Clone Wars: Aaron Hill and Justin Morneau???

Aaron Hill became a popular pick in 2008 after he hit 17 homers the year before. Then his power fell in the limited time he saw before dealing with-post concussion symptoms from colliding with teammate David Eckstein. This year, Hill has gone beyond every expectation and powered out 31 homers so far.

While Hill is experiencing a breakout, the fans in Minnesota are getting what they always expect from Justin Morneau. He has always had the ability to hit 30 homers along with a solid average, but this year he has started to walk a lot more and added a solid OBP to his attack.

Name              GP    AB    R    HR   RBI   SB   CS    K%      BB%     BABIP   HR/F    P/PA
Aaron Hill        134   582   82   31   91    4    2    15.3%    5.2%    0.290   14.9%   3.5
Justin Morneau    128   483   83   29   97    0    0    17.0%    12.5%   0.288   17.3%   3.7

Justin Morneau

MLB: SEP 05 Twins at Indians
Minnesota Twins’ first baseman Justin Morneau in action against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland on Sept. 5. The Twins defeated the Indians 4-1 in the second game of their three-game weekend series. (Icon/SMI)

Another MVP award based on RBI totals in 2006 led to Morneau being a perennial top-five pick at first base. His totals were always solid in all categories except for steals. Since then he has been fairly solid, but has often fallen slightly below expectations in one of his categories. This year Morneau has put up 2006 numbers but added to his walks.

His strikeout rate has been solid over the years with slight ups and downs, but at a career level of 16% he has good contact skills. The change has been in walk rate the past few years going from 8.2% in 2005 and 2006 to 9.8% in 2007 and 10.9% in 2008. He again made very strong strides in 2009 by walking in 12.5% of his plate appearances.

Even with the increase in walks, his OBP is still not a career high. Thanks to a BABIP of only .288, his average and OBP are lower than they could be. This isn’t all bad luck though with a LD% that has fallen to 16.2%. His line drives have fallen before, so I don’t expect this to be a continued drop in BABIP.

He has small fluctuations, but Morneau is one of the more reliable choices at first base since 2006.

Aaron Hill

It’s not much of a surprise that looking at HitTracker you find Aaron Hill is tied for the AL lead in “just enough” homers. His power growth went beyond any owner’s wildest expectations and with 12 homers being “just enough,” he has a 39% rate. That is way above the league average and calls for a regression in power. His HR/F rate has also shown his amazing power growth going from 8% in his breakout 2007 year to the 14.9% he is at this year.

Hill has trouble getting on base and his walk rate on his career stands at 6.7%. With a .335 career OBP his run totals have always dragged his value down. This year he is on pace to top 90 runs for the first time, but if he’s unable to continue to hit 30 homers going forward he will likely return to 80 runs.

His speed on the bases has also hurt his value. He has only topped 4 steals once before and his speed score for his career is only 4.0. This has been lower this year at only 2.7 and has surely cost him several more runs. This lack of speed has also likely been part of the reason for his low BABIP this year, which is at .290 and only .311 on his career.

Not many leagues use OBP as a category, but ignore it at your own risk. Hill needs more runs to really get the most value, but just doesn’t have the skills. Expecting less in all categories next year except his average is not encouraging for next year.


We can see pretty clearly that Morneau may have equal numbers to Hill this year, but Morneau is the more consistent player and more likely to repeat these numbers again. Hill has the advantage of second base eligibility, but these two won’t be clones next year for sure based on the numbers. Looking at Fantasy Ball Junkie’s 2010 very early Fantasy baseball draft we see Aaron Hill going in the fifth round. He also went right behind Ben Zobrist who I would recommend as the much better pick with five solid categories and a great OBP to back it up.

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  1. Dylan said...

    Its really funny how close their numbers are this year.

    Couple of notes on Hill though, I think his BABIP is lower because of the number of “Just Enough” homers he’s hit(instead of fallign in for a double as they are down alot for him this year). He’s not slow per say, just not a good basestealer.

    It will be interesting next years if pitchers get “TEH FEAR” with him being like one of 2 hitters to worry about in the Jay’s lineup next year, may see an increase in his walks as he does have a good eye, just that pitchers weren’t afraid to throw him strikes.

    I still like Zobrist over him next year though

  2. Millsy said...

    Oopsies.  My bad.  Thanks for checking on Lind.  He’s one I’m really curious about long term, as he may only qualify for DH after next season.

  3. Tom said...

    Interesting article. However, does Hill’s age (27 all season) and the fact he has now shown much nmore power over a full season than just about any 2b not named Utley. Some interesting names pop up on the sim score..Michael Young, Barry Larkin, Russell Martin. Some not so favorable ones that pop up are Yuni Betancourt and Tadahito Iguchi.

    With that being said, I don’t expect a Dustin Pedroia type drop-off (.57 in OPS, 30% less homers), however, I do think Hill is a type that needs to be accepted for what he is:
    A top 5 2b in the majors.

  4. Troy Patterson said...

    I’m not saying he will be worthless, but in his case you have to regress his numbers going into 2010.  Hill is having his first season with an ISO over .200 right now and with the hittracker data I suspect he will regress more to his career rate around .150-.170

    I worry about him in 2010 mainly because his value is almost entirely tied to his homers.  He is currently ranked 4th using while having the most homers at second base.

    If he lost ~10 homers next year he also loses approximately 10 runs and 10 RBIs.  That makes him Jose Lopez from this season and more of a top 10 instead of a top 5.

  5. Tom said...

    I guess the point that I am making is more of an elemental one. To suggest this is a career year for Hill is besides the point. What I am trying to say is that Hill is in the prime of his career. He will be turning 28 next year, and a typical career path would indicate more power, not dramatically less. Those “just making it” homers should gain a bit more distance as Hill’s body matures. No?

  6. Troy Patterson said...

    Let’s assume the hittracker data is showing a power increase and not a season of luck.

    He has to contend with injuries next year and also pitchers attempting to avoid him (perhaps an increased OBP).

    I’m not saying it’s impossible to repeat, but there is so much more data to suggest a regression than continued production at this level.

    Just looking at Brandon Phillips and Jimmy Rollins we can see infielders who reached 30 homers in 27-28 age seasons and experienced regression in the following seasons.

  7. Tom said...

    Touche. Just a quick question then:

    One of your prime points in your article was based on Hill losing value because his R output would probably drop 10-15% if he doesn’t hit 30 or more homers. With your last statement that pitchers may pitch around him more, his OBP would seemingly go up. Doesn’t that portend more Rs, not less?

  8. Tom said...

    And I seemingly may be misunderstanding this, but it seems you are equating scoring runs as a skill, which some believe is more an indicator based on the overall lineup composition and quality on an everyday basis.

  9. Troy Patterson said...

    You are correct that his OBP would go up with pitchers pitching around him, but I don’t think he would suddenly be a .360+ OBP type of guy.

    Scoring runs is not a skill directly, but getting on base is.  Scoring runs is dependent on lineup factors, but the players OBP also has a lot of influence.  If Hill hit in the same lineup slot all year but had a .370 OBP he would score more runs than the Hill with a .330-.340 OBP.

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