Room for improvement: Clint Frazier

After making significant strides defensively in 2020, it’s a little bit unfair to ask Clint Frazier to make drastic improvements to his game again this season. I mean, who wouldn’t want a repeat of Clint’s 2020 across 162 games rather than 60? He hit .267/.394/.511 (149 wRC+) and deservedly was a Gold Glove finalist. Yet, this series is all about how players can get better, so Clint’s no exception here.

When I first sought out to write this piece, my plan was to discuss ways Frazier could reduce his strikeout rate. Seemed like a pretty easy target considering it was the one real drawback in his offensive profile last year. He went down on strikes in 27.5 percent of plate appearances, after all. But while doing some digging, I found something more interesting. In the midst of all of his success at the plate, he was much more passive against pitches in the heart of the zone.

Here’s a selection of metrics for Frazier against pitches in the heart of the strike zone:

YearPitches% of all PitchesSwing %wOBAxwOBA
201716829.781.00.4200.415
20185130.076.50.3210.435
201925726.378.20.5040.497
202016223.570.40.4630.382

Clint’s historically been pretty aggressive, especially against middle-middle pitches. The league average swing rate against pitches in that location has hovered around 73 percent for years, but it wasn’t until 2020 did Frazier go under that clip. I think it’s reasonable to say that a little more aggression on those particular pitches could help him do even more damage.

Of course, being a bit more aggressive on pitches in the heart can’t come at the cost of more swings in elsewhere. Not after Clint clearly took drastic measures in paring down his plan of attack from 2019 to 2020 (dropped his overall swing rate from 45.3 percent to 32.4 percent). That change clearly worked for him as you can tell from his previously stated triple-slash line. It also helped him post an absurdly good 15.6 percent walk rate. That said, a hitter with Clint’s pop and “legendary” bat speed shouldn’t leave the bat on his shoulders too much.

So, the solution? Swing more at pitches down the middle while maintaining the improvements against pitches on the edges and outside the zone. Easier said than done, of course! More simply, I don’t want to see Frazier become overly passive in the batter’s box. Considering the length of the Yankees’ lineup, Frazier isn’t going to get pitched around. That means he can get even better in 2021 with some selective aggression.

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2 Comments

  1. MikeD

    I’m looking forward to a year of Clint being the primary LFer, something we were likely heading toward in 2019 if not for the post-concussion issue that turned Frazier into a below average Little League fielder. Glad he worked his way through that. I will say that he is still prone to falling into lengthy funks when he looks completely lost at the plate. I didn’t have an issue when the Yankees sat Sanchez in the postseason, and I didn’t have an issue when they reduced Frazier’s playing time too. He was absolutely in one of his funks, finishing 2020 2-20 with 11K’s. His ABs weren’t competitive.

    I remain a Frazier fan. 2020 should be his best to date.

  2. That graph also shows that Frazier needs to do a better job on pitches in the Shadow zone, which is the most common pitch type. He only swings at 38% of those pitches, which is much lower than average. It’s bad when he swings at those pitches (8 runs lost) and it’s neutral when he takes those pitches (no runs lost). I wonder what would happen if he laid off Shadow pitches entirely.

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