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Recapping Jordan Hicks’ season with the Cardinals

MLB: Wild Card-Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the season fans were not really sure what to expect out of the flame thrower. The Cardinals tried early in the season to convert him into a starter, although that was a failed experiment that did not last long. Hicks was placed on the injured list twice this season, once with a forearm flexor strain which caused him to miss a little over a month. His second stint on the IL was as a result of fatigue and neck spasms which held him out for a couple of weeks. When Hicks played the results were shaky, he showed flashes of what made him once look like one of the more dominant relievers in baseball. Although, there were also plenty of shaky outings that caused trepidation amongst fans. Down below we are going to break down the season of the fifth-year pro.

The good

Despite being one of the hardest throwers in baseball Hicks did a great job at limiting hard contact this season. His average exit velocity against of 86.9 MPH ranked in the 83rd percentile and his hard-hit percentage against of 32.3 percent was in the 89th percentile. Hicks xBA against of .213 was in the 78th percentile and his xSLG percentage against of .331 was in the 82nd percentile. His strikeout percentage was above league average at 24 percent which comes in 1.9 percent higher than average, although you would expect the number to be higher for a pitcher with the type of stuff that he has.

His average fastball velocity is some of the best in the league as his sinker sits at 99.4 MPH and his four seamer averages out at 100.1. His slider and sinker both featured well above average movement. He generated 38.7 inches of vertical movement on his slider which was 2.1 inches above average, and he got 11.8 inches of horizontal movement which was 5.2 inches better than average. With his sinker he generated 19.7 inches of drop which was also 2.1 inches better than average and it had 15.8 inches of break which was 0.9 inches above average. His slider produced a whiff rate of 48.9 percent on the season to go along with a put away percentage of 34.3 percent.

Hicks induced ground balls at a well above average rate with a ground ball percentage of 58.2 percent which was 13.3 percent higher than average.

The bad

Hicks once again struggled with free passes as his BB percentage of 13.3 was in the second lowest percentile in baseball. Hicks xERA of 3.91 was in the 46th percentile, which on the surface might not look too bad, but it is the highest number of his career. Additionally, his xFIP of 4.03 was a below average number. This number is largely inflated because of his poor walk percentage but also because he does not strike out enough batters. He needs to do a better job of controlling the three true outcomes, home run, walk and strikeout next season.

Surprisingly Hicks also struggled to force both chases and whiff which likely comes down to an inability to spot his pitches where he wants them. His chase percentage of 23.5 percent was 4.9 percent worse than league average and his whiff percentage of 24 percent was 0.7 percent below average. In order for Hicks to become a truly dominant reliever down the road these are numbers that are going to have to come up somewhat significantly.

The verdict

There is no question about the stuff for Jordan Hicks. If he was to put it all together, he can easily become one of the best overall pitchers in baseball. Although, with 2022 being his fourth season it is fair to start to wonder if he will ever put it all together. If he is not, he will still be an electric middle inning reliever for the Cardinals, but they would certainly prefer for him to become one of the best relievers in baseball.