Pittsburgh Pirates: Adam Frazier’s Unsluggish Sluggish Start

dslusser
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 03: Adam Frazier #26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits an RBI single in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on April 3, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 03: Adam Frazier #26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits an RBI single in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on April 3, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Adam Frazier has started off the 2019 seasons slow for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but his underlying batted ball numbers indicate his results should’ve been better.

Entering games on May 3rd, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier is hitting just .245/.321/.327 with a .290 wOBA.  The 27-year-old after the first month of the season is walking at a 9.1 percent clip and struck out just 13.6 percent of the time.  He’s making contact, just not seeing any results so far, and both my own model (est_wOBA) and Baseball Savant’s xwOBA indicate that he should have better results:

Adam Frazier’s Career
YearPAwOBAest_wOBAxwOBA
20161600.3350.3370.327
20174540.3220.3250.329
20183520.3430.3450.315
20191100.2900.3330.354

This isn’t meant to be used a predictor of the future, it’s a descriptor of what happened, or the probability of what was to happen.  One of the downsides this season is that Frazier only has one batted ball with a home run probability (based on exit velocity, launch angle, and spray angle) greater than 90 percent.  His second highest home run probability was at 32.8 percent, and the result of the batted ball was a double.

While Frazier’s average exit velocity is just 86.1 miles per hour, it illustrates the dangerous of using an average, especially one month into the season.  Frazier’s median exit velocity is 88.6 miles per hour, and 60 percent of Frazier’s batted balls have been hit harder than his average exit velo, a skewed left distribution.  Here’s the density plot of all of Frazier’s 84 batted balls in the first month of the season with the dashed line representing the mean:

While his median exit velocity is 2.5 miles per hour higher than his average exit velocity, it is still 1.7 miles per hour lower than the league median.  But what Frazier is doing is hitting balls in launch angle and spray angle (where on the field the ball is hit).  Despite his .290 wOBA being 27 points below the league mark, Frazier’s est_wOBA is eight points higher than the league (.325).  While it’s not great, Frazier’s underlying batted ball data makes him look more like a league average hitter.  Summing the probabilities of each event provides the season long outcomes:

Adam Frazier’s 2019 Season
ActualEstimatedDifference
1B18.020.0-2.0
2B5.06.1-1.1
3B0.00.8-0.8
HR1.01.6-0.6

While it is only 4.5 hits more than what he has, this early four hits makes a large difference, especially adding a half a home run, a triple, and a double.  That difference is enough to take Frazier from well below average to about a league average hitter.  Here’s an interactive spray chart with the color detailing the exit velocity, and hovering over each point provides the probability for each hit outcome.

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It’s early on in the season, and it’s a small sample of 84 batted balls and 110 plate appearances.  But Frazier’s early season struggles don’t line up with where his underlying batted ball measurements indicate what his results should’ve been.  It’s not a predictive measurement, rather a descriptive one, but his est_wOBA is more inline with a league average bat so far this season.  He’s struggling in terms of the results, but if he holds this pattern of batted balls, results should eventually come. This would be a welcomed boost to the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup.

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