The Pittsburgh Pirates Should Give Kevin Kramer A Chance At Second Base
By Marty Leap
The Pittsburgh Pirates need to shake things up at second base
71 games into the 2019 season the Pittsburgh Pirates offense has been the strength of the team. This has come to the surprise of everyone as the pitching staff was expected to be this team’s strength.
While the offense has carried the team, especially the past two months, not every position has performed to a high level. One of these positions is second base where Adam Frazier is having a poor season. With Frazier struggling, the Pirates should give Kevin Kramer a chance at second base.
2019 is Frazier’s first season as a full time starter at the MLB level. Unsurprisingly, things have not gone well. Frazier has always been a player that has hit too many ground balls with too little hard contact, that has continued this season.
Frazier’s 86.3 exit velocity this season is below league average. His 1.9% barreled ball rate and 26.4% hard hit rate are both among the worst in the National League. While his 42.1% ground ball rate is a career low, the fact he is hitting the ball softer than ever has not allowed him to capitalize.
All of this has led to Frazier slashing .261/.321/.378 this season with a wRC+ of 83 and a .116 ISO. All of these numbers are career lows. This performance has led to Frazier being dropped from the lead off spot in the lineup to the 8 hole, now it’s time for it to start cutting into his playing time.
At Triple-A, Kramer is slashing .271/.353/.448 with a 105 wRC+ and a .177 ISO. He’s walked at a 11.0% clip, and he has collected extra base hits at a healthy rate of 12.5%. Kramer is also a better defensive second baseman than Frazier is.
Kramer earning this opportunity pre-dates just this season. Last season, he slashed .311/.365/.492 with a 141 wRC+, .181 ISO, and an extra base hit rate of 11.1% at Triple-A. This came after slashing .297/.380/.500 with a 141 wRC+, .203 ISO, and a 12.9% extra base hit rate for Double-A Altoona.
Not only has Kramer earned a chance, Frazier has played his way out of an every day role. It would be different if Frazier had a long track record prior to struggling this season, but he does not. Outside of last season, he has never been an above league average hitter for an entire season. In his career, he is slashing .276/.340/.412 with a 101 wRC+, .136 ISO, and a 26.1% hard contact rate. There is just not enough power there to play on a daily basis without being an elite defensive player, which Frazier is not.
Due to his power potential, Kramer is more likely than Frazier to stick as an every day player at the MLB level. Also, Frazier, as has been proven, is at his best when he is in a non-every day utility role. Some players are best suited for bench roles, and Frazier is one of these players.
Moving Frazier off of second base on an every day role would benefit him for this reason. It would also improve the Pirates, as it would both make their bench and starting lineup better. Now, it’s up to the Pirates to give Kramer the opportunity he has earned.