The All Star break could not have come at a better time for young Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks. As of the All Star break in his first season on the big league club he had appeared in forty-four games and thrown forty-eight total innings. As of that point, Hicks was on pace to appear in almost seventy-six games and throw nearly eighty-three innings. According to the Fangraphs Leaderboard, Hicks is twelfth in innings pitched among all relievers. That is a lot of innings for a young pitcher and this update will show they might have taken a toll.
The earned runs allowed made a big jump from June 29 to the All Star break on July 15. In that two-week span, Hicks surrendered ten earned runs. Two weeks is certainly not enough of a sample size to draw meaningful conclusions, of course, but for fun, let’s take a look at the underlying data and see what that tells us. The easiest thing to look at is velocity:
There appears to be a bit of a drop around the time Hicks gave up a majority of his runs, but nothing too conclusive there. Next, let’s check his pitch usage:
Hicks’ pitch usage appears to have stabilized, though his slider usage has increased in recent games while his two-seam usage drops. Now let’s look at his outcomes:
The contact rate and swinging strike rate for Hicks have significantly improved since the season began. He recent troubles has brought his contact rate back up from its previous low, however.
Was that two-week stretch just an anomaly - just a couple bad days strung together? Was a little bit of rest all Hicks really needed? Or, are the Cardinals using the youngster too often? While we cannot conclusively say that Jordan Hicks is getting tired, common sense suggests it would be in the team’s best interest to rest their young flamethrower a bit more. He may be one of the Cardinals top relievers, but in his first season in the majors, there is no need for him to be throwing the most relief innings on the team.
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