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The odds of Brandon Hicks keeping it up, revisited

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An oral history of the most-read article in the history of McCovey Chronicles.

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Do you remember Brandon Hicks?

Five years ago today, Grant Brisbee, the creator of this website (that I ruined in less than a year), wrote an article about the Giants’ non-roster invitee turned temporary starting second baseman, Brandon Hicks, pondering if the 28 year old’s hot start was sustainable.

For context, the Giants had lost playoff hero Marco Scutaro to a back injury that would eventually end his career and Joe Panik was still in the minor leagues. Hicks made the team out of spring training and had an .879 OPS through his first 19 games, which included a pinch-hit home run in his first plate appearance. The Giants were also 14-5 in those games.

It was all going very well, prompting Grant to write “The odds of Brandon Hicks keeping it up”, which looked at all the zaniness and frustrations that come with a really small sample size of “the first few weeks of the season”. Still, Hicks’ hot start gave him hope:

The Giants have done amazing work with minor-league free agents, with Andres Torres and Gregor Blanco both starting for World Series teams. Hicks would slot in quite nicely with that found-money combo.

That faith was not rewarded.

Hicks made just 175 plate appearances in the major leagues after that article went up. The Giants designated him for assignment on July 11th. Before he was DFA’d, however, he hit what was at the time just the seventh home run by a Giant allowed by Clayton Kershaw.

Miraculously, a clip of it still exists on MLB.com

So, that’s the legacy of Brandon Hicks; and, although Grant’s post on the matter was thoughtful, funny, and well-written like everything he has ever written, it ultimately doesn’t rank very high in the Brisbee canon. Why is Hicks worthy of a follow-up post five years later?

Reader, I’m here to tell you that this is the most-read article in the entire history of McCovey Chronicles. Given his national work and his new position with The {expletive deleted}, it’s probably not the most read piece of Grant Brisbee’s career, but it’s up there. This part is not a joke: the article gets at least 20 page views a day. Here’s a live update:

Here’s our beloved Doug Bruzzone tweeting about it over time:

It’s a mystery. Can’t understand where this traffic is coming from or why it’s happening. The url is just “brandon-hicks-giants”. No help there. So, to get some answers, I started asking around about the post itself and what might be driving the traffic. Here are questions for and responses from some of the relevant parties, with some embellishments on my part*.

What is the source of the traffic?

LINK CLICKSON, SB NATION WEB TRAFFIC MANAGER: We dug into this a bit and Google tells us the traffic is coming from “direct”. Sometimes that means people are just poling around on the site. But sometimes it means Google doesn’t have more details for us. When that happens, we figure it’s some sort of Ghost in the Machine situation, only instead of a serial killer trying to continue his bloodthirst after death via technology a la the 1993 feature film of the same name, this is some sort of emotional torment that has been caught in an algorithm, condemned to replay the same search and view request for eternity. Could be someone’s cursed cell phone caught in this loop. Could be an argument made in a bar in mid-April 2014 that got caught in the ether. Ultimately, the Internet is unknowable.

Knowing what you know and knowing what you know what we know about April stats, what compelled you to write about Brandon Hicks’ hot start?

GRANT BRISBEE, WRITER FOR THE {expletive deleted}: Well, I tells ya, I was thinking long and hard about the one article I had to write for the site that day. Yeeeeeeeep. Just one. In my day, we didn’t have to have a post up every hour like you fools — he he he he he he he [Editor’s note: we don’t have to have a post up every hour, but definitely look for the game recap in a few hours.] — so’s I stared long and hard at that ol’ Baseball Reference page there for the Giants. In my day, Baseball Reference cost a durn nickel to look at and if ye wanted to use Play Index ye’d have to buy it dinner first, wink wink. He he he he I’m pulling off this old prospector bit quite convincingly I must say!

Why do you think this post has endured for five years?

GRANT BRISBEE, PODCAST CO-HOST: I’d be a mule standing in front of a train telling you it ain’t made the station yet if I says you I knew which one of my dang durned word scribbles would strike pay dirt. Blogging is alchemy. At least, so says the witch across from the street from the General Store (yee-haw!).

{It’s unclear why I am continuing with this bit.}

GRANT BRISBEE, DOG DAD: But I went back and read them oldy words and the answer is obvious to this old prospector: look at them names.

It’s true! Pablo Sandoval, Joaquin Arias, Matt Cain, Ellis Burks, Andres Torres, Gregor Blanco, Marco Scutaro, Jamey Carroll, Gene Baker, Frank Menechino, Jimmy Cooney, Doc Prothro, Jose Vidro, Orlando Cabrera, Mark Grudzielanek, Ryan Vogelsong, and Brian Bocock all get name-checked.

GRANT BRISBEE, STILL PRETENDING TO BE AN 1840s PROSPECTOR: Now see here. You go to the top of a mountain and shout “Eureka!” you’re bound to get wolves at your feet.

Why are you doing this bit over email? It’d play a lot funnier over audio.

GRANT BRISBEE, AS CHARACTERIZED BY BRYAN MURPHY: Oh, I cain’t stop now, see here. In too deep. I reckon this bumfuzzled ye, too. Thought you had a nice little content package all wrapped up and ready to post, but then BANG I ambushed ye! He he he he he he! Eat my onomatopoeia, Blog Boy!

Anywhoozle, them names might not be so’s impressive put together, see, but individitastically, they might fetch a looky loo or two, if ya understands my wordin’.

I can see it. There could be a bunch of Montreal Expos fans still out there, wandering the wastelands of the Internet. This post would lure them in. But it’s that steady 15-20 views per day that’s bothering me. It feels like they’re the same 15-20 people.

GRANT BRISBEE, NOW BEING NORMAL, BUT STILL JUST A CHARACTER IN THIS MINI SKETCH, AS HE DID NOT AGREE TO AN INTERVIEW: Maybe it’s just one of those things that can’t be explained. Like, how am I so perfect? That shouldn’t be possible and yet, here I am. I can’t explain it. Nobody can. So why question it? Just bask in my perfection, right after you use promo code GrantGod at sign-up to receive a 40% off rate for [removed by editorial].


Brandon Hicks cleared waivers and was reassigned to Triple-A for the Giants where he played 41 more games in Fresno. He stuck around one more season in Triple-A (this time in Sacramento after the Giants swapped affiliates) and played 45 games before being released.

He was invited to the Dodgers’ spring training camp in 2016 and played 89 games for their Triple-A team that year (he hit .229/.328/.361) before being released. And then he was out of pro ball.

So, you can see why it’s odd that this one post from 2014 makes it onto our daily views list. It stands out to have a daily reminder of Brandon Hicks. But maybe Fake Grant is right — it’s just one of those mysteries of baseball.

And yet, it’s also a reminder that these individual April starts are mostly meaningless. A hot hitter was off a major league roster jut a few months later and then never seen again. The inverse of that could also be true. The slow — you know what? Scratch that. The tremendously bad starts for Brandon Crawford (.222 wOBA), Evan Longoria (.260), Steven Duggar (.269), and Buster Posey (.300) don’t have to mean anything in terms of projecting out the remaining five months of the season and we can probably forget about them as soon as the calendar flips to May.

That doesn’t mean they’ll all magically perform up to their career norms, but it also doesn’t mean we have to draw any conclusions right now.

Except that 15-20 people will never forget that Brandon Hicks had a hot start in 2014.

* - some as in total embellishment. Nobody in this brief oral history consented to an interview, so their responses have been generated by my caffeinated brain. They are not to be taken seriously. Just like me.