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Updated: April 21st, 2013 4:56pm
Patience or passivity? Aaron Hicks' bizarre rookie season continues

Patience or passivity? Aaron Hicks' bizarre rookie season continues

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Aaron Hicks' bizarre season continued in Sunday's win over the Chicago White Sox.

Hicks delivered a seeing-eye RBI single in the seventh inning that tied the game 2-2 and kept the chains moving for a chain of events that eventually led to Josh Willingham's bases-clearing, go-ahead double.

For Hicks, the single was just his third hit in 60 plate appearances this year, but all three have driven in at least a run.

Three hits in 60 trips to begin a major league career isn't exactly making a splash -- heck, it's barely dipping toes -- and normally such a slow start would be grounds for a demotion to Triple-A Rochester if not for two things:

1.) The Twins don't have any center fielders on the 40-man roster to replace Hicks right now, and Darin Mastroianni will be sidelined for at least another 12 days.

2.) Hicks he has now reached base seven times in his last 14 trips to the plate -- six walks and a slow-rolling single.

And that's the odd part. Hicks continues to have troubles making solid contact at the plate, but his nine walks are second on the team behind only Willingham (11).

Twins decision makers have recently discussed whether or not to demote Hicks, but for now the plan is to let it ride. The hope internally is Hicks will parlay some of his better at-bats recently into more productivity. He has always shown patience and plate discipline at every level of the minor leagues, and he also has exploded after slow starts at most levels.

It's fair to wonder, however, if Hicks' patience at the plate -- 4.2 pitches seen per plate appearance, which ranks fourth on the team -- is actually being driven by passivity.

Hicks has seen a team-leading nine 3-1 counts so far this season, but he has swung only twice in those situations (22%), including taking a fastball on the outside edge by Gavin Floyd for a strike on Sunday, and a fairly juicy breaking pitch from Jake Peavy for a strike on a 3-1 count in Saturday's game. Out of the seven 3-1 pitches Hicks has taken, two of them were ball four.

By comparison, Willingham, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have swung 15 times in 21 combined 3-1 counts (71%).

Plus, 38% of Hicks' team-leading 21 strikeouts this season have come with the bat still on his shoulder. League average is 25%.

No Twins hitter has a lower contact rate than Hicks (71%).

Three weeks is an extremely small sample size, and Hicks has swung on four of his six 2-0 counts, so it's hard to draw any grand conclusions.

But three tendencies are apparent through Hicks' first 14 games -- he sees a lot of pitches, he has trouble making solid contact, and he isn't being aggressive on 3-1 counts.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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