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  • Hicks Shaping Up As Bruno Success Story?

    On April 13th at Target Field, Aaron Hicks went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, dropping his batting average to .047. It was the seventh time in 10 major-league games that he'd notched multiple strikeouts, and in total the rookie had whiffed in a whopping 43 percent of his plate appearances.

    With the season two weeks old, even Hicks' most staunch supporters were facing the reality that his struggles amounted to more than a mere slump. He was overwhelmed and his issues at the plate were compounding rather than clearing.

    At this point the Twins had begun feeling pressure to make a move of some kind ("I'll let you know when we do that," Ron Gardenhire told an inquiring reporter, "so you don't have to ask every day anymore"), and surely they were weighing their options. Ultimately, they decided to stick with Hicks, albeit while sliding him down in the batting order, and it sounds like the decision was heavily influenced by another ambitious rookie -- first-year hitting coach Tom Brunansky.

    When Gardenhire told Pioneer Press reporter Mike Berardino of the decision to keep Hicks around, Berardino inferred that "Brunansky lobbied hard to keep working with [Hicks]." Said Gardenhire: "Talking with Brunansky, his feeling is he wants to work with this kid. He believes he can get him right. I'm with Tom."

    That's pretty bold for Bruno, who's still in his first few weeks on the job as a major-league hitting coach. Hicks appeared totally lost in the woods, which is not necessarily shocking for a 23-year-old straight out of Double-A, prompting many to believe he should spend some time in Rochester.

    Of course, Brunansky knows a little bit about fast rises. In his playing career, he rocketed through the minors and was an effective full-time big-leaguer by the age of 21. His coaching career has followed a similarly steep ascent; he rejoined the Twins organization as a rookie-league hitting instructor in 2010, and has climbed from there to Double-A to Triple-A to the majors within a span of three years.

    Perhaps, through that experience, Brunansky can offer some perspective to the discombobulated Hicks. Whatever they're doing right now, it seems to be helping. In four games since the three-strikeout performance against the Mets, the center fielder has drawn six walks, and he hadn't struck out until fanning on a full count in his fourth trip on Sunday. There's been a visible and dramatic improvement in his previously broken plate approach, and if he can keep it up, his slump-busting RBI single will only be the start of a full-fledged turnaround.

    Presently he's still hitting .059, but Hicks is seeing the ball better, working into favorable counts and heading to the box with more confidence. If sustained, those trends will lead to a rapid rise in his batting average. With a little help, he seems to be finding his way.
    This article was originally published in blog: Hicks Shaping Up As Bruno Success Story? started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 84 Comments
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      Twins have never been a 'new school' type of team but one thing Hicks has kept doin is drawing walks. This week, Aaron went only 1-8 but had only 1K but 6 walks which led to him stealing his first 2 bases & scoring 4 runs. Id rather take this type of OBP player than Ben Revere.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      As a rookie in 1981, Brunansky opened the season with Angels. After hitting .152 through 11 games (41 plate appearances) he was returned to the minors. He never played in the majors for the Angels again. A little over a year later he was traded to the Twins for Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong in May of 1982. The Twins brought him up to the majors following the trade.

      If the Angels had exercised more patience, he may have found success with them and the Twins may not have been able to acquire that key piece of the 1987 team.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Hicks has looked better over the last several games. He is drawing more walks and once again got another RBI hit today. The fact that the Twins are 8-7 while putting someone like Hicks (and maybe Arcia) in this kind of development is a damn good sign.
    1. RodneyKline's Avatar
      RodneyKline -
      Quote Originally Posted by greengoblinrulz View Post
      Twins have never been a 'new school' type of team but one thing Hicks has kept doin is drawing walks. This week, Aaron went only 1-8 but had only 1K but 6 walks which led to him stealing his first 2 bases & scoring 4 runs. Id rather take this type of OBP player than Ben Revere.
      His walks are not an encouraging thing. He is afraid up there at the plate and that is resulting in some walks. He does not seem to have a plan besides trying not to fail. I hope I am wrong but this is not a slump. It is a complete lack of confidence. They think they are helping him but the longer they do this to him, the harder it will be to get his confidence back in the minors. I think he could use going back to AA and see more fastballs until he wants to hit every one that is thrown. Right now even a fastball down the pipe does not look appetizing to him.
    1. RodneyKline's Avatar
      RodneyKline -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Hicks has looked better over the last several games. He is drawing more walks and once again got another RBI hit today. The fact that the Twins are 8-7 while putting someone like Hicks (and maybe Arcia) in this kind of development is a damn good sign.
      You are seeing something I am not seeing. Are you sure that it is not wishful thinking?
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by RodneyKline View Post
      You are seeing something I am not seeing. Are you sure that it is not wishful thinking?
      I am seeing a team that has suddenly won 4 in a row, above .500 and is only 1 game out of first place. The pitching has been pretty solid, the defense has been decent or so and some of the bats seem to be coming around a bit (more to come)

      I'm not going to predict they will keep all this up, but to say you shouldn't be at least somewhat encouraged at this start makes you a real scrooge.
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      Quote Originally Posted by RodneyKline View Post
      His walks are not an encouraging thing. He is afraid up there at the plate and that is resulting in some walks. He does not seem to have a plan besides trying not to fail. I hope I am wrong but this is not a slump. It is a complete lack of confidence. They think they are helping him but the longer they do this to him, the harder it will be to get his confidence back in the minors. I think he could use going back to AA and see more fastballs until he wants to hit every one that is thrown. Right now even a fastball down the pipe does not look appetizing to him.
      baby steps.....is started the year week 1 but his week 3 numbers.....people would be encouraged. NO question he needs to start hitting, but some peripheral numbers are there this week.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      It's a little early to call him a success story regardless of how loosely you use the word success. It's encouraging that he has only K'd once in the last 3 games.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      It's a little early to call him a success story regardless of how loosely you use the word success.
      I agree. Who's calling him one?
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I agree. Who's calling him one?
      Well. the headline could be taken that way without further context.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I agree. Who's calling him one?
      Your article title. You did put a question mark after it but it's a stretch to consider his success questionable. You also said that it seems to be helping even though he still only has one hit in that selective sample.
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      It's really too early to tell if the two week space cadet approach is behind Hicks or not. Since then he is striking out less and walking more, and I definitely see a better approach this week -- laying off the breaking pitches in the dirt. Maybe that's because he getting better pitch recognition, or a better idea of how he's being pitched, or maybe he is just timid. Since he has swung at some first pitch fastballs (weakly for outs because they were borderline balls maybe) this past week, I think he's working on one or two things only and is not just scared up there: 1) pitch recognition of benders and laying off and 2) trying to find fastballs to hit early. I'll take the walks until the bat comes around, but am glad he's moved down in the order. Let's check back in with another 3 weeks before uttering the words "success" and "story."
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      If he can put more balls in play... We can ride this out.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Rookies have a natural need to prove themselves--by hitting. As such they often attack most every pitch perceived to be in the strike zone. Clever pitchers realize the over-aggressive nature and bait said rookie with pitches out of the zone. The more the rookie chases--the more he struggles. Very few teams adopt the "pound the strikezone" philosophy like the Twins and give their pitchers more leeway in pitching out the zone. Consider Saturday's game: The WSox yielded 8 walks, yet it wasn't the walk that beat them, it was an 2B, followed by an IFers error. 2 runs in 10 innings--but 8 walks! In Twinsland had that happened Gardenhire would have been madly pacing and frequently sending Anderson to the mound for a chat with the pitcher. The rookies who are playing regularly, are all struggling at the plate Hicks the most, then Dozier, and to a lesser degree Parmalee. They are seeing many strikes, but are constantly baited with sucker pitches. The cure for that is patience and talking the walks. Eventually, pitchers realize they must throw more strikes which yields more hits.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      Consider Saturday's game: The WSox yielded 8 walks, yet it wasn't the walk that beat them, it was an 2B, followed by an IFers error. 2 runs in 10 innings--but 8 walks!
      That's incredibly rare and a flukish game to use as an example.

      The Braves are first in team ERA, fourth in BB allowed.

      The Rangers are second in team ERA, sixth in BB allowed.

      The Royals are fifth in team ERA, second in BB allowed.

      There is a strong correlation between walks and runs allowed. The Twins may be an aberration in that regard but they're the exception, not the rule (and one can only imagine how awful they'd be if they also gave up a league average number of walks).
    1. DK's Avatar
      DK -
      I agree with RodneyKline, that the walks are not an encouraging sign. He is getting himself into too many two strike counts. The book on him is pretty simple. Throw him fastball, fastball and then a breaking pitch. Has he had a hitters count all year? I'm still high on Hicks but he needs to change his approach at the plate.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      I like what Hicks has been doing since being moved. I'm not 100% sure that his swing is ok though. He certainly seems to have a good eye but he hasn't really made a lot of good contact, especially from the left side. His hit yesterday was an ugly roller that found a hole, not a good hit. On the other hand, I think with his eye, it'll make it easier for him to start making better swings.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      I seem to remember a World Series championship team recently that allowed the 4th most walks in baseball with only one team allowing more total runs. They also had the best ERA in baseball.

      Last year the Dodgers were 7th in walks allowed, but only three teams gave up less runs....Nats were 12th in walks allowed, only two teams gave up less runs.

      I'm not a big fan of walks, one reason our team gives up so few walks over the last two seasons, is that our opponents are too busy beating the carp out of the ball instead.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      Your article title. You did put a question mark after it but it's a stretch to consider his success questionable. You also said that it seems to be helping even though he still only has one hit in that selective sample.
      The headline suggested that he might be "shaping up" as a success story. It's an early analysis of a promising trend that I've noticed. I thought I was pretty clear about that, with the hopes of avoiding pointless discussions of semantics. Obviously the hits haven't started coming yet but if he continues to take quality at-bats, they will.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by DK View Post
      I agree with RodneyKline, that the walks are not an encouraging sign. He is getting himself into too many two strike counts. The book on him is pretty simple. Throw him fastball, fastball and then a breaking pitch.
      Would seem that approach has not been working very well over the past week since he's been getting on base at like a .500 clip, no?
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