Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

SF Giants Pitcher Return to a Starter’s Role Has Been a Success

When the San Francisco Giants signed Jordan Hicks this past offseason, many thought Hicks would serve in a bullpen role. Instead, his return to a starter’s role has been one of the early success stories of 2024. As a starter, Hicks has dialled down the velocity of his ground ball-inducing sinker (95.6 mph, after it was hovering around 100 mph in relief in the past) while getting similar whiff rates with his sweeper and splitter. The transition has been a remarkable one for Hicks and the Giants with the right-hander owning a 1.00 ERA through 18 innings in three starts. The 27-year-old pitched six strong innings on Wednesday, allowing four hits and one run en route to a 7-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Jordan Hicks Continues Solid Run for the Giants

Let’s go back to 2022 when Hicks converted from relieving to starting for the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a less-than-ideal switch for Hicks, who struggled mightily. In eight starts, he threw a combined 26 1/3 innings with a 5.47 ERA. He walked about 20 percent of the batters he faced, barely getting strikeouts against opponents. The short-lived experiment saw Hicks return to late-inning duties in the bullpen. But when the discussions of Hicks returning to a starting role emerged, many thought it wasn’t going to happen.

“Really, really good starts, every one of them,” said Giants manager Bob Melvin. “It’s more just the mindset than anything else. He wants to go out there and give us innings. That mindset has worked really well for him.”

One Weakness Holding Hicks Back

What’s holding Hicks back from the rotation in previous seasons was his performance against left-handed and right-handed batters. Between 2021-23, Hicks had a 23 percent strikeout rate while walking batters at a 15 percent clip against lefties. On the other hand, he has a 27 percent strikeout rate with a 12 percent walk rate against righties. Hicks was more dominant against right-handers but he has improved against lefties. In the past, Hicks tried a variety of pitches to handle lefties. He toiled with a changeup but never threw it more than 5 percent of the time. He tried using the cutter and has taken velocity off his slider and tried to throw it like a curveball. None of these pitches worked for Hicks.

Hicks Relied Heavily on Fastballs

Hicks leaned on his four-seam fastball and sinker against lefties in 2023. He threw them close to 80 percent of the time while mixing in a slider. Using his splitter improves Hicks’s chances against left-handed hitters because it gives him an off-speed option. Altogether, he’s reduced the usage of his four-seam and slider in favor of the sinker/splitter combination. All of these changes and improvements of Hicks’s game is a positive one. The Giants like what they’ve seen in him and Hicks like where he’s at and the fact that he can fulfill a starting role in the rotation.

It remains to be seen how his arm will handle the workload throughout the season. However, he’s a must-start for the Giants, especially if he can find a rhythm with his sweeper/slider.

Main Photo: © Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports


More Posts

Send Us A Message