rays with a two-run home run, two base-on-balls, and two runs scored. How about that?