More often than not, Aaron Hicks faces a shift. According to Statcast, when Hicks batted from the left side in 2020, he was shifted against in 79.4 percent of his plate appearances.
While Hicks is a walking machine (his 41 walks were the second-most in the AL last season), Hicks does find himself grounding out to deep right field plenty.
So, he wants to incorporate something simple in his game to get more hits and defeat the shift against him.
“My approach has been a little more middle of the field, try not to roll over too much, and trying to get the ball in the air is a key of mine,” Hicks told reporters on Friday via Zoom, “but I also anticipate trying to get the bunt into play.
Hicks has not bunted for a hit since 2018, where he did it twice, according to FanGraphs. But he pulled it off in a recent spring game. And he’s aware that it’s there for him, even with a short porch in the Bronx.
“I feel like it’s there for me, I have plenty enough speed to get to first and get hits that way. I feel like it kind of sets up the rest of my day. Even start the day off with a bunt. Nobody’s on, big huge shift, and nobody’s at third base, and kind of take advantage of it. … I think adding the bunt to my game is definitely going to create some problems.
“With three guys over there on the right side and playing the shallow right field, second base type of deal, it definitely takes away my line drives and my hard-hit ground balls that would normally get through, now it’s [an] out. I feel like by adding the bunt, being able to use the middle of the field a little more will definitely take away that huge shift on the right side and ultimately give me more chances to get hits.”
From 2002 to 2016, at least 100 players bunted for two or more hits each season. Fewer than 100 have done it in each of the last four years.
No one has bunted for 20 hits since Dee Gordon in 2014.
And this is despite the growth of shifts, where a bunt against it is almost a lock to be a hit.
But Hicks wants to put it in his game, and improve his .225 batting average from last season, which would likely improve his already impressive on-base percentage.