One night not long ago, Clint Frazier was lying in bed trying to fall asleep and kept wondering how he could solve a problem that had been nagging him at the plate.
In his hitting stance at the beginning of the season, Frazier’s hands were positioned so high at his starting point that they were dropping about a foot to the point where he swung the bat, causing him to be really late on balls that opposing pitchers were throwing his way.
While wracking his brain for possible adjustments, Frazier had a eureka moment: “Why don’t you just drop your hands?”
As he recounted the story in a Zoom call with reporters ahead of Saturday’s game against the Orioles, Frazier said he then went to Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames with the idea, and they agreed to incorporate it into his routine.
“That’s how I found out that move, and I’m sticking with it. It feels really good,” Frazier said. “[It gives me] a really strong foundation, it really helps me use my legs, and ultimately, it’s just something that I believe in right now -- and that’s the biggest part.”
Frazier hopes this new batting stance will help counteract the struggles he has experienced at the plate so far this season. Entering Saturday, the 26-year-old outfielder has slashed .146/.281/.281 with a .562 OPS in 33 games.
“It’s been tough. It’s gone on a lot longer than I think I expected, anyone expected, and I’m just trying to stay positive,” Frazier said. “I think the biggest thing is you can’t let your swagger be created just because of success. When you’re going good, it’s really easy to walk around like you’re on top of the world. But once you’re kind of at that bottom point, you still have to maintain the swagger, the confidence and just the ability to turn the page.”
As for those positives he has been focusing on, Frazier attested that he has been among the best in baseball at not swinging at pitches outside the strike zone; his chase rate of 13.7 percent entering Saturday ranks in the 99th percentile of the league, per Statcast. He also noted that he has a career-high walk rate of 15.8 percent, which ranks in the 93rd percentile, per Statcast.
After a productive 2020 season in which Frazier slashed .267/.394/.511 with a .905 OPS in 39 games, he knows that the Yankees are giving him a chance to carve out an everyday role for himself, which has made his hitting funk “really frustrating.” At the same time, he knows what’s most important for him to be successful is to maintain his signature swagger.
“Pressure is something we all handle in different ways,” Frazier said. “I’m just trying to take the plate discipline that I have right now and turn it into some hard contact, and just go out there and be myself. There’s a saying: Pressure does two things, it busts pipes and it creates diamonds -- and I’m trying to be that diamond.”
• Aaron Hicks (torn tendon sheath in left wrist) has responded well to the anti-inflammatory medication he has been taking and is encouraged by the progress he has made so far, according to manager Aaron Boone. Hicks was expected to take swings in the batting cage Saturday, after not being able to do so in recent days, and the results of that will be telling for both him and the Yankees on whether he can avoid needing surgery for the injury.
• Giancarlo Stanton (left quadriceps tightness) was out of the Yankees’ lineup for the second consecutive day Saturday. Boone said there was “nice improvement overnight” and reiterated that it would likely be a day-to-day issue. He also mentioned that whether Stanton could pinch-hit if necessary -- as Gio Urshela did to great effect in Friday’s 5-4 win -- would be a game-time decision.
• Gleyber Torres (COVID-19 injured list) is still testing positive and quarantining in Tampa, Fla., after becoming the eighth member of the Yankees’ traveling party to become a "breakthrough" case on Thursday.
• The Yankees elected not to make a roster move ahead of Saturday’s game, despite having a shorthanded bench, given the progress made by Hicks and Stanton.
“We feel like there was enough improvement there to keep that in play for another day or two,” Boone said. “We’ll continue to evaluate at the end of tonight based on needs; we’ll see where we are tomorrow. Obviously eventually we’ll have to make a call one way or the other, but right now we don’t feel like we want to go down that road yet, with both guys potentially in play in a non-IL situation.”
This date in Yankees history
May 15, 1941: Joe DiMaggio’s 56- game hitting streak begins with a single off Eddie Smith in a 13-1 loss vs. Chicago at Yankee Stadium.