Adam Frazier is declaring war on BABIP, hard contact rate, launch angles, and proving everyone wrong
Batting average on balls in play (BABIP) tells baseball fans that an average of 30 percent of balls put into play will go for base hits. When a hitter has a BABIP below .300 it indicates they have been victimized by poor luck and are due for improvement.
However, when it is over .300 it indicates that the hitter has been getting lucky and is due for regression. It is in this category that Pirate super utility man Adam Frazier is found. And this is nothing new for Frazier.
Adam Frazier burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2016. He posted a .356 on-base percentage, a .335 wOBA, and a 110 wRC+ in 160 plate appearances. However, this included a BABIP of .353.
Frazier’s .353 BABIP in 2016 indicated that he was due for regression in 2017. However, the complete opposite has happened. So far in 2017, Adam Frazier has been even better than he was in 2016.
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So far this season Adam Frazier has been one of the Pirates’ best hitters. He owns a .418 on-base percentage, .390 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 143. Furthermore, his strikeout rate has dropped from 16.3 percent in 2016 to 12.1 percent this season.
Not only has Frazier not experienced the regression he seemed destined to stumble across in 2017, his BABIP has gotten even higher. Through his first 87 plate appearances this season Frazier’s BABIP is .417.
Now, like everything else, BABIP is not a perfect science. There are some hitters who are very good hitters despite a high BABIP. One example of this is Starling Marte.
The Pirate outfielder owns a lifetime .344 wOBA and 120 wRC+. Anyone will tell you he has been one of the best hitters on the Pirates since his Major League debut in July of 2012, and this is despite owning a lifetime BABIP of .358.
Adam Frazier, like Marte, is a great athlete. Both players bring a speed element to the game. This helps players sustain strong offensive numbers despite a high BABIP because there are hits they will get that less athletic players simply would not get.
A high BABIP is not the only concerning aspect of Frazier’s results. His ground ball rate (49.3 percent) is too high, his hard contact rate (26.8 percent) has dropped from last season, and his 9.60 degrees launch angle is not indicative of a hitter having the success that Frazier has had.
Launch angles of less than 10 degrees are most likely going to end up being a ground ball. Ground balls are statistically more likely to produce an out. Hitting a lot of ground balls is not a recipe for success for any hitter.
This is where the difference between Frazier and Marte can be found. In his Major League career, Starling Marte owns a 32.0 percent hard contact rate and his career launch angle is 18.1 degrees. Both numbers that are much better than Frazier’s and that will lead to a hitter being more capable of sustaining a high BABIP.
All signs point toward the success of Adam Frazier not being sustainable. If he does not begin to increase his launch angle, hit the ball on the ground less, and hit the ball harder more often he will almost assuredly regress.
However, for now at least, Adam Frazier continues to prove all of this wrong and he just keeps getting on base.
Adam Frazier has been one of the best hitters for the 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates. However, a plethora of stats indicates that his results are not sustainable. Will he sustain his blsitering hot start? Well, as a good friend once told me, ‘time will tell.’