Is Hill a two-hitter?

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007 was the play of second baseman Aaron Hill, who put up solid offensive numbers to match his gold glove-calibre defense. In a team-high 160 games, Hill batted .291 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs. He also compiled a team-high 47 doubles to best Roberto Alomar‘s previous team record of 41 (1991) by a second sacker. Hill’s home run total also tied the mark Alomar set in 1993, a season in which the former Blue Jay All-Star also drove in 93 runs out of the two-hole.

On the surface, it seems that Hill may be suited to bat second, as well. That is, until you look at his strikeout totals. In fact, that alone is what kept the 25-year-old from having an even better campaign in ’07, and will likely keep him in the bottom third of a (healthy) Blue Jays lineup. Hill’s 102 strikeouts matched Troy Glaus’ number for the second-most on the team last year (Alex Rios, 103). With just 41 walks on the season, he also posted the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.49) among those Jays with at least 400 plate appearances.

By comparison, Alomar — who served as the ‘A’ in ‘WAMCO’ for Toronto in 1993 — walked more times (80) than he struck out (67) that season en route to posting a .408 on-base percentage. Hill, by contrast, finished with an on-base mark of .333 in ’07. Hill’s batting average would likely have been higher, as well, had he put the ball in play more often. His .291 mark fails in comparison to the .326 average that Alomar posted in ’93, placing him third in the American League behind two teammates (John Olerud, .363 & Paul Molitor, .332).

So, is Hill a number two hitter? No … at least, not yet. The 2008 campaign, after all, will be just his fourth (third full season) in the bigs. He’ll likely improve on his plate discipline as he continues to get more experience. Until then, however, who should fill in at number two? There’s certainly no clear-cut two-slot hitter on the club. Eleven different players took a crack at it at least once last year, with Lyle Overbay (51 games) getting the most time there. One thing’s for sure: A lack of continuity in the lineup was a major problem for the Blue Jays in ’07. Solving that problem early in ’08 will go a long way towards making a run at a playoff spot come October.

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One Response to “Is Hill a two-hitter?”

  1. Dave Rouleau Says:

    I’m divided between Wells and Hill in the #2 spot.

    I think Rios needs to be inserted and kept in the number three hole and Thomas as the cleanup hitter. That leaves Wells the #5 and #2 spot, but his speed and contact abilities could be a great asset in the latter position.

    What I hope Hill works on next season is the K total, which has worsen considerably last season. For him, an OBP around .330 is not satisfactory.

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