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Up Goes Frazier — The Case For Adam Frazier To Be Leadoff Hitter

Photo by Justin Berl/Getty

Smokin Joe Frazier was a heavyweight boxing champion for many years throughout the 70’s.   There is at least one expert who thinks Adam Frazier could be a batting champion as soon as this year, which would be nice.

Our friends at Fangraphs consistently put out great stuff with their bevy of analysts and writers, but some of the best knowledge shared never involves a word typed on a green page: it comes from their weekly podcasts.  Carson Cistulli, the host for most of the 1000+ episodes, is an acquired taste which drives my wife crazy with his ridiculousness, but has consistently taught me a lot about how to look at statistics in different ways.  Cistulli likes Adam Frazier and it’s not a little:

“I think that there is a plausible chance that he (Frazier) could win the batting title if he were a qualified batter.”                   Carson Cistulli, Fangraphs podcast 3/7/17

Cistulli goes on to predict a career BABIP of .335-.350, which combined with his high contact rate give an “Ichiro Skillset”.  I decided to delve into the numbers.

Here are players that had a career BABIP over .320 with a K% of 11% or less.

K% BABIP Career WAR
Tony Gwynn 4.2% 0.341 65.0
Matty Alou 6.1% 0.323 20.4
Wade Boggs 6.9% 0.341 88.3
Manny Mota 7.6% 0.323 15.0
Lyman Bostick 7.9% 0.329 11.7 murdered after 27 y/o season
Ralph Garr 8.2% 0.323 12.2
Rod Carew 9.7% 0.350 18.0
Ichiro Suzuki 9.9% 0.340 58.2
Kevin Seitzer 10.2% 0.320 26.7
Paul Molitor 10.2% 0.326 67.7
Jose Altuve 10.2% 0.334 18.6
Bake McBride 10.9% 0.323 21.3
Roberto Alomar 11.0% 0.321 63.6

A pretty impressive list.  Now if you keep the low K% and allow the BABIP numbers to drop into the .315 range you get players like Dick Groat, Brett Butler, Jose Vidro and Mark Loretta, while if you maintain the higher BABIP number and let the K% raise a few percent you get players like Hal Morris, Julio Franco and Bip Roberts.  The outcomes are all pretty positive.

Cistulli finally adds that the reason that he believes that the BABIP numbers are so high and will remain high.  This opinion is due to the fact that Frazier throughout his minor league career has had very low popup rates, something that normally doesn’t change with age.

Where to play Frazier and bat Frazier

Let’s start with the easiest one first: Frazier should bat leadoff.   We just explained that Frazier could be a batting champion and/or have an all time high BABIP.    The Book tells us that to maximize runs this player should bat first especially if he has speed and/or is a good baserunner.

“I like him (Frazier) where I need him”

Clint Hurdle 3/15/17

As far as position, he’s probably best suited to be a super utility player now as Mercer isn’t moving off shortstop and there are no true backup outfielders. Plus Frazier grades out well at most defensive positions and his flexibility could help during substitutions with all the pitching changes.

The other angle is that if you had to pick one position for Frazier to play everyday it would be 2B.  This could be an option, too.  The benefit of Frazier staying on 2B everyday is that this could allow Josh Harrison to assume his old super utility role, which could conceivably wake up his offense.

Could Max be the next Adam?

In short: No.

When you look at our three infielders, you’ll notice they’re all born within a 18 months, with Frazier being the oldest and Moroff being the youngest.   They’ve all had a least one full year at AAA (Hanson had two) and basically play the same positions.

One could get optimistic about Moroff’s ceiling as he is almost a 23 y/o this season (48 days short) starting his 2nd year of AAA.   He’s coming off a great 2015 and a 2016 that showed patience with over 100 walks.  The problem is that he’s striking out over 20% of the time in his career and doesn’t have the power results for the K%.   Moroff has to either a) keep the BB% high and get the K% down b) get the power numbers up and be a three true outcomes (K/BB/HR) infielder or c) get the K% rate down and power up and while maintaining the high BB%.   Don’t hold your breath on c).

In summary, we caught lightning in a bottle with Frazier in 2016 and he seems to have kept the iron hot with a great spring training.  Let’s continue to follow Frazier’s ascension and don’t worry about another coming behind him because it may be a while.

About Michael Bradley (60 Articles)
Michael is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Michael is former submarine officer and Naval Academy grad. He now runs a small consulting firm and does veteran related job fairs. He is a SABR member and regularly attends Altoona Curve games to scout the Pirate prospects.
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