Sunday Notes: Adam Frazier Eyes More Walks Than Ks (a Batting Title in Sight) by David Laurila May 23, 2021 Adam Frazier has an admirable goal, one that few of his contemporaries would even contemplate trying to attain. At a time when hitters are going down by way of the K more frequently than at any time in history, the Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman aspires to walk more than he strikes out. He might actually do it. With Memorial Day right around the corner, Frazier has a 9.6 K% — fourth-best among qualified hitters — and 16 free passes to go with 19 strikeouts. Moreover, he’s been putting barrels on baseballs. To scant acclaim — par for the course when you play in Pittsburgh — Frazier is slashing an eye-opening .337/.399/.466. Asked about his stated goal, the 29-year-old Mississippi State University product admitted that it won’t be easy. “Guys today throw harder and harder, with nastier stuff,” said Frazier. “[Hitting] continues to get more difficult. I’ve always felt I have a pretty good eye, it’s just a matter of being able to put the bat on the ball.” Frazier has fanned twice in a game three times this season, on each occasion punching out against a starter and a reliever. There are no walks in the park in today’s game. From first inning to last, power arms are everywhere you turn. Whom has he faced that stands out as being especially nasty? “Everyone?,” was Frazier’s reply to my inquiry. “Literally, everybody that comes out of the pen has an elite pitch, and they just go to it over and over again. You’ve got to strap it on every time you get in the box. If they don’t have the extra-elite stuff, they’ve got the pitch-ability.” Ironically, Frazier named Kyle Hendricks when I asked which of the non-power arms he finds most-challenging. In 22 career at bats against the crafty Cub, Frazier has 10 hits, four of them for extra bases. Fittingly, he’s walked twice and fanned twice. The relievers who follow are different animals entirely. Hendricks-like they’re not. With rare exception, they come in throwing gas. “[Before], you had your leverage guys in the bullpen; they were the ones you were worried about,” Frazier said. “You thought you might have a little better chance against the guys who were coming in for mop-up duty. But now the mop-up guys are 95-97 [mph], so what are you going to do?” In Frazier’s case, the answer is to make contact, and so far this year that’s worked like a charm. His BABIP is a healthy .371, and while some might view that as unsustainable, others may see it as a just reward for consistently putting his bat on the baseball. If he keeps up his current pace, Frazier could conceivably cop a batting title. He might even walk more than he strikes out. ——— RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS Adam Dunn went 8 for 13 against Clayton Kershaw. Ryan Howard went 6 for 9 against Braden Looper. Chet Lemon went 5 for 6 against Steve Carlton. Jim Rice went 21 for 37 against Steve Stone. Tony Perez went 21 for 39 against George Stone. ——— Tampa Bay traded Willy Adames to the Brewers yesterday, a deal that Milwaukee GM David Stearns told reporters has been in the works for months. The move opens the door for the game’s top prospect… but not just yet. Rather than promote 20-year-old Wander Franco, the Rays called up 24-year-old Taylor Walls to replace Adames at the shortstop position. A slick fielder who was slashing .327/.468/.490 with Triple-A Durham, Walls has strong opinions on some of the rule-change experiments being implemented throughout the minor leagues. One is that infielders at the Double-A level are required to have both feet completely in front of the outer infield dirt boundary when the pitch is delivered. “That’s one that didn’t sit too well with me,” Walls said in an April Zoom session. “The main thing behind most of these experiments is to get more action — make the game more exciting and speed the game up — and I feel like we’re all on the same page with that. We’re not there to be bored the whole nine innings, so having more action… I’m totally with that. But to me, [the rule] takes away from hitters who are able to drive balls to all fields, or hit the ball backside. You’re taking the guys that are limited to doing it only pull side and basically giving them an advantage. You’re saying, ‘Hey, you don’t have to drive the ball backside, because we’re going to give you hits pull side.” Following up on his original question, Tampa Bay Times scribe Marc Topkin suggested that the rule penalizes teams that are smart with their defensive positioning. “100%,” agreed the Florida State product, who is No. 8 on our Rays Top Prospects list. “That’s how the game evolves. People get smarter and make adjustments. The Golden State Warriors changed the game of basketball. They found out, ‘OK, if guys move slower on the court we’re going to go small, spread guys out on the three-point line, and shoot.’ It would be the same as the NBA saying you can only have three shooting guards outside the perimeter… If you want to do what you want to do, to make the game safer and keep guys playing longer, I don’t think any player would have a problem with that. But when you change the way some people gain an edge, how some people create advantages by doing their homework and being smart… that doesn’t rub me the right way.” ——— A quiz: Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Mariano Rivera, and Billy Wagner have the four lowest ERAs among pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched since 1970. The fifth-lowest ERA belongs to a right-hander born in Sendai, Japan. Who is it? The answer can be found below. ——— NEWS NOTES Richie Scheinblum, an outfielder for six teams from 1965-1974, died earlier this month at age 78. A switch-hitter, Scheinblum slashed .300/.383/.418 for the Kansas City Royals in 1972, his lone All-Star season. That winter he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in the four-player deal that brought Hal McRae to KC. Rennie Stennett, a second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1971-1979, and the San Francisco Giants in 1980 and 1981, died this week at age 70. Part of the first all-Black lineup in MLB history, Stennett is arguably best known for going 7 for 7 in a nine-inning game in 1975. SABR’s Board of Directors has approved the formation of a new regional chapter. Named after the former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder who hit the first home run in World Series history, the Jimmy Sebring/Williamsport Chapter will serve SABR members in north-central Pennsylvania. Information can be found here. ——— The answer to the quiz is Takashi Saito, who had a 2.34 ERA over 338 innings pitching for five MLB teams from 2006-2012. A reliever, Saito made 338 appearances, 180 of them with the Los Angeles Dodgers. ——— The Detroit Tigers have rebounded after starting the season with just nine wins in their first 33 games. No longer finding ways to lose, the tabbies are now 18-26 and have at least temporarily quieted what had become a brickbats-carrying fanbase. A.J. Hinch was asked about the turnaround prior to yesterday’s game. “Last night, we didn’t play our best and still found a way to win,” the Tigers manager said of Friday’s come-from-behind conquest of the Kansas City Royals. “What a winning culture does, what a winning mindset does, is it puts the game in a completely different perspective. When we fall behind early, it’s “Find a way to get a run, or find a way to get some base runners and come up with a big hit.’ When you’re losing, it feels like, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ There’s a drastic difference between those two mindsets and those two cultures. “We’ve been able to grind through the first part of the season,” continued Hinch. “We’ve had our set of difficulties. We’ve had some poor performances. We’ve had some rocky games. But we’re coming out of it by playing a cleaner brand of baseball. Last night, we didn’t play very clean — we made a few too many mistakes — and in April we may have conceded that game a little bit mentally, and let it get away from us. Instead, we kept in the fight… We now know what it feels like to be on both ends of the spectrum. It’s obviously a lot more fun to be on the winning side.” The Tigers went into last night having won four straight, and nine of their last 11. ——— MAY NOTABLES The Colorado Rockies are 15-12 at Coors Field and 2-17 on the road. The Tampa Bay Rays are 11-12 at Tropicana Field and 16-7 on the road. Houston Astros batters have the most hits (433) and singles (286), and the fewest strikeouts (318) among the 30 teams. Los Angeles Dodgers batters have walked 205 times, the highest total for any team. Los Angeles Angels batters have walked 117 times, the lowest total for any team. Miguel Cabrera’s multi-homer game on Friday was his 33rd with the Tigers. That’s the most in franchise history, one more than Hank Greenberg. Steven Duggar’s grand slam on Thursday gave him six hits in eight career at bats with the bases loaded. It was the Giants outfielder’s first granny. Corey Kluber’s no-hitter was the first by a Yankee pitcher on the road since Allie Reynolds at Cleveland on July 12, 1951 (per Stathead). José Godoy became the 20,000th player in MLB history (per Baseball-Reference, but not official MLB records) when he took the field for the Seattle Mariners on Friday night. The 26-year-old catcher was the 98th player to debut this season. ——— How does Ben Cherington keep tabs on the organization’s prospects when he’s not watching them in-person at one of the affiliates? The Pirates GM was asked that question by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey on a recent Zoom call. “[Director of Coaching and Player Development] John Baker showed me a screenshot of his living room, where he had something like three laptops, a TV, and an iPad,” replied Cherington. “So we all find our way, but no, I haven’t had that many set up at once.” Cherington went on to say that multiple monitors are set up in the front-office suite at PNC Park, so he’s able to keep tabs on minor-league action while the big-league club is playing at home. If he’s in his office, he’ll have “a couple of screens up” there. There is also following-day viewing. As the former farm director told reporters, “Tomorrow, if I want to watch what Michael Burrows did tonight, I can dial that up pretty easily.” It was pleasurable viewing if he did tune in. Burrows — a 21-year-old right-hander who is No. 28 on our Pirates Top Prospects list — allowed two baserunners over four scoreless innings that evening. He punched out seven. ——— FARM UPDATE The Fredericksburg Nationals won their first game on Friday night after starting the season with 15 losses. Washington’s low-A affiliate beat the Salem Red Sox 2-0. The low-A Palm Beach Cardinals faced Seth Lugo, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom on consecutive days this week (per Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser). Lyon Richardson has a 1.10 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 16-and-a-third innings with the high-A Dayton Dragons. The 21-year-old right-hander is No. 6 on our Cincinnati Reds Top Prospects list. Josh Winder has a 0.93 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 19-and-a-third innings with the Double-A Wichita Wind Surge. The 24-year-old right-hander is No. 13 on our Minnesota Twins Top Prospects list. Jake Eder has a 0.60 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 15 innings for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The 22-year-old southpaw is an honorable mention on our Miami Marlins Top Prospects list, and No. 29 on Baseball America’s Marlins list. ——— Jazz Chisholm was asked about the alternate uniforms Miami is wearing this weekend to honor the Havana-based Sugar Kings, a Triple-A team that existed from 1954-1960. Not surprisingly, the colorful Marlins shortstop gave them a big thumbs up. “I like them,” Chisholm told reporters. “I like the bright colors. I like the red. I like the pinstripes, because [they’re] kind of old school, as well as new school with the bright red. And I think it matches my hair nice with the little accents of blue in it. So I like [them] a lot.” ——— FOREIGN AFFAIRS Won-Jun Choi is slashing .347/.398/.445 with 11 stolen bases for the KBO’s Kia Tigers. The 24-year-old outfielder batted .324 with 14 steals a year ago. Won-Joon Choi is 4-0 with a 2.79 ERA for the KBO’s Doosan Bears. The 26-year-old right-hander went 10-2 with a 3.80 ERA a year ago. Roki Sasaki made his highly-anticipated NPB debut last Sunday. Pitching for the Chiba Lotte Marines against the Seibu Lions, the 19-year-old phenom allowed four runs, two of them earned, over five innings. He walked two and fanned five. Carter Stewart has pitched in four games and surrendered six runs in five-and-a-third innings with the SoftBank Hawks. The 21-year-old right-hander — a first-round pick by the Atlanta Braves in 2018 — has walked nine and fanned seven. A tangentially-related fact I learned while reading Tokyo-based baseball scribe Jim Allen’s blog: The only consonant allowed to end a word in Japanese is “N.” ——— Earlier this week I ran a Twitter poll asking which of Joey Bart, Alec Bohm, Jarred Kelenic, and Casey Mize — all taken near the top of the 2018 draft — has the brightest future. Kelenic won in a landslide, garnering 77.8% of the vote. Bart got 9.2%, while Bohm and Mize each got 6.5%. Kelenic, who is off to a 5-for-31 start with the Seattle Mariners, won’t turn 22 for another two months, while the others are all 24 years old. It will be interesting to see where their respective careers unfold. ——— I also ran a poll asking the following: Tony La Russa has received a lot of criticism for things he’s said, as well as for managerial decisions. The degree of criticism would be the same if La Russa was 46 years old, and not 76 years old. True; age has no impact received 61.1% of the vote. False; ageism plays a role received 38.9%. I’m in agreement with the minority. Ever since La Russa was hired, people have been calling him a dinosaur, saying that he’s too old for today’s game. Some have even claimed he doesn’t understand modern bullpen usage, which is curious given that he was an early pioneer of just that. Based on what I’ve seen on social media, a not-insignificant number are rooting for him to fail. Do I agree with La Russa’s comments regarding Yermin Mercedes’s homering on a 3-0 pitch in a blowout? Absolutely not. Nor do I agree with every in-game decision he’s made. Truth be told, I’m of the opinion that the White Sox should have gone in a different direction when they hired a new manager. But not because La Russa is a septuagenerian. Many 40-somethings hold similar views. Would they be criticized for doing and saying the same things has has? Without a doubt. But the focus would be markedly different. ——— LINKS YOU’LL LIKE The Athletic’s Tim Britton wrote about the path Zach Scott took to the New York Mets front office, one that included playing the harmonica in a middle-of-nowhere blues bar and turning down a chance to tour Japan. MLB.com’s Matt Monagan talked to 88-year-old Ron Necciai, who in 1952 threw a 27-strikeout no-hitter for the Bristol Twins in a nine-inning game. Also at MLB.com, Sarah Langs laid out how two pitches explain Kevin Gausman’s resurgence. The Baseball Hall of Fame’s Janey Murray shared how Topps entered the baseball card market with its first set 70 years ago. Erik Vikrey profiled Oscar Gamble for SABR’s BioProject. ——— RANDOM FACTS AND STATS So far this year there have been six no-hitters and 21 complete games. In 1915, there were six no-hitters and 2,057 complete games. In 1921, there were zero no-hitters and 1,273 complete games. In 1918, Philadelphia A’s right-hander Mule Watson twice threw complete games in both ends of a double-header. Those outings included going 10-and-two-thirds innings in a 3-2 loss and throwing a one-hit shutout in a Game Two. Watson also pitched both ends of a double-header in 1921, tossing a two-hitter in Game Two. Hall of Fame right-hander Waite Hoyt threw 3,762 innings over 21 big-league seasons. He had 100 or more strikeouts just twice, with a high of 105 in 1934. Hall of Fame knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm had a 2.18 ERA over 881 innings in his age 40-49 seasons. He was credited with 54 wins and 130 saves. Julio Franco was 21 for 27 in steal attempts after turning 40. Franco was 48 years old when he stole his final base. Nick Altrock drew a walk in his only plate appearance of the 1931 season, and was subsequently caught stealing. Playing for the Washington Senators, Altrock was 55 years old. On today’s date in 2004, the Chicago White Sox swatted 23 hits, including four each by Aaron Rowand and Carlos Lee, in a 17-7 romp over the Minnesota Twins. The loss went to Johan Santana, who finished the season 20-6, 2.61 and captured the A.L. Cy Young Award. Earle Brucker played his final big-league game on today’s date in 1943. A catcher for the Philadelphia A’s, Brucker was two weeks shy of his 36th birthday when he made his MLB debut six years earlier. His career slash line was.290/.376/.438. Players born on today’s date include Deacon Phillippe, who went 189-109 with a 2.89 ERA for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1899-1911. A right-hander who hailed from Rural Retreat, Virginia, Phillippe had a 1.13 BB% over 2,607 regular-season innings. He issued four free passes in 50 World Series innings. Also born on today’s date was William Hoy, an outfielder for seven teams from 1888-1902. The most-accomplished deaf player in MLB history, Hoy recorded 2,048 hits and a 112 wRC+. The baseball field at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC is named after Hoy.