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:
|Year||Pitches||% of all Pitches||Swing %||wOBA||xwOBA|
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.