Can Aaron Hicks get “off the interstate”?

Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks

Hitting challenged center fielder Aaron Hicks had a game winning hit a week or so ago at Target Field and since that day he is hitting at a .333 clip. Yes, I know that only encompasses 6 games and 22 plate appearances but it is a start. As hard as it may be to watch this 24 struggle with the bat, it is way too early to give up on the athletic outfielder. I hope the Twins keep working with Hicks and let him become the player he can be.

Mario MendozaAccording to the Baseball Glossary a player batting between .100 and .199 is said to be “on the interstate.” The term refers to the fact that a batting average in the .100s can resemble an interstate name (e.g. .195 resembles I-95), especially on older scoreboards where the numeral “1” appears identical to the uppercase letter “I” . A hit to put an average above .200 gets a batter “off the interstate.” A batter whose average is below .100 is sometimes said to be “off the map”. The “Mendoza Line” is another baseball term coined after former shortstop Mario Mendoza, whose batting average is taken to define the threshold of incompetent hitting. That being said, this former Pirate, Mariner and Ranger shortstop managed to stay in the big leagues for all or parts of nine seasons and appear in 686 games. The cutoff point is most often said to be .200 and when a position player’s batting average falls below that level, the player is said to be “below the Mendoza Line”. This is often thought of as the offensive threshold below which a player’s presence in the big leagues cannot be justified, regardless of his defensive abilities.

Since the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Minnesota Twins in 1961 they have had a total of 373 position players. So how many of these players have had at least 300 at bats in a Twins uniform and not gotten off the interstate? Let’s take a look.

The fearsome Six

Rk Player BA AB G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SO OBP
1 Drew Butera .182 490 186 534 38 89 21 2 5 41 94 .230
2 Jerry Kindall .183 470 187 534 49 86 14 1 7 42 141 .254
3 Aaron Hicks .193 383 115 438 50 74 15 3 9 35 115 .279
4 Houston Jimenez .195 384 144 409 33 75 16 2 0 28 45 .231
5 Luis Gomez .199 362 241 403 36 72 6 2 0 22 40 .246
6 Charlie Manuel .199 366 223 413 25 73 12 0 4 40 74 .276
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/23/2014.

Since

Current Twins outfielder/1B Chris Colabello in spite of a hot April is on the verge of joining this illustrious list by hitting .213 in 310 at bats and former shortstop Pedro Florimon who is now calling Rochester home has a Twins career mark of .208 in 605 at bats.

For all you Nick Punto bashers out there, he is no where close to making this list. In 1,121 career games spanning 14 seasons Punto is has a .247 career batting average.

UPDATE AS OF MAY 26, 2014 – Aaron Hicks announced today that he is done with switch-hitting and will only bat from the right side going forward. The Twins with no other center field options available have given him their blessing.

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