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Look Up For What Ails Adam Frazier This Year

Adam Frazier has had a down year and the answer is in his batting profile

So many things have gone wrong for the Pirates this year. It’s been a veritable maelstrom of injuries, mystifying dropoffs in performance, and malcontents that Adam Frazier’s down year has sort of flown under the radar.

Frazier hasn’t been bad, per s , but he also hasn’t been good, either. Frazier built on a promising enough debut in 2016 with a somewhat flat follow-up in 2017, but really consolidated his gains into a solid 2018 campaign. Last year he slashed .277/.342/.456 to produce a 116 wRC+. Coupled with baserunning and defense, Frazier turned in a 1.9 fWAR campaign in just 352 at-bats.

Coming into this year, Frazier was anointed as the full-time starter at 2B in 2019. If he could replicate his batting line and produce at least average defense at the keystone, the Pirates would have been content with that outcome. And while defensive metrics are, in general, unreliable, Defensive Runs Saved is usually one of the best. It has Frazier at +6 runs saved, which caused me to do the Hyun Jin Ryu face in disbelief:

Regardless of where you stand on his defense, his 2019 triple slash of .264/.324/.389 (86 wRC+) is a far cry from last year’s line. And while it’s great that his strikeout rate has dropped from 15.1% last year to 12.0% this year, the overall production has not been there. The isolated power drop from .179 to .125, after it looked like Frazier unlocked his power after the demotion mid-year to Triple-A, made me decide to delve into this some more.

By utilizing Statcast metrics, the first thing to examine is the drop in Frazier’s exit velocity and hard hit percentage. While he’s never been very good in either of these, in 2018 his exit velocity average was 87.6 and now it is 86.3 in 2019. Likewise for his hard hit percentage, Frazier has dropped from 30.7% to 26.7%, a figure that puts him in the bottom 7% of the league.

Going one level deeper is where you find a possible ‘why’ to explain these numbers. This is the breakdown of Frazier’s batted ball profile this year compared to previous years:

His pop up percentage has jumped from 3.7% to 5.8%, which is not good by itself, but his ground ball percentage has plummeted from 48.7% to 41.8%. This is reflective in his Under% column, as well, where he is sitting at a career-high of 26.5% in getting under balls. And finally, after tapping into his power stroke and pulling the ball (especially in the 2nd half of 2018), Frazier has adopted more of an all-fields hitting approach this year, with his opposite field percentage climbing nearly five percentage points. This may be a case of Rick Eckstein and Jacob Cruz tweaking a player’s approach and not having success with it.

This season has been the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez running aground into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. All options need to be on the table for improvement. Adam Frazier is the kind of guy who would be excellent to have on the bench or in a super-sub role, but his place should not be carved in stone as a starter at 2B next year. With the way free agency occurs now, there are plenty of bargains to be had for teams in all price ranges.

There’s also the chance that Adam Frazier put too much pressure on himself heading into this year. Perhaps his swing mechanics were tweaked by Eckstein and Cruz, but he’s stuck inside his own head on how to implement them. Either way, the Pirates need to search for an upgrade over Adam Frazier heading into 2020.

Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

7 Comments on Look Up For What Ails Adam Frazier This Year

  1. I think the answer is simple based on this excerpt:

    “Frazier built on a promising enough debut in 2016 with a somewhat flat follow-up in 2017, but really consolidated his gains into a solid 2018 campaign. Last year he slashed .277/.342/.456 to produce a 116 wRC+. Coupled with baserunning and defense, Frazier turned in a 1.9 fWAR campaign in just 352 at-bats.”

    Frazier is only good in even years. He’ll bounce back in 2020!

    Magic, wizardry, and blind hope aside.. I’m concerned that the new hitting coaches tinkered w/ a blanket approach. I have no real proof of that.. but your points on Frazier are important. Has Diaz seen similar changes? Bell got himself a hitting guru to fix his swing… I don’t want to falsely claim anything against them just yet, they’re knew, and we have other, more tenured coaches to complain about (amiright?).. but it is something that probably could be explored.

    • Fine, I looked into it.

      Elias Diaz:

      Popped — 8.4% -> 10.2%
      GB% — 44.7% -> 47.1%
      Under% — 23.7% -> 25.7%
      Oppo% — 26.5% -> 35.4%

      BRB, going to jump head first down this rabbithole.

      • Kevin Creagh // August 26, 2019 at 3:13 PM //

        I’m also firmly convinced that Diaz’s mystery spring training virus was something like mono that really set him back this season. I don’t think he’s as bad as he’s shown this year.

  2. I’m not sure that an all-fields approach is a bad thing for Frazier. A guy who doesn’t provide top-shelf exit velocity probably shouldn’t be selling out for power anyway, as one can only use so many MF8 on the scorecard, and Frazier still runs well enough that teams aren’t going to play him on the outfield grass a la Bell. I would agree, however, that Frazier should not be considered a given as the starting 2B going forward, as the defensive metrics are a bit…inconsistent with what the eye test says.

  3. Frazier is upgrade over Josh Harrison 2018, but still average. Newman will play 2nd next season.

  4. Phillip C-137 // August 27, 2019 at 2:39 AM //

    I must admit that I am ASTOUNDED. After watching Frazier beat ball after ball into the ground, I was convinced he needed to quit hitting the top of the ball and get back to hitting line drives, but he’s actually better this year than last year in these categories.

    Looking at the chart it appears he is better than MLB average in GB%, LD% and PU% and practically the same in FB%. His BABIP is a career worst at .296 so maybe he’s just had bad luck this season' Maybe his “barrels” are down?

    Whatever it is, I believe he’s better than he’s showing but I agree he doesn’t need to be the guaranteed starter at 2B next season.

  5. Newman to 2nd and Tucker at short.

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