Aaron Hill was a magnificent option at the second base position in 2009. In 2010 he still powered the long ball but his batting average barely rested above the Mendoza line. In 2011 he went bonkers in the steals category but his power evaporated quicker than Kim Kardashian’s marriage to Kris Humphries (by the way dude, you aren’t doing yourself any favors bad mouthing Kim. Just let it go). The Diamondbacks signed Hill to a 2-year, $11 million deal based upon the success of his past, and his solid finish to the year with the club (.315/.386/.492 over 33 games). As a fantasy player, how should you be evaluating Hill heading into 2012 – should you be thinking, like the Diamondbacks, that a rebound is in the cards?
How good was Hill in the recent past? Fantastic actually. In 2009 he hit .286, socked 36 homers, knocked in 108 runs and scored 103 runs. He won people fantasy leagues in 2009. For a follow up be hit 26 homers, had 68 RBI and scored 70 runs, but his average plummeted all the way down to .205 thanks in no part to an unbelievably low, I mean historically bad, .196 BABIP mark. From 2008-09 Hill was second at the second base position with 62 homers (two behind Dan Uggla), third in RBI with 176 (Uggla had 195, Robinson Cano 194), 6th in runs scored with 173 (Cano led the way with 206) and third with 121 extra base hits (Cano 148 and Uggla 123). Basically, Hill was a difference maker in the fantasy game. But he hit .205 in 2010 causing tremendous trepidation amongst his owners. When he slumped to just eight homers last season it hardly mattered that his batting average rebounded somewhat to .246. However, he did excite with 21 steals, a massive total for a guy who in six previous seasons had never stolen more than six bags. It was the only thing that saved his 2011 season.
So let’s take a step back here and look at what Hill brings to the field.
Hill hit 36 homers in 2009. He’s not going to repeat that number. His HR/F ratio that year was 14.9 percent, almost 50 percent great than his career mark of 7.9 percent. Speaking of his HR/F rate, the reason he hit only eight homers last season is easily evident – his 2011 HR/F ratio was only 4.2 percent. Add 14.9 to 4.2 and divide by two and you get 9.6 percent, a pretty fair number given his career mark.
Hill stole 21 bases in 2011. Will he repeat that? It’s possible, but given that he had 23 stolen bases in his career before last season you’d be best served in expecting fewer than 20 thefts in 2011.
What about the batting average? Hill has hit as high as .291 in a season, he’s actually done that twice (2006-07), and as low as .205. For his career he has hit .267 and he has more seasons hitting .274 or better (four) than hitting under his career average (three). So why the struggles the past two years? The explanation for 2010 is easy. He simply had one of the worst seasons in modern history. His 10.6 percent line drive rate was comically low for a guy who owns an 18.9 percent career mark. As for his 2011 struggles, those are harder to explain. Hill’s line drive rate soared to 21.2 percent, his best mark in six years, but he still managed a BABIP of .268. Given that line drive rate, one would assume his BABIP would easily eclipse the .300 mark, if not push into the .320′s. I’m therefore just gonna say it – Hill has been unlucky the past two seasons and should have a good chance of seeing his batting average rebound further in 2012.
Let’s put together Hill’s career bests. If we do that we end up with a fantasy line of .291-36-108-103-21. That’s an utterly stupendous effort. Obviously he’ll never do all of that in one season, but the point should be obvious – despite his numbers fluctuating wildly the past couple of years, this guy has tons of talent.
Hill is just 29 years old, an age where he should be reaching his peak and not one where people are questioning if the D’backs erred in giving him a two year deal. I think they did the right thing. I also think that if the baseball gods have any integrity they will return the mojo that Hill has lost the last couple of seasons and allow him to return to being what he should be – a second baseman who is capable enough to be considered a low end starter in mixed leagues.
By Ray Flowers