One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Jordan Hicks
Season stats: 3-6, 1 SVO, 4.84 ERA, 35 G, 8 GS, 61.1 IP, 46 H, 5 HR, 35 BB, 63 K, 17 IR, 4 IRS, 4.17 FIP, 1.321 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, -0.4 bWAR, 0.3 fWAR
Statcast: .307 xwOBA, 7.0 barrel %, 86.9 exit velocity, 32.3 hard hit %, 24.0 K %, 13.3 BB %
Best Statcast category: Fastball Velocity (99th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: BB % (1st percentile)
Hero/Goat: Goat 3
Positives: Threw more innings and appeared in more games than in any season since his rookie year….had two scoreless outings of two innings each to start his season….threw eight scoreless innings returning to the bullpen after his first injured list stay….had scoreless outings in 19 of his appearances….righties hit .197 with a .587 OPS against him….had a 3.52 ERA and a 4.00 K/BB in September….struck out 19 in 13.2 innings in August….had a 3.09 ERA in save situations….batters had a .590 OPS against him as a reliever….walk rate sharply declined as a reliever and his strikeout to walk ratio was over three….third place hitters had a .522 OPS against him….allowed a .458 OPS when he was ahead in the count….gave up a .502 OPS with two outs in an inning….with runners in scoring position, posted a .200/.266/.300 with 23 strikeouts in 79 plate appearances….the OPS was .416 with two outs and RISP….had a 1.93 ERA against the Cubs with a .307 OPS….pitched three scoreless innings against the Brewers….had a 3.86 ERA in day games.
Negatives: Began the year as a starter but that never really panned out….still had two stints on the injured list, though the second was a fairly short stay….gave up four runs twice, once as a starter, once as a reliever….gave up runs in every one of his starts, even though only one saw him finish the fifth….had a 5.46 ERA on the road….struggled some in the second half (6.20 ERA, .693 OPS against) though some of that was a function of fewer innings….had a 5.27 ERA in August, so when they weren’t striking out, hitters were hitting….had a 5.47 ERA as a starter and allowed a .745 OPS in that role….strikeout to walk ratio was barely over 1 as a starter….fifth place hitters had a .849 OPS….batters hit .261 on the first pitch….batters only hit .234 when they were ahead in the count, but they had a .505 OBP….walked more than he struck out in medium leverage situations….struggled in the fourth inning with a 9.00 ERA and a 1.300 OPS….second time around as a starter batters had a .922 OPS, which is a big reason he returned to the bullpen….batters had over a 1.000 OPS after his 25th pitch….had an 11.57 ERA as a reliever with no rest, though he only had three games that fit the description.
Overview: Honestly, the thought of moving Hicks to the rotation never seemed fully baked. He began his career as a starter, true, but he hadn’t done that since 2017. Going into this season, he’d thrown a total of 38.2 big league innings over the past three seasons. For him to legitimately transition back to the starting rotation, he would have had to spend much of this year at the minors really learning the craft, not trying to develop stamina and control at the big league level. There’s no doubt he has the stuff to be in the big leagues, but given his control issues and the lack of experience pushing him into the rotation did him a disservice. While it’s understandable why the club rushed him to the bigs in 2018 and I’m sure he’d rather have the major league experience, I’m always going to wonder if he’d have been better serviced working his way up the ladder. All that said, when he returned as a reliever he had some flashes of the guy that we saw in 2018. He got a few more strikeouts (I’ve always thought he should strike out more than he does given how fast he can throw) and walked a few fewer folks. There’s still a potent back end of the bullpen arm there, I believe, but it’s going to take some more work to get him to maximize his talent.
Outlook: This was Hicks’s last arbitration year–it’s amazing to think that next year will be technically his sixth year in the bigs. Could he be one in line for an extension this winter? Maybe. It’s a murky time for him. If he takes that next step, he could be a powerful force the next few years. If he doesn’t, the Cardinals might wind up cutting ties. It feels like there’s too many ways his career could go for the Cards to want to lock him up. I think they use him in the sixth and seventh again in 2023 and deal with whatever comes when it comes.