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2017 AL Wild Card Game: Yankees using Hicks in center to control Twins’ run game

2017 AL Wild Card Game: Yankees using Hicks in center to control Twins’ run game

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Storylines to follow as the 2017 postseason gets underway

Storylines to follow as the 2017 postseason gets underway

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NEW YORK — When the Yankees take on the Twins in Tuesday night’s AL Wild Card Game, they will have a former Twins player in center field. Aaron Hicks, not the high-priced Jacoby Ellsbury, will man center field for New York in the winner-take-all game. Ellsbury is in the lineup at DH.

The Yankees acquired Hicks from the Twins two years ago in a relatively minor trade, though the former first round pick broke out this season, hitting .266/.372/.475 with a career high 15 home runs. Ellsbury had a solid season as well, authoring a .264/.348/.402 batting line with 22 steals, which is why he’s also in the lineup.

“I think this team is much more athletic than the teams in the past that we’ve had the last three or four years, and you’re hoping that athleticism helps in a game like this,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi before the game. “I mean, that’s part of the reason we made the lineup the way we did, because we feel that we have — we’re a faster team, defensively we’re going to cover more ground, and those sort of things.”

The decision to play Hicks over Ellsbury is indeed based on defense, which might seem weird considering Ellsbury has a reputation for being a strong defensive center fielder. The numbers agree with the move, however:

  • Hicks in 2017: +12 Defensive Runs Saved in center
  • Ellsbury in 2017: -3 Defense Runs Saved in center

There’s more to this decision than simple runs saved numbers. The single biggest difference between Hicks and Ellsbury defensively is their arms. Ellsbury has one of the worst outfield arms in baseball. Hicks has one of the best. His arm is so strong that last season he set a Statcast record with a 105.5 mph throw from left field.

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