Lots of wild issues occurred throughout a 60-game season, however Clint Frazier’s beautiful growth from defensive legal responsibility right into a Gold Glove nominee in right field ranks among the many most sudden. It’s not that Frazier wasn’t able to the turnaround, however extra so how shortly he pulled it off, and the way a lot it has saved his future as a Yankee.
Frazier is a nook outfielder who has traditionally been a greater defender in left discipline than proper. Nevertheless, he needed to play a major period of time in proper this yr after accidents to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, and he did it with aplomb. Following a disastrous 263 innings in proper final yr, Frazier represented a internet optimistic in proper discipline in 216 innings this yr. He went from a -6 in defensive runs saved in 2019 to a +4 DRS in 2020.
How did he pull it off? Statcast says it’s all in Frazier’s leap. Relative to all outfielders, Frazier’s leap is just mildly above common when it comes to response time and burst. Individually, nevertheless, it was a quantum leap. He had been a internet detrimental in every of those classes for all three of his prior seasons, however turned issues round this yr, protecting extra ft in a faster time proper off the crack of the bat.
A few of this has to do with expertise. Frazier is now not new to Yankee Stadium, or studying hits at MLB-level exit velocities. Smarter instincts make up a key element of a sooner leap, and though the attention take a look at might be deceiving when taking a look at defensive efficiency in baseball, Frazier did appear noticeably extra snug this yr within the discipline.
Different metrics again this up. A greater leap helps a fielder cowl extra floor, and Frazier delivered on that finish. Final yr, Frazier’s anticipated catch proportion was 85%, whereas his precise catch proportion was 72%. That’s a -13 catch chance added. That had been the worst of his profession, however even his first two years weren’t significantly better, seeing catch possibilities added of -3 and -8. This yr, nevertheless, Frazier’s anticipated catch proportion was the very best it had ever been (90%), and his precise catch proportion was not solely a career-best as effectively, but in addition higher than anticipated (93%). That +3 catch chance added is an enormous a part of how Frazier saved the Yankees runs this yr.
Frazier improved at each routine performs and troublesome ones. A participant’s Revised Zone Ranking (RZR) is one approach to measure this. In 2019, Frazier had 45 balls hit into his “zone,” and he solely made performs on 35 of them. That manifested in an RZR of .778, which scores between “below-average” and “poor.” This yr, Frazier noticed 29 batted balls in his “zone” and he made performs on all of them. Whereas it might be foolish to anticipate him to keep up this 1.000 RZR for a complete yr (keep in mind, this was solely a 28-game pattern measurement), there are indicators that this efficiency is right here to remain.
In 2019, Frazier additionally struggled with troublesome performs. He made 14 out-of-zone performs in 263 innings. In 2020, Frazier made 22 out-of-zone performs in simply 216 innings. These numbers issue into Frazier’s Final Zone Ranking, which in 2019 was an ugly -6.4, however in 2020 was 3.8. That’s an enchancment from “below-average” to “above-average.”
His Statcast analytics present that Frazier struggled in 2019 primarily on balls hit in entrance of him. If Frazier’s start line is the small circle within the middle, that is how he graded out (when it comes to outs above-average) on balls hit within the following instructions in 2019:
It was a detrimental in every single place, however notably on balls hit in. Under is his chart from 2020:
Boring, sure, however it tells us two issues. To begin with, Frazier has improved as a fielder to a mean to barely above-average degree – he’s not a detrimental getting in any course. Nevertheless, it’s most likely not cheap (barring additional enchancment) to anticipate Frazier to be a perennial Gold Glove finalist. The nod was good this yr, however I don’t suspect he’ll truly win the award over Joey Gallo or Anthony Santander, and even his teammate Aaron Judge in a full season. Most of those numbers had been additionally from his time in proper discipline, whereas he’s anticipated to spend most of his time in 2020 and past in left.
Frazier has saved his Yankees profession with these marked defensive enhancements. He may all the time hit, and he’s even displaying indicators of enchancment on the plate at age 26. However now that Frazier can discipline at a succesful degree, the Yankees now not have to stage phony competitions with the likes of Brett Gardner or Mike Tauchman anymore. In the event that they’re nonetheless on the roster subsequent season, it must be because the clear backups, the fourth or fifth outfielders behind a beginning core of Frazier, Decide and Aaron Hicks. It might have taken longer than followers had hoped, however Clint Frazier has arrived for the Yankees.