White Sox 2016 Season Review: Grading the Infielders

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Sep 4, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (79) hits a three run home run during the seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Chicago White Sox defeated the Minnesota Twins 13-11. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 4, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (79) hits a three run home run during the seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Chicago White Sox defeated the Minnesota Twins 13-11. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /
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3B Todd Frazier

Aug 30, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier (21) hits a two run home run in the second inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 30, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier (21) hits a two run home run in the second inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

If you’ve ever listened to our podcast Word on 35th Street, you know that contributor Anders Johanson and I have discussed Todd Frazier’s 2016 campaign ad nauseam.

It was simply a peculiar season for last offseason’s biggest splash. Todd Frazier’s final line settled at .225/.302/.464 as he led the team with 40 home runs.

It was much needed power at the hot corner, as his home run output was essentially what Chicago got from the position across both 2014 and 2015.

Frazier’s .766 OPS was relatively close to his career .781 mark, yet Frazier’s season felt both polarizing and electrifying at the same time.

Todd Frazier’s 2015 first half, where he produced a .284/.337/.585 (.922 OPS) with 25 home runs, can probably be considered an aberration at this point as opposed to a reasonable outcome ceiling.

At the same time, it’s an indication of just what type of force he’s at least capable of being any given month. The home run power to start 2016 was remarkably similar to his scorching hot start last season.

Frazier had 25 home runs at the All-Star break, but just nine doubles. It’s a trend that was symbolic of deeper problems in his batted ball profile, which also influenced an unusually low batting average.

Frazier once again showed more power versus southpaws, but racked up a 30 percent strikeout rate against them. His whiff rate on the season was 24.5 percent, the highest of his career. Curiously, his walk rate was a career high at 9.6 percent which was encouraging and the only thing that saved him from a sub-300 0BP season.

Frazier put the ball in play a little less, but when he did the results were below expectations. His .236 BABIP was exceptionally low compared to a .278 career mark. That’s the main reason his average hung around the Mendoza Line for a bit before seeing a late recovery.

A low BABIP can sometimes be tied to poor luck, but Frazier’s hard-hit data told a different story. His hard-hit percentage was down a good six percentage points from 2015 (31.3 percent) while soft-contact was up slightly (20.7 percent). Both are predictive of a lower BABIP.

Most concerning was his line drive rate was a few percentage points lower (15.7 percent) which rated below average. Meanwhile, his infield flyball rate was a career high 18.5 percent and those are the least likely batted balls to be converted into hits. This was the largest factor in both his low BABIP and invariably his lack of doubles pop.

Frazier’s .169/.282/.303 (.584 OPS) with RISP was exceedingly below expectations and contributed to the optics that he struggled some in ’16. That almost certainly will be reversed in 2017 or at the very least not as damaging.

The one thing that played for Frazier in 2016 was power. His 19.0 percent HR/FB ratio was strong, as was his .239 ISO. He even swiped 15 bags for good measure. Defensive metrics were low on Frazier in 2016, but he passed the eye test with a quick first step, decent range, and a strong arm across the diamond. It all equated to a 2.4 fWAR season, which isn’t terrible considering Chicago had a black hole there for almost a decade.

Frazier’s final month (.868 OPS) was a step in the right direction. A refined line drive stroke and some regression with RISP will set Frazier up for a .780-.810 OPS season in 2017 with some big power.

It didn’t always look this way, but the White Sox got their money’s worth for Frazier in 2016.

Grade: B-

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