What a shame it is when a player has a fantastic season for a team that has never been in serious contention in a season. Aaron Hill has had such a season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He did not make the All Star Team. His team is never considered for national television because they simply have not been a factor this season after winning their division last season. If you hear about the Diamondbacks at all, it is about whether or not the team will trade away its young superstar right fielder. And that is too bad because Aaron Hill has easily had the best season of his career.
Hill has played alongside five different shortstops. But he has manned his position steadily all season. His fielding metrics are good. His offense has been terrific. As of right now, with a week left in the season, Aaron Hill has been the second best second baseman in all of baseball. Only Cano is rated higher. Aaron Hill has had a better season than Pedroia. He has been way better than Espinosa, Phillips, Kendrick, Murphy, Weeks, Kinsler and any other second baseman you want to talk about.
But you might say that Hill plays in Arizona, a nice place to hit with its dry, hot air that helps a ball carry. Yes, he has a .910 OPS in Arizona. But he also has an .844 OPS on the road and that is not shabby by any means. As a right-handed batter, he has an .888 OPS against right-handed pitching and an .860 OPS against left-handed pitching. Throw anything you want at him and he's been good.
And this is a former Number One draft pick the Blue Jays ran out of town. And who is to blame them, really? Yeah, he had a fantastic 2009 season. That season, he had 195 hits with 36 homers, 37 doubles, 103 runs scored and 108 runs batted in. It looked like he had come into his own as a star player in baseball. Heck, he came in 12th in MVP voting. And then 2010 happened.
Aaron Hill lost the ability to hit in 2010. His final triple slash line that season was .205/.271/.394. Ugh! It was awful. He still hit 26 homers, but everything else was a disaster. He did not bounce back for the Blue Jays in 2011 either. After 108 games with that team in 2011, his OPS was actually ten points lower than his paltry .665 for 2009. And his power had gone away as he hit only eight homers.
Fortunately for Hill, the Diamondbacks had that Cinderella season a year ago and weren't overly happy with Johnson at second. They wanted a little more zip at the position and traded Johnson to the Blue Jays in a trade deadline deal for Hill and McDonald. Hill responded with a good run down the stretch for the Diamondbacks as his .878 OPS in those 33 games did much to help the Diamondbacks. He then put an .879 OPS together in the series loss to the Brewers in the playoffs.
So basically, Aaron Hill has played a season and a third for the Diamondbacks and his OPS has remained as steady as anything. .878 down the stretch last season, .879 in the playoffs and now .876 this season. That gives every indication of not being a fluke.
This season, Hill has the most walks of his career and his highest walk percentage. He has hit 40 doubles to go with six triples and 24 homers. His OPS+ is the highest of his career. His wOBA is the highest of his career. Even his ISO is higher this year than his big season of 2009. His swinging strike percentage is the lowest of his career. Everything has come together for Aaron Hill this season.
Hill is only 30 years old. What if 2009 and this season are the real Hill and 2010 and 2011 were just a funk or a lack of adjustments to what pitchers were doing, or an undetected flaw in his mechanics or an undisclosed injury? Hill could not repeat what he did in 2009. He will need to show that he can repeat his 2012. But for this season at least, he has been a terrific player, the second best second baseman in baseball, all without a lot of fanfare or team success. A tip of the coke glass to you, Mr. Hill.