Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
They called Yankees great Reggie Jackson "Mr. October."
Maybe they should start calling Aaron Hill "Mr. Cycle."
The Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman has hit for the cycle twice in the last two weeks.
That achievement puts Hill in an elite class. Though the cycle has been accomplished 55 times by 53 different players since 2000, in the last 100 years only one other player besides Hill has hit for the cycle twice in the same season. That player was Babe Herman, who cycled twice for the Brooklyn Robins during the 1931 campaign. I bet even Jamie Moyer doesn't remember when that happened.
Hill's cycle against the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night was the finishing touch on an absolutely incredible month for the 30-year-old. Hill completed June with a .370 batting average, his highest average in a month since September 2007, when the 2009 American League Silver Slugger recipient mashed his way to a .406 mark during his last 27 games.
Among hitters who recorded over 70 at bats in June, only Minnesota's Joe Mauer (.397), Cincinnati's Joey Votto (.392) and the Angels' Mike Trout (.372) hit for a higher average than Hill. Hill's three triples during the month were second to Colorado outfielder Dexter Fowler, who led all of baseball with four triples during June.
Hill wasn't just a brilliant hitter for average last month. He was also one of the game's premier power hitters.
Fantasy owners were probably beginning to think that Hill had left his power stroke back in Canada. After blasting 62 homers for the Toronto Blue Jays between 2009 and 2010, Hill belted just eight long balls in 137 games last season.
Luckily for the fantasy community, Hill's power returned with a vengeance in June, as Hill exploded for six dingers and 20 RBIs (his most since September of 2009) during the month. Four of Hill's six June homers have come over his last 11 games, a stretch where he has hit .447 with 11 RBIs. He also put up a .700 slugging percentage in June, bettered only by Jose Bautista, Trevor Plouffe, Paul Goldschmidt and Robinson Cano.
I don't know if Hill was just keeping his power bat stashed in a closet for a rainy day, or what the reason is for his recent dominance. But there's no denying that Hill is one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now, and certainly worthy of getting his second career All-Star nod when the teams are announced on Sunday afternoon.
Hill's average draft position in ESPN leagues this season was 222.6. Despite a tepid display in April and May (.263 with five homers and 18 RBIs), Hill is ranked 78th in total fantasy production this season and fifth among second baseman (Cano, Jason Kipnis, Ian Kinsler and Brandon Phillips remain ahead of him).
Even if Hill cools off a little bit heading into July, he's still a must-start against left-handed pitchers. Hill has absolutely torched southpaws in 2012, compiling a .350 average with five homers and 18 RBIs in 80 at bats this season. He's a .276 career hitter against lefties compared to just .267 against righthanders so you can expect that trend to continue throughout the season for the right-handed Hill.
It's also worth mentioning that most of the damage Hill has done at the plate this year has occurred at Arizona's home stadium. In 139 at bats in the confines of hitter-friendly Chase Field this season, Hill has been a .360 hitter with seven homers and 24 runs driven in. In 59 career games playing in Phoenix Hill has a .335 average, so his success at home in 2012 is no fluke.
Even though Hill is only a .269 career hitter and batters do have a tendency to drop off in spectacular fashion after a great month (hence Josh Hamilton's .223 average in June after hitting .344 in May), I don't think fantasy owners need to be worried about a Hill backslide in the coming months.
Hill's success as the Diamondbacks No. 2 hitter has come mostly without the benefit of a strong lineup around him. Arizona's three-hitter, Justin Upton (.277, 7 HRs, 34 RBIs after hitting .289 with 31 HRs and 88 RBIs last season), hasn't provided Hill with the kind of protection that we all know he is capable of and the team's leadoff batter Stephen Drew has missed most of the year because of an injured ankle. Once both of them get going (it looks like Upton has already started to: he's hitting .452 over his last nine games), Hill should start to see even more pitches to hit, which can do nothing but help his fantasy value.
Hill is a .270 lifetime hitter before the All-Star break and .268 after, so it would be surprising if his stats took a tumble in the second half. In fact, historically, Hill has performed better in the season's final 30 days than in any other month: he has hit .287 with 18 HRs and 74 RBIs in 599 career at bats in September/October.
The best may still be to come for Mr. Cycle and after how well Hill hit in June, that's saying something.
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