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What is Aaron Hicks' true K-rate?

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Aaron Hicks has struck out 22 times in his first 17 big league games. His K-rate currently sits at 31.4%, tied for 10th worst in baseball with jay Bruce. a career 23.7% k-rate batter.

According to Charlie Adams at Beyond the Boxscore (courtesy of Pizza Cutter at StatSpeak.net) k-rates stabilize after about 150 PAs. But instead of waiting 20 more games for Hicks to reach that benchmark, I'm going to instead look at contact rate and guesstimate what Hicks' true k-rate might be based off that. Because as it turns out, contact rates stabilize before k-rates - right around 70 PAs, in fact. And contact rates correlate well with strikeout rates (somewhere between -.81 and -.91).

Below are the current contact rates for Twins batters:

Name PA Contact% SwStr%
Chris Parmelee 62 79.40% 7.80%
Brian Dozier 63 86.50% 5.50%
Josh Willingham 65 74.70% 8.80%
Trevor Plouffe 68 83.20% 6.90%
Ryan Doumit 68 73.30% 10.60%
Aaron Hicks 70 73.80% 9.30%
Justin Morneau 78 83.60% 8.20%
Joe Mauer 84 81.50% 6.50%

To get an idea of how these rates compare, I pulled the sample of qualified batters dating back to 2010 (min 1000 PAs). Next are the 10 hitters whose contact rates most closely match Hicks' current 73.8% contact rate, and their k-rates over that period:

Name Contact% K%
Tyler Colvin 73.20% 25.70%
B.J. Upton 73.40% 26.40%
Alfonso Soriano 73.50% 23.10%
Kelly Johnson 73.60% 25.20%
Jay Bruce 73.80% 24.40%
John Buck 73.90% 23.80%
Sean Rodriguez 73.90% 22.30%
Mark Trumbo 74.00% 23.90%
Nelson Cruz 74.20% 20.90%
Geovany Soto 74.30% 23.40%

Sure enough, there is our man Jay Bruce again.

So, is Hicks destined to strikeout in the 23-24% range for his career? I don't think so. Certainly Austin Jackson wouldn't think so. Guys do improve, but judging Hicks' early contact rates, I feel confident that we can pencil Hicks in for a 20%+ k-rate for the rest of 2013 at least. While still pretty lousy, that would technically be an improvement over Hicks' current k-rate of 31.4%.

Updated 04-26-2013 at 03:34 PM by Willihammer

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  1. Joe A. Preusser's Avatar
    I think a better way to look at Hicks is to completely throw out the first part of the season, say, until he was moved down in the order. This I think would give us a more accurate picture of what type of hitter he will be.
  2. ashburyjohn's Avatar
    I'm with Joe. Normally I don't like to cherry pick stats but, as I detailed in another thread, if you break down this early season into before April 14 and after, the K rate and BB rate are as though of two different players. There's good reason to suppose that this corresponded to an actual change in approach. And I went on to hypothesize that pitchers will soon change their approach to Hicks in response, and we will potentially see a third kind of stat line when he starts getting pitches to hit. I think the analytically minded are best served to wait at least another two weeks or so and see whether this past week was just SSS rearing its ugly head or the start of a genuine turnaround that at long last results in consistent base hits.
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