Pittsburgh Pirates’ second baseman Adam Frazier is having the best offensive season of his career so far. But what has fueled his breakout?
Pittsburgh Pirates’ second baseman Adam Frazier has been elected to the All-Star game as the starting second baseman. It’s not every day that a player from a small market team, especially considering the Pirates’ current situation, beats out players on very popular teams like the Atlanta Braves and Ozzie Albies or San Diego Padres and Jake Cronenworth.
But here we are and Frazier will be the first Pirate second baseman to go to an All-Star game since Tony Womack in 1997. His 2021 season has been outstanding, at least when it comes to offense. In 346 plate appearances, Frazier is batting .326/.394/.466 line, .375 wOBA, and 140 wRC+. Frazier currently leads all National League second baseman in wRC+, wOBA, and OPS.
However, from his 2016 rookie season up through 2020, this kind of offensive production over this long was unprecedented for Frazier. He was about a league-average hitter between those 5 seasons, posting a .272/.336/.414 batting line, .323 wOBA, and 100 wRC+. So what’s fueled this massive offensive breakout?
Now his batted ball rates have been one possible reason. Frazier still isn’t hitting the ball hard. He is in the bottom 5th percentile in exit velocity and bottom 3rd percentile in hard-hit rate. But he’s hitting the ball in the air much more. His ground ball rate has decreased from 44.9% in 201-2020 to just 37.6%. This has led Frazier’s line drive rate to increase from 24.6% to 29.2 and his flyball rate to go from 30.5% to 33.2%. Frazier’s launch angle sits just under 15 degrees at 14.9 degrees,
Frazier has also seen an increase in plate discipline. He’s currently walking at a solid 8.4 clip, which is a career-high mark. This has paired nicely with an 11% strikeout rate, another career-best. He’s also expanded his strike zone. Frazier has an out-of-zone contact rate of 81.1%. From 2016 up through last season, that sat at just 76.6%. He’s also brought down his swinging strike rate from 6.4% to 5.2. Though his overall rate at pitches he’s swung at hasn’t changed much.
Now Frazier’s batting average on balls in play is high. He currently has a .360 mark, the 11th highest mark in all of baseball. However, the difference between his BABIP and actual batting average is pretty small. It’s only about a .030 difference. So even if his BABIP regresses to .330, he could still be a .300 BA hitter.
Now while there are still some question marks as to whether or not this is sustainable, there’s still much that has gone right for Frazier this year with not all of it pointing toward him just being lucky. Him getting the ball in the air more often will help offset some of his hard-hit struggles. But his improved plate discipline is also helping his offensive breakout so far this year.