Todd Frazier, you may have noted, is having himself a year. He is, in fact, having so much of a year that he is on pace to generate more than six wins above replacement. He is near the top of the league in numerous offensive categories, including home runs where he is third.
He has, in short, put himself in position to receive some MVP votes. No, he is not the MVP (that’s Tulo unless things change radically), but he’s been so good that it’s easy to imagine him placing in the top ten or so.
But is this a reality or not? I know we’ve written here at RN about Frazier already, but for this week’s column I thought it was a good idea to look at him as closely as I could and try to find the fly in the ointment. After all, his 2.7 fWAR in only 68 games has already passed his total from 2012 and is quickly gaining on last year’s 3.3.
It is, in short, more than anyone expected. I recently wrote about how I misjudged Billy Hamilton’s abilities. Frazier is also performing much better than I expected. Was I wrong about him? Let’s take a look.
Looking at his basic numbers, we see that his average is up and his slugging is up. HIs ISO is at a career high level, as well, so the slugging improvement isn’t all batting-average driven. His BABIP is also right around league average after a big dip last year. That is, we should have expected some improvement because his BABIP was so low last year, but his ISO shows us that there’s something else going on here.
Looking at his power numbers, it’s clear that most of the gain comes from his increase in home runs. Is HR/FB% is 21.3 this year. That’s well above both his previous numbers and league average, but it’s not beyond the level sustained by most top power-hitters.
If we drill down still a little deeper we find, I think, the last thing we can find. Todd Frazier isn’t swinging as much at pitches outside the strike zone. Pitch f/x has him swinging at 31.9% of pitches outside the zone. Last year, he was swinging at 35.2%. That’s a significant difference, and it tells us that at least some of the change we’ve seen with Frazier is real.
So was I wrong about Todd Frazier? Yes, I think I was. However, I still expect him to regress a little bit, at least where his power is concerned. He might not, but his ISO is beyond any previously seen levels. Still, his BABIP is where it should be after a down year, and his plate discipline is noticeably better. Even if he does regress some (as I think he will), he has shifted the conversation. He no longer looks like a 3-4 win player so much as a 4-5 win player with a 6 WAR season being a real possibility. In a thus far disappointing season, that’s something to smile about.