Will Aaron Hill suck next year?

Doug Pensinger

As I'm sure we all know, Aaron Hill was not very good this past season. He played 133 games and slashed .244/.287/.367 with only 10 home runs, 4 of 7 stolen bases, and truly awful defense (-7 defensive runs saved). All that accumulated to a pathetic -1.2 WAR for a hearty sum of 11 million dollars. Thanks to Kevin Towers, the Diamondbacks get to pay him 12 million dollars for the next two seasons. So I was wondering, will Aaron Hill be this bad for two more seasons or can he possibly turn it around and positively contribute for us for the remainder of his contract?

A serious problem for Aaron Hill is the acquisition of our new manger. I'm not entirely sure Aaron Hill is going to get the first stab at a starting job. There is a serious possibility that our opening day infield is Goldy, Owings, Didi, Lamb with Penny and Aaron Hill on the bench. Given that our new manager comes from under Bob Melvin, I would expect to see platoons, meaning that Penny and Didi could share time as well as Hill and Lamb. If that is the case, Hill would play third when facing lefties and only occasionally spell Owings at second.

Another problem for Aaron Hill is his age. He'll be 33 come the start of next season and he hasn't exactly been very healthy the last few years. If he does recover next season, it would be a rather impressive accomplishment given his age, injury history, and a down year last year.

Despite these factors, there is reason to believe that he can still turn it around. Remember it was only 2012 that Aaron Hill was getting MVP votes for a .882 OPS. Even in 2013 he put up solid numbers prior to being plunked on the hand. So why was he so epically horrendous last year? I'm glad you asked...

When you look at his stats the first thing that pops out is his career high K% of 17% (career 13.5) and a career low BB% of 5.2% (career 6.7). It doesn't take Bill James to figure out that that's not a very good combination. But why were those numbers so high? He swung and missed only 11.8% of the time. He has a career mark is 11.7% and his 2012 season was 11.1%. That's not a much of a difference. He swung at basically the same number of pitches last season as he did in his career (45% to 46% season to career), so it's not like he swung at everything or watched everything go right down the middle. I can't see a reason why his strikeout totals rose. With his walks, he saw a career high pitches per plate appearance in 3.86. I see absolutely no reason for the huge change in either of these totals and hopefully they are just flukes.

Let's talk about the balls Aaron Hill put in play something he did 75.9% of the time last year. BABIP would tell us that about 30% of those balls would become base hits which in realty only 27.6% did. Had Aaron Hill had average luck, he would have gotten 123 hits (not including HRs) which then translates to a .265 batting average. Not bad. But I'm not done, because Aaron Hill actually had a career high line drive percentage last year by a huge margin. 32% line drives in 2014 with a career number at 21% and a league 20%. Given that line drives most often turn into hits, it's fair to say that Aaron Hill's BABIP should have been significantly over .300, but it was only .276. This would suggest that Aaron Hill was EXTREMELY unlucky last season.

Every third season, Aaron Hill has a breakout performance. Next year is his next one. I think Aaron Hill will have a really good season next year if he gets the opportunity to play every game. Given that he is making 12 million next year, he should put up at least a 2 WAR season (I know WAR isn't everyone favorite, but it is an easy way to put everything into one number) according to what players make via free agency. So what do you think? Will Aaron Hill be worth his contract next season and have a WAR of over 2 or will he continue to suck and make Dave Stewart's life miserable?