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Friday, May 16, 2014

Is Todd Frazier Seeing More Pitches?

John Fay penned a nice profile on Todd Frazier yesterday for the Enquirer.  In it was this little nugget from Todd:
Frazier credited hitting coach Don Long and assistant hitting coach Lee Tinsley for helping him.

"They really don't get too in-depth with me," Frazier said. "But they see little things and help me out with that. Everything's been nice and slow. I'm seeing a lot of pitches. I rarely do that."

Frazier has been taking so many pitches that his father, Charles, mentioned it.

"He said, 'You look so comfortable up there. I've never seen you take so many pitches in my life. I'm kind of getting frustrated seeing you take the those pitches down the middle.' I said, 'Dad, it's not the pitch I'm looking for.'

"Those Jersey people get a little hasty. They understand now that I'm working on something and it feels pretty good up there."
Here are his FanGraphs plate discipline stats:

Frazier is showing a very slight drop in his overall swing rate this year compared to last year.  That is despite a slight increase in the number of pitches he's seeing in the strike zone (zone % is up 1%).  However, it appears to be due not to taking pitches in the zone (as suggested by the quote).  Rather, Todd is showing an increased tendency to take pitches out of the zone (lower O-Swing%).

This drop in swing percentage also seems to span across all pitch types:
Frazier just loves to swing at offspeed pitches, no?

What does it all mean?

It's hard to pin any one thing to these plate discipline statistics.  The first expectation I would have is that he'd show increased walk rates.  And he's not:

However, he is showing a number of improvements that could be linked to his decreased swinging rates:

  • He's shown a big improvement in his strikeout rates, as I discussed in this post.  Todd may be chasing fewer pitches out of the zone, resulting in fewer swinging third strikes.
  • He's also showing decreased swinging strike percentages (11% this year after 11.5% last year, 11.8% career).
  • He's showing better results when he barrels the bat: his BABIP is up a bit compared to last year (though actually down from his career average of .285), and his home run per fly ball rate is also up (career 13.6%).
Frazier may not be a star, but he's a very nice player to have on a ballclub.  He contributes excellent defense at a demanding defensive position (+11 UZR/150 for his career, very similar DRS numbers), and is an above-average hitter who appears to still be getting better.  He has contributed an average of 3 WAR each of the last two seasons, and is headed for arbitration this offseason for the first time.  Given his tendency for a low batting average, he's likely to be a bargain throughout arbitration, unless he goes crazy with his power numbers.  I'm looking forward to watching him play at the hot corner for years to come.

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