Thursday, July 17, 2014

Aaron Hill in the deep valley

Not a whole lot of good things have happened for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. Currently, the team is in last place in the National League West behind the equally disappointing Rockies by a half a game. While there have been many reasons for the stumbling of the Diamondbacks this season, Aaron Hill seems to have become one of the real symbols of a team's fall from respectability. This Hill is in a deep valley.
Aaron Hill has had a weird career, hasn't he? His offense over the years, if plotted on a graph would be up and down in nearly every season he has played. He is one guy where you cannot seem to pin a baseline. His career averages have nothing in common with what he achieves from year to year.
He went from a star with the Blue Jays with an .829 OPS and a .212 ISO in 2009 to a .665 OPS the following season. And just two years ago with the Diamondbacks, Hill put together an .882 OPS with a .220 ISO. His 2012 season is just a dream now that Hill's OPS in 2014 is .639 with an ISO of .122.
While Hill's results went up and down through the years, some of his peripherals remained fairly constant including his walk and strikeout rates and batted ball rates (except for 2010 when he couldn't hit a line drive to save himself). But this year, even some of those constants are off. The bottom line is that at the age of 32, Aaron Hill has really bottomed out and is having a negative season.
Let's look at some of those underlying peripherals to see where Hill has fallen. The first striking example is Aaron Hill's walk rate. Hill has never been a patient hitter. His walk rates have hovered between a 6-8% range with his career average being 6.7%. That is a weakness to his game that has been a constant.
However, this year, this weakness has turned to a lifeblood sucking low. His current walk rate is only 4.7%. Last season, when Hill was injured for much of the season, he compiled 29 walks in 327 plate appearances. This year so far, Hill has walked only 15 times in 344 plate appearances.
Because of his lack of walks, his disappointing .241 batting average is compounded into a .275 on-based percentage this season after finishing last year at .356. The Diamondbacks are 11th of 15 NLteams in team on-base percentage. Hill again is a major symbol of that team failure.
While Hill's walk rate is historically low for him, his strikeout rate is historically high. Hill's strikeout rate has ranged between 10.1% his first season to a high of 15.5% his second season. His average is 13.4%. This season, Hill's strikeout rate is 18.3%, easily the highest of his career.
If you were to look at his success rate against certain pitches over the years, you can see that Hill had success against the fastball in his career and he has always hit the curve ball well.  His success against all other pitches varies from year to year. This season, Aaron Hill does not have a positive value against any pitch type. That's not a good thing at all.
The troubling part of Hill's season (other than all the other reasons mentioned) is that each month has gotten progressively worse. His monthly OPS totals starting in April were: .722, .700, .549 and .472 so far this month. His BABIP had remained fairly static in the mid-.270 range but has fallen to .206 his month, so some bad luck could be involved in July.
Is Aaron Hill the latest of a list of second basemen who seem to hit the 32 age and lose it? Or can he bounce back again to be a productive player? Hill's defense has also deteriorated and his WAR is at -0.7 at Fangraphs and -0.9 for
Those valuations are not good news to an Arizona team that has $24 million combined invested in Hill's 2015 and 2015 seasons. His current results and relatively high salary would make it difficult for the Diamondbacks to trade him for any kind of value, if at all.
The Diamondbacks have had a really tough season and the bloom is off the rose for a team that made the post season just two seasons ago. And one of the big symbols of the woes this team has faced in 2014 is Aaron Hill. It will remain to be seen if the player or the team can bounce back from such a season.

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