The St. Louis Cardinals brought up Jordan Hicks last year without him ever throwing a pitch over the level of High A ball. Not only that, but Hicks was a starter in all but 3 games of his professional career. He was asked to jump the top two levels of ball and switch to reliever full-time. If that wasn’t a daunting task enough, he was also asked to help take over the back end of a (multi-year) faltering and flailing bullpen.
What a job he did. I’ll talk more about his fastball here in a moment (see the “if things get better” section), but here is a beautiful look at a scopic of Hicks’ two-seam fastball and his slider. It’s a deadly combination and you can see why this helpless batter was flailing. (@cardinalsgifs is a master. Just look at this thing.)
From 2014-2018, all relief pitchers combined for the following line over every 60 games pitched.
Here is what my system has projected for Hicks’ 2019 season:
70 games, 70 innings
3.86 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 1.657 WHIP, 1.55 K:BB
9.514 H/9, 8.357 K/9, 5.400 BB/9, 0.257 HR/9
Man. This one is one that I just can’t begin to agree with. I really hope my projection system has him pegged incorrectly. I double and triple checked to make sure I didn’t press some wrong buttons and input incorrectly. This is where my lack of age filter for the minor leagues really begins to show. His numbers at the minor league levels are so distorted due to the fact that he didn’t pitch at a high level and the numbers were garnered as a starter while he has since moved to relief.
What can be pointed out to show that things CAN be better than that?!?
Back on Day 20 of my Positive October series, I had this to say about Hicks’ 2018 season (yes, I’m an idiot and quoting myself):
“[Hicks’ ] 105.1 and 105.0 [mph pitches to Odubel Herrera on May 8th ended up] as the fastest two pitches thrown in 2018. In fact, out of the fastest 50 pitches in baseball this year, all at 103.0 mph or faster, Jordan Hicks had 39 of them. Hicks threw at minimum 46 pitches 102.9 mph or faster this year. That's at least 3.6% of his pitches, possibly more. Hicks' fastball average 100.5 mph this season. Aroldis Chapman and Tyson Guerrero were the only two who were (barely) within 2 miles per hour of that. There were 38 more pitchers within 2 miles per hour of Guerrero. That's how far ahead Hicks was with the velocity on his fastballs. Hicks also led the league in another category - the lowest percentage of swings and plate appearances in which the batter was able to barrel up the ball. That allowed him to have just a .275 wOBA allowed this season.”
Oh, and just think about if he can control his walk rate!
How/If things go wrong:
Hicks doesn’t control his walk rate. It gets worse than the 5.2 BB/9 (or 13.3% of all hitters) it was this year. If you add in his HBP to his BB, it’s over 15% of all batters. Hitters had a .156 OBP against him without swinging the bat.