Over the next six weeks, you'll hear plenty about how the Pirates are playing meaningless baseball. But, save few for a few select cornerstone players, there's 2020 playing time and career longevity at stake for most of this roster.
Take, for example, Adam Frazier.
After morphing into a Chase Utley clone following the 2018 All-Star Game -- he slugged .533 during the second half of the season, compared to .355 before the break -- Frazier earned a daily lineup spot. The Pirates let Josh Harrison walk in free agency, and installed Frazier as the club's second baseman. At age 27, he seemed poised to establish himself as a regular at one spot, instead of bouncing between three or four different positions on the diamond.
Now, with 2019 winding down, his long-term future as a starter is anything but assured. Ironically, Frazier's once-panned defense at second base has actually been solid (he has saved +4 runs compared to an average player at the position, according to Fangraphs' Defensive Runs Saved metric). But his bat has declined. In 2018, Frazier posted a park and league-adjusted OPS that was 16 percent better than the overall MLB average (116 OPS+). That was tied for eighth-best among MLB second basemen with at least 350 plate appearances. This year, his 87 OPS+ (13 percent below the MLB average) ranks 15th out of 21 players at the position with 350+ plate appearances.
Where did Frazier's 2018 power surge come from, and why has it gone MIA in 2019?