When the Gotham City Police Department turns on the Bat-Signal, Bruce Wayne ceases doing whatever gagillionairres do and dons his costume and rushes to where he is needed. When that fine girl you “daydream” about finally texts….Ok, let’s not get ridiculous here. Crime fighting Batman I can wrap my head around, but that? No way. When ANY girl texts you for that booty call late at night, you immediately take off all your clothes and Uber your ass to wherever she is. When Grey asked for me in his Top 20 3rd Basemen for 2017, what do you think happened? You got it. I took off all my clothes and sent for an Uber. By the way, Grey could of just emailed, texted, or called me, but Commissioner Gordon could’ve beeped, texted, or called Batman, rather than use a specially modified searchlight to project a symbol into the sky that can’t be seen if Bruce Wayne is not looking into the sky. Ya heard? So with that said, in honor of this off-the-cuff piece, here is this week’s musical interlude.
Todd Frazier, aka the ToddFather, is as American as apple pie. Did you know that the first written apple pie recipe goes back to 1381 in England? So, how the F is apple pie as American as anything? And we say China copies everything. Pssshh. Anyways, Frazier grew up in Toms River, New Jersey, which just happens to be 67 miles from North Caldwell, New Jersey, which happens to be where the Sopranos was located. Hence, the ToddFather. That’s what we do here at Razzball. Ok, seriously, he was part of the 1998 Little League World Series team that defeated Japan. USA!!! USA!!! USA!!! He was a member of the USA National Team that won the gold medal in the World University Games in Havana (2006). He attended Rutgers University and won Big East player of the year in 2007. Home Run Derby Champ in 2015 and two-time All Star in 2014 and 2015. He is the poster child for MLB. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought that Frazier was the only MLB player that played Little League.
So, here’s what Grey wrote about Frazier:
His Ks went up, which could cause his average to plummet, but he also had a BABIP that was almost forty points off his career average going into last year. He became much more patient, for better and worse. He swung at a lot fewer pitches inside and outside the strike zone, and, when he did swing, he missed more. When he did connect, it wasn’t good contact, which explains the lower BABIP. What this could be: bad BABIP (unlucky) caused him to second guess his approach, so he stopped swinging, and became tentative. Or what it could be: he’s lost a millisecond on his swing, so he guessed a lot, which is why he pulled so many pitches and rarely hit anything up the middle. I’m very concerned, and I’m having a hard time spinning this into a positive. So, why in the safe tier? Well, I still can’t figure out how to get him projected for less than 30/12, so that’s safe. 2017 Projections: 72/31/91/.235/13 in 582 ABs.
I agree with Grey’s sentiment that there should be some concern with Frazier. In both 2012 and 2013, he hit 19 home runs. In 2014, that number jumped to 29 and our Little League hero was now a MLB superstar. He was driving the ball up the middle, going to the opposite field more, and squaring up the ball better. He was exhibiting a very mature approach at the plate. Then, things changed. It was like the transformation of the young cute, innocent Justin Bieber on YouTube to what is presented to us now. I kind of get it. He won the Home Run Derby that year and signed a two-year, $12 million contract. At 28 years old, he was in the prime of his career, but at the same time, you come to the realization at that age that the next contract could be the final one. Last time I checked, hitters don’t get paid to walk. So, he changed his approach. Did he change because of the reason I stated above? No idea, but here is what I do know. The ground ball rate increased dramatically (41.2% to 47.7%) and the fly ball rate went from 37.1% to 47.7%. Correspondingly, Frazier’s pull percentage went from 37.7% to 46.1%. Now, I want to say everything that Grey said above, but Grey already said it so there’s no need for me to write it again. If your memory is as bad as mine, just scroll up and re-read what Grey said.
When doing research into Frazier, my mind kept taking me to Jose Bautista. He is patient at the plate, sells out for power, pulls the ball a ton, and also had a low average and BABIP last season. The similarity that really struck a chord with me was the infield fly ball rate. Frazier was at 18.5% last year, while Bautista was at 17.8%. Good for worst and 3rd-worst last season. August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs wrote an article in June of last year, which pretty much summed up Frazier’s woes. The infield flys are basically strikeouts. In addition, with his pull-happy ways, defenses were shifting to gobble up all those balls to the left side of the infield. Hence, low average and BABIP.
Now, this is where I get very concerned regarding Frazier. While Bautista is 36 years old and at the tail end of his career, he still has an excellent control of the strike zone. He walks around 15% and strikes out close to 19% of the time. His swinging strike rate is around 7% and contact rate in the strike zone is close to 90%. Frazier, on the other hand, walks less than 10%, strikes out close to 25% of the time, has a swinging strike rate of 12% and has a contact rate in the strike zone close to 80%. So, while he may be getting more patient at the plate, he’s either getting fooled while waiting for his pitch or is just not able to hit the pitches he’s waiting for. Either scenario is not a good one. To make matters worse, he’s a free agent after this year. Anyone have a guess what I think is going to happen?
Frazier is being drafted as the 7th 3rd baseman in NFBC drafts. He’s going at an average of pick 72.91 as of 1/27/17. I think Grey’s projection of 30/12 is a fair one, but I’m personally going to take the under. My thinking is Frazier will not be as patient this year. Yes, I realize the contract thing is a narrative, but I do factor in the human element of the game, not just the stats. If Frazier is going to be more aggressive, there may be fewer walks which may mean fewer stolen base opportunities. Plus, he’s on the other side of 30 now. In addition, a more aggressive approach will make it easier for pitchers to attack him. More infield fly balls and grounders to short. Oh, and more strikeouts. Even if they do make mistakes, Frazier doesn’t possess elite contact rates so those may not be as detrimental.
I will let others pay, what I believe to be too high of a price, on a player that looks good if you just sort by home runs the past four years. Some of the other stats paint a different picture, though. I guess it all comes down to this: whether or not you believe apple pie to be American.