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Following up: Assessing the outfield market, Todd Frazier's second half

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Plus: Missing out on Chase Headley might turn out to be a blessing in disguise

The Giants' presumed outfield alignment for 2016. Gregor Blanco (left) is their Avisail Garcia.
The Giants' presumed outfield alignment for 2016. Gregor Blanco (left) is their Avisail Garcia.
Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few things that I've come across that might aid, augment or alter previous discussions we've had...

Outfielders: The Giants are in a similar position to the White Sox, in that they have a vulnerability in a corner outfield spot, yet they haven't been tied to any specific free-agent solution beyond surface-level analysis pointing out said vulnerability.

This prompted Grant Brisbee at McCovey Chronicles to go through the projected outfields of all 30 teams to figure out which ones were most in need of a top-tier outfielder. That particular market may not be as deep as it initially appears.

There are 12 teams with a bolded player up there, but one of them is the Mets, who aren't going to spend a lot of money. The Red Sox certainly don't need to spend to replace Rusney Castillo, and they probably won't. The Orioles are focused more on Chris Davis than any of those outfielders, so they probably aren't deep into the market. The Cardinals have already ruled out the "dynamic" free agents, though, like the Giants, that could change if the prices drop. Still, Piscotty was impressive for them last year, so their urgency is probably overstated.

No, I count two teams that I expect to spend (Tigers, Royals) and one that just might (White Sox), with a whole bunch of mystery teams lying in the weeds, like the Giants. And you're suddenly understanding why Colby Rasmus took the qualifying offer from the Astros.

That last point applies to somebody like Dexter Fowler, who rejected a qualifying offer from the Cubs only to be hung up behind Justin Upton and Alex Gordon, two better outfielders with draft picks attached.

Star-divide

Todd Frazier's second half: In researching Frazier's uneven 2015, I came across a pair of FanGraphs articles that sum it up as well as anything.

In the first half of 2015, Frazier attracted attention for being among the league leaders in both home runs and batted-ball distance. Digging into the numbers, Owen Watson explains, Frazier figured out how to pull balls in the air after relatively even distribution of homers the year before, and it didn't really matter where he was being pitched, either.

After the All-Star break, the production tailed off after Frazier won the Home Run Derby in front of the home crowd. Looking for potential reasons beyond "the derby screwed up his swing," Neil Weinberg found some potential reasons:

  • More ground balls.
  • A more aggressive approach, but less contact.
  • More fastballs.

The question is whether we're looking at causes for or symptoms of regression. Watson cast some doubt on the staying power of Frazier's power in advance by noting:

A point to remember: Eno [Sarris] ran the year-to-year correlation of pull percentage in an article from last year, and found that players have about a 50/50 shot of carrying over the change to the following year. This could be the new Frazier, but it could also just be a great two month stretch in a long career — it’s best to temper our expectations a bit.

And Weinberg comes to the same point in the past tense:

That’s not to diminish him as a player, because he’s certainly extremely valuable. Yet it should lead us to temper our expectations about player breakouts. We shouldn’t just exercise caution due to the noise of baseball statistics (I think most serious fans are pretty good at this), but also because breakouts are notable precisely because they are difficult to sustain.

Combining these articles with Frazier's comments about late-season fatigue and paraphrasing clickbait headlines, one possibility is that Frazier found One Weird Trick to Increase His Power, and pitchers might've discovered One Weird Trick to Undercutting Frazier's Power. That would be a quintessential essential of adjusting to an adjustment, and the length and toll of a losing season might've hampered his ability to adjust back.

Or maybe his seasons just tend to be frontloaded. Or maybe it was the derby. Let's hope we find out in the good way.

Star-divide

The ghost of third basemen past: Last winter, Chase Headley was the most-desired solution for third base according to the SSS offseason plans due to a combination of decent offense from a left-handed hitter and a better glove.

The hitting took a step back, as his OBP dropped for the second straight year (from .347 to .328 to .324), and so did his slugging (.400 to .372 to .369). The former is close enough to practically consider it a repeat, but the latter isn't quite as easy to wave away. After all, he should've benefited from having Yankee Stadium as his home park for a full year, rather than having Petco Park drag down his power output.

Even then, one bigger problem than his slugging? His defense collapsed:

  • UZR: 20.9 to -3
  • DRS: 14 to -5
  • Good ol' errors: 8 to 23

He still cleared replacement level by one-plus wins by either measure, so it wasn't quite a disaster. He'll just enter 2016 in an unexpected fashion, needing to salvage his defense to ward off concerns about a decline that's steeper than anticipated. His age-32 season will be the second year of a four-year, $52 million deal, and that price would've been higher for the White Sox since he preferred the Yankees. The Sox ended up needing a year to find their dynamic third baseman from another team, and it might be worth the wait.