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Hitters are starting to make contact against Jordan Hicks again - A Hunt and Peck

Let’s take a look.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is a game of adjustments. Jordan Hicks figured something out at the end of May: Hicks started throwing more four-seam fastballs. Seemingly as a result of this, hitters swung and missed more at his pitches, his strikeouts increased and his walks were less frequent. In my last update, I wondered whether Hicks was wearing down. He had been giving up more runs and contact. He also looked to be using his two-seamer more.

On Tuesday night Jordan Hicks gave up one run on two walks and some weak contact hits, but just before that he had a string of three very good outings where he pitched three innings and stuck out seven batters while walking three.

Data via Fangraphs

Let’s take a look at what he is doing now to adjust to major league hitters adjusting to him.

Data via Fangraphs

Data via Fangraphs

My initial takeaway here is that Jordan Hicks lowest contact rate against corroborates with him throwing the slider and fastball more and throwing the two-seamer less. Those two pitches generated more swings and misses and more swings at pitches out of the zone, which are both good. Then something happened: He started throwing the slider less and the two-seamer and four-seam fastball more. It all happens right around appearance number 45. Here are the two graphs overlayed (somewhat):

Data via Fangraphs

It is apparent that, for a reason unknown to us, Jordan Hicks is consciously throwing his slider less. Is this perhaps an adjustment by Hicks? Is the slider causing wear and tear on the arm as the season’s end approaches? Anecdotally we know as baseball fans that two-seamers tend to generate more contact, but usually weak contact. We can prove this is the case with Hicks simply by looking at the graphs above. The issue is that Hicks’ command is not pinpoint and this causes him to issue walks at an above average rate. Giving up contact, even weak contact, with runners on can be a dangerous game to play. Tuesday night is a perfect example of that.

Until Hicks can command his pitchers better, maybe he is better off pumping sliders and four-seamers. That seemed to be working before. This game is a game of adjustments. but with the stuff Hicks is bringing, he might want to make batters prove they can hit first.

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