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Happy Birthday Aaron Hill

Toronto Blue Jays v Seattle Mariners Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Aaron Hill turns 38 today.

Aaron had a 13-year MLB career, the first 6 and a half seasons with the Blue Jays. He was our first round draft pick (13th overall) in 2003. He turned out to be one of the better first round picks in that draft. Of the 12 guys picked in front of him only Mick Markakis (33.0) had a higher bWAR than Hill’s 23.7 and the only other first rounder,with a better bWAR was Adam Jones (32.1) who was the 37th pick (a supplemental pick).

Aaron was called to the majors in late May of 2005. Corey Koskie went down with an injury and Hill got his spot on the roster. Koskie would miss 60+ games with various injuries that season. Once up, Hill stayed with the Blue Jays for the rest of the season, getting playing time at third, DH, second and short. He hit .274/.342/.385 with 3 home runs in 105.

During the off-season, after the 2005 season, the Jays traded second baseman Orlando Hudson (along with pitcher Miguel Batista) to the Diamondbacks for Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos, opening up second base for Hill. Hill hit .291/.349/.386 with 6 home runs in 155 games. Hill played some short as well as second, when Russ Adams didn’t turn out to be the answer at short.

In 2007 Hill found some power, hitting .291/.333/.459 with 17 home runs, playing 160 games at second base. We figured we found the guy who would play second for the next decade. Defensively, he was improving, with the help of Brian Butterfield, and, at 25, his bat seemed to be developing to where it looked like he was going to be a All-Star at second.

His 2008 season ended early when he took an accidental elbow in the head from David Eckstein when they collided chasing a popup on May 29th. He missed over 100 games with ‘concussion like symptoms’. I wonder how different his career would have been without the concussion.

He put together the season we were all hoping to see in 2009, hitting .286/.330/.499 with 36 home runs and 108 RBI. He led the AL in PA with 734, playing in 158 games. He played in his first (and last All-Star game), won the Silver Slugger and finished 12th in AL MVP voting. He had the best season of his career, putting up a 5.8 bWAR (FanGraphs had him at a 4.0 WAR, they weren’t a fan of his defense. UZR had him at a -4.4/150 that season, after having him in the positives every season up until then). It was the best season we had from a second baseman since the days of Roberto Alomar.

We were looking forward to bigger and better things from Aaron. It didn’t happen.

He started the 2010 season a deep slump. At the end of April he was hitting .150/.306/.275 (after missing a couple of weeks with an injury). As the season went on he seemed to sell out to being a big time pull hitter, trying to hit a homer every time up. I thought he decided he couldn’t save his batting average so he tried to pile up the home run count (I was likely over simplifying it, but manager Cito Gaston liked his batters to pull the ball). He ended up with 26 home runs and .205/.271/.394 batting line.

Aaron’s 2011 season didn’t go much better. By mid-August he was hitting just .225/.270/.313 with 6 home runs. Alex Anthopoulos decided he had enough of waiting for the 2009 version of Hill to return and traded him to the Braves (along with John McDonald) to the Diamondbacks for second baseman Kelly Johnson on August 23rd. Johnson was having a pretty poor season himself, hitting .209/.287/.412 with 18 home runs in 114 games at the time of the trade.

Hill became a different hitter with the Diamondbacks, hitting .315/.386/.492 in 33 games for them at the end of the season. Hill helped Arizona make it to the playoffs, where they lost out in the NLDS to the Brewers. Hill had a terrific series, hitting .278/.435/.444.

He would play with Arizona for 5 seasons hitting ..273/.331/.439 with 55 homers in 525 games. From there he would play a season each with the Brewers, Red Sox and Giants.

Aaron had a 13-year MLB career, hitting .266/.323/.417 with 162 home runs.

Hill is number 22 on our Jays leader board in games played at 875 and 20th in homers.

He had an up and down career, but then a lot of second baseman have careers like that. Back in the ‘old days’ base runners would slide through the second baseman as he turned the double play (usually with their back turned from the base runner). Second basemen tended to have to deal with minor injuries (and not so minor injuries), maybe that has something to do with the inconsistency of their careers. Thankfully, runners are no longer allowed to knock the 2B into center field on the slide anymore.

Happy Birthday Aaron. I hope it is a good one.

Luis Leal turns 63 today.

Leal was a pretty good pitcher for us back in the early 80s. He pitched for us from 1980 to 1985. Career he pitched in 165 games, 151 starts. He had a 51-58 record and a 4.14 ERA in 946 innings.

His best season was 1982 when he had a 12-15 record and a 3.93 ERA in 38 starts with 10 games and 249.2 innings pitched. He’d throw over 200 innings in each of the next two seasons. In that 3 year stretch he made 108 starts and threw 689.1 innings with a 38-35 record and a 4.03 ERA.

On our franchise leader board, Leal is 14th in bWAR at 10.6, 9th in innings pitched and 11th in wins.

Happy birthday Luis. I hope it is a good one.

And it is Anthony Kay’s 25th birthday. Happy birthday Anthony.