I mentioned this in the comments the other day, but it’s worth noting in an article as well: Adam Frazier is developing a strong second half trend.
Frazier became a starter heading into this year on the back of his strong finish in 2018. Prior to that, he opened the season as a super utility player for the Pirates, but was sent down mid-season due to offensive struggles.
When he returned, Frazier hit enough to warrant a starting job, while also playing improved defense at second base. With Josh Harrison on the way out, and the middle infield prospects not ready, it looked like Frazier should be getting the first shot at the second base position in 2019.
That’s what happened, and Frazier got off to another rough start. However, he’s once again been strong in the final three months, raising the question of why he’s been so effective the last two years as a second half player.
Here are the numbers for comparison. First we have the numbers from the start of the season through the end of June:
2018: .239/.323/.355 in 156 plate appearances
2019: .254/.311/.361 in 307 PA
Those aren’t the worst numbers for a bench player, but they’re not something that guarantees you a spot in the league, much less a starting role.
Here are the numbers from July to the end of the season (or through yesterday for this year’s numbers):
2018: .306/.357/.533 in 196 PA
2019: .309/.366/.494 in 267 PA
Those are numbers that will keep you in the league, and warrant a starting role. Unfortunately, the sample sizes are so small here that you can’t predict anything going forward. If Frazier starts out slow next year, there’s no guarantee he suddenly clicks at the end of June and becomes a productive player.
The June/July split is an arbitrary endpoint, created by Frazier’s demotion in 2018. He was sent down in early June, returned for two games, then went back down until the end of July. When he was in Indianapolis, he worked on his hitting and credited that to his second half success. That would be the reason for his improvement that year.
I don’t have answers for what happened this year. Frazier was struggling until the end of June, including getting just two hits in 19 plate appearances over his final five games of the month. The calendar turned to July and Frazier turned things on like a switch. He had 15 hits in 27 plate appearances over his first five games of July, and hasn’t really slowed down much.
The only significant change in Frazier’s batted ball profile this year is that he’s pulling the ball a lot more often in the second half, at the expense of batted balls to the middle of the field. That same change existed last year, as shown in the splits below:
Year: 1st Half/2nd Half
2018: 29.9% Pull, 39.3% Center, 30.8% Oppo / 44% Pull, 31.3% Center, 24.7% Oppo
2019: 35.5%, 35.1%, 29.4% / 42%, 28.8%, 29.3%
Again, small sample sizes, but Frazier has done better in the second half at pulling the ball more.
He’s also seen an interesting split in his BABIP.
2018: .265 first half / .336 second half
2019: .283 / .335
That .335 range should be sustainable for a guy like Frazier (good contact skills, some speed to add extra hits on grounders), and it’s a range he’s been in throughout his minor league career, and even in parts of his MLB career.
Typically with a BABIP shift, I look at the batted ball profile. A higher BABIP is usually the result of a shift to more line drives. That happened last year, with Frazier going from 14.8% to 23.3%. He also saw his fly ball rate go up, and the ground ball rate dropped 15 percentage points.
The batted ball profile has been largely the same this year, with 26% line drives, about 40-41% grounders, and 32% fly balls in each half. This is the same as his second half last year, only with slightly more line drives, and a small drop in grounders and fly balls.
It’s possible that the first half was just bad luck for Frazier. Or maybe he was just hitting the ball the same way, but to the wrong parts of the field. Or perhaps the second half results in each year are inflated, and his true production lies somewhere between the first and second half totals this year.
What I do know is that Frazier needs to be a bonus player for the Pirates going forward. He seems exactly like Josh Harrison, capable of putting up above-average results as a starter, but too inconsistent to do that on an annual basis. The Pirates aren’t in a position where they can depend on Frazier and risk the poor production he’s shown in the first half the last two years.
Going forward, they should open up the second base position, with Frazier getting his fair shot, but having competition in case he struggles. He’s got more value to the team as a super utility player who they don’t need to depend on for year-long production. If he does provide year-long production, he’ll easily find his way into the lineup. If he doesn’t, then the Pirates will be better protected having him for bonus production, rather than one of the guys they’re counting on to help them contend.
Here are the college football games I’m picking today:
1:00 – UMass +16.5
3:30 – BYU +6.5 (I also like this on the ML +215 as an additional bet)
3:30 – Buffalo +14
10:30 – San Diego State ML +155
3:30 – Pitt +10.5
3:30 – FSU -6.5
SONG OF THE DAY
Going with one of my favorites from Muse today. I saw them two years ago with Thirty Seconds to Mars, which was like seeing the poor man’s version of a U2/Coldplay concert. They play this song last, and by the end of the song you have the whole audience chanting along to the lyrics, which was one of the best closing songs I’ve seen live.
Keeping with the college football theme for Saturday, today’s quiz asks you to name every FBS team. I haven’t tried yet, and I’m kind of cheating by doing it after I make my picks for today. I’ll let you know my score later.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
By John Dreker
Nine former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including the center fielder from the Pirates first game in the National League.
Back on April 30,1887, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys played their first game in the National League and batting second that day, while playing center field, was Tom Brown. He played three years for Pittsburgh, the first two while the team was still in the American Association. Brown played 17 years in the majors and stole 657 bases. The interesting part about that is that they didn’t count steals during his first four seasons. Brown scored 177 runs in 1891, which still stands as the second highest total in single-season history. He also led the league that year with 106 stolen bases, 21 triples and 189 hits. Brown scored 1,521 runs during his career.
Sam McDowell was a great pitcher during his day. He was a big lefty who led the league in strikeouts five times. He signed with the Pirates on April 2,1975 and pitched 14 times for the team before being released in late June. That short stint with the Pirates marked the end of his big league career. He finished with 141 wins and 2,453 strikeouts.
Max Butcher played for the Pirates from 1939 until 1945, going 67-60, 3.34 in 1,171.2 innings. He had double-digit wins four times during his time with Pittsburgh. He went 28-46 the rest of his ten-year career.
Pitcher Jason Christiansen, who was traded to the Cardinals for Jack Wilson. Christiansen played for the Pirates from 1995 until 2000 and pitched 278 games (all in relief). He had a 4.13 ERA in 274.2 innings.
Ben Shelton, outfielder for 1993 Pirates, which was his only big league team. He hit .250 in 15 games, with two homers and seven RBIs in 24 at-bats.
Del Lundgren, pitched briefly for the 1924 Pirates. He had a 6.48 ERA in 16.2 innings over seven relief appearances and one start.
Gil Britton, shortstop for the 1913 team. His big league career consisted of three games in late September. He went 0-for-12 and committed three errors.
Danny Cox, relief pitcher for the 1992 Pirates. Threw 16 games after signing as a free agent in June and two more games in the NLCS. He played 11 seasons in the majors.
Finally, Antonio Bastardo, who pitched for the Pirates from 2015 to 2017. He had a 4.48 ERA in 90.1 innings over 103 appearances with the Pirates.