What Happened to Aaron Hill?

Since his 2007 semi-breakout performance, Aaron Hill has been an enigma. In fact, he’s run the gamut from being really good, mediocre and bad from a fantasy perspective over those years. Unfortunately, Hill owners got the bad version this year, as he ranked just 17th in earnings among second basemen. Since it would be fun and it’s in the name of this site after all, let’s depict his various performance metrics in graphical form since his 2005 debut.

Let’s begin with his HR/FB rate:

Aaron Hill HR-FB

Woah. Talk about making the projection systems go haywire! How the heck do you project the following season’s HR/FB ratio each year from this trend? Excluding 2011’s 262 foot mark, he sat in a rather consistent batted ball distance range between 275 and 287 feet from 2007-2013. That certainly doesn’t explain why his HR/FB rates have so greatly oscillated. This year, his distance was just about 272 feet, which represents the second lowest mark since 2007. But that isn’t that significantly below the league average to expect just a 5.8% HR/FB rate.

Unfortunately, I have no real explanation for why his power output has been so terribly inconsistent. His batted ball distances do not suggest they should be as inconsistent as they have been. So, it’s awfully tempting to chalk it up to the randomness of whether a fly ball is caught at the warning track or just makes it over the wall.

And now let’s take a look at his batting averages:

Aaron Hill AVG

Batting averages obviously jump up and down, perhaps more than any other statistic. But Hill has batted as low as .205, in the .240s twice and as high as .302. Aside from those four seasons, he has remained in the .260-.290 range. His BABIP marks have been slightly more consistent aside from the outlier of .196 in 2010, while his strikeout rate has also remaining stable, outside of this year when he posted the highest mark of his career. So a lot of his batting average swings are due to his up and down HR/FB rates. He’s also a fly ball hitter with an above league average IFFB% over his career, so a lower than league average .290 career BABIP is logical.

Lastly, let’s move on to Hill’s stolen base output:

Aaron Hill SBs

What the heck happened in 2011 and 2012?! Before that year, he had established himself as a guy who will chip in a couple of steals in the mid-single digits. Then suddenly he decided to attempt 28 steals in 2011, which was more than he had attempted over his previous four seasons combined. He predictably regressed the following year, but still remained in double digits. Since then, he’s attempted just 12 steals and has been successful only five times.

Hill will be 33 years old next year, so he’s clearly in the decline phase of his career. But even if he wasn’t, he has proven quite the difficult player to project. His strikeout rate should improve back toward career levels as his SwStk% was at exactly his career average. With some BABIP bounce back and power rebound, he should get back to the .260-.270 batting average range. I would bet that he beats that .254 Steamer projection. The power, though, is anyone’s guess. I would look for a jump back to the 8-9% HR/FB rate range, which just so happens to represent the range his career average sits inside of. I think the Steamer projection calling for 15 homers is fair. Since he will likely come cheaply and has shown the upside to blast 20+ homers while contributing positively in batting average, he’ll be a solid buy on draft day.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 years ago

Good article. Do you think his defense truly fell off a cliff this year and is not going to rebound, or do you think that’s mostly noise? Doesn’t matter for fantasy, but might mean the difference between him starting and not.

Also, in the second sentence, it’s “run the gamut,” not “gambit.” (Sorry! Hate to be that guy…)

Rick Lancellotti
7 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

I actually thought it was “run the gambit” too. I just found out now that I’ve had it wrong my whole life.

7 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

Yeah, he is the age where it seems likely that his range could be a true decline, but I’m not 100% convinced that it would go from slightly above average to horribly below average so quickly. I might think he’s more like -2 to 0 instead of -8 to -10. I guess the question that matters, though, is what do the Diamondbacks think?

Assuming the speed is gone, a lot will come down to his average. He’s going to be risky if the Diamondbacks don’t like his defense, but maybe a good sleeper pick?