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Clint Frazier’s plate discipline is an asset to Yankees’ lineup

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Frazier’s improved plate discipline and walk rate this season indicate he’s maturing as a hitter.

MLB: Game Two-New York Yankees at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, Clint Frazier looks confident and comfortable playing right field. His defense has improved dramatically since this time a year ago. And though perhaps not as readily obvious, Clint’s plate discipline has also improved dramatically since 2019. The gains he’s made in this regard are especially impressive, considering that scouting reports often describe Frazier as a free swinger.

While there isn’t a formal definition or set way to measure plate discipline, Frazier’s walk rate, hard-hit rate (percentage of batted balls hit at 95 mph or more) and the restraint he’s shown when it comes to laying off pitches outside the zone are key areas where his improved approach is most evident.

During the 2019 season, Frazier boasted a walk rate of 6.5-percent (MLB average is 8.6-percent). After 96 plate appearances this season, Frazier’s walk rate was 15.6 percent, which means he’s taking walks more than twice as often as he did last season. He’s boosted his walk rate all the way to fifth-highest in all of baseball, a staggering improvement in terms of discipline .

Clint Frazier’s plate discipline stats 2019 - 2020

Year Tm PA HR% BB% XBH% X/H% SO/W
Year Tm PA HR% BB% XBH% X/H% SO/W
2019 NYY 246 4.90% 6.50% 10.60% 43% 4.38
2020 NYY 96 5.20% 15.60% 10.40% 44% 1.87
Data provided by Baseball-Reference.com

That Frazier has been showing more patience at the plate while still hitting the ball hard is the strongest indicator of his development and maturity as a hitter. His hard hit rate has increased from 36 percent in 2019 to more than 50 percent this season. He looks confident during his at-bats, and we aren’t seeing him chase as many pitches outside the strike zone—which used to be one of his weaknesses.

Moreover, his consistent slugging percentage suggests that Clint’s walks aren’t coming at the expense of making contact and getting hits. He’s not being too selective. He’s starting every day and getting on base almost every game (he’s reached base in all but three games so far this season).

It remains to be seen what Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton’s potential return will mean for Frazier’s playing time. For now, he continues to be a consistent contributor who the team can rely on. To be honest, Frazier’s excellent bat speed generates more buzz, but I find his plate discipline to be equally impressive, if a tad less exciting.

Being patient enough to wait for and recognize good pitches to hit is one of the toughest skills to develop as a ballplayer. It often takes years, as older players that can’t square up the ball like they used to grow more patient in an effort to work the count in their favor. Some hitters never stop chasing sliders in the dirt. Showing that degree of maturity at the plate while he’s still young bodes well for Frazier. He’s not only a more mature hitter; he’s become a better outfielder and he even seems to have developed rapport with the media.

At the beginning of the season many of us wondered if there was room on the team for Frazier at all. His reputation—earned or not— preceded him, and his weaknesses on the field threatened to overshadow his other strengths as a player. My oh my, has the narrative changed!

A player’s ability to reinvent himself is one of the more interesting features of this game. Isn’t that the beauty of baseball?