Monday, July 9, 2012

Frazier forcing his way into Reds' plans


Free Todd Frazier!

As the Reds closed out the mythical first half of the season with a win in San Diego on Sunday to head into the All-Star Break, fans were left with the all-too-familiar frustration of seeing Todd Frazier ride the bench while Scott Rolen flailed away in the lineup.

Manager Dusty Baker was short with reporters when asked about his decision to play Rolen over Frazier, as he often has been this year, stating that every season there’s one player fans clamor to start every day. He might be right about this, fans always love the back-up quarterback, or in the case of baseball, the hottest bat on the bench. What Baker cannot ignore forever, though, are the numbers which beg for Frazier to be penciled into the everyday lineup.
             
To fully appreciate the lunacy of holding Frazier back, let’s take a quick blind test of the numbers.
            
Player A has posted an OPS of .901 through the first half of the season while Player B boasts an OPS of .826. Player A has tallied more triples, home runs and RBI in 68 fewer at-bats than Player B. Player B is on the NL All-Star team and is hailed as the certain Rookie of the Year.

            Player A
            .278/.345/.556/.901
            60 G, 180 AB
            13 2B, 5 3B, 9 HR, 29 RBI
            18 BB, 52 K

            Player B
            .282/.354/.472/.826
            63 G, 248 AB
            15 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 25 RBI
            27 BB, 53 K


Player B just so happens to be Bryce Harper. Player A? The Reds’ very own Todd Frazier.
             
I’m not saying Frazier has the upside of Harper over the long term. But the thought of the Nationals not playing Harper on a daily basis at this point is nearly laughable with the impact he’s had after his May call-up. Yet, Frazier has posted comparable and, arguably, better numbers over the course of the first half but has taken a back seat again with Rolen able to play. The woes of the Reds' veteran third baseman are well documented. By now, his horrid slash line (.178/.241/.302/.543 OPS) has been burned onto countless posts in fan message boards.
             
But this post isn’t to pile on to Rolen and the sad way his career appears to be circling the drain, but rather to underscore the impact Frazier has had on the Reds this season. The numbers more than give credence to the fans’ rally around the man who walks up to Sinatra, much as Baker might want to dismiss it.

We all have heard the cries against Baker’s so-called "veteran love," but the Reds skipper has shown a certain willingness to back youngsters – his support of guys like Zack Cozart and Drew Stubbs more than prove that out. The problem is his unwillingness to change – while other managers joggle their lineup cards looking for something to click offensively, Baker’s recurring nightmare for fans is his seeming idea that once a lineup card has been posted on Opening Day that it is written in stone for the entirety of the 162-game campaign.
           
It’s well past time to face facts – the Scott Rolen who was key to leading the Reds to the NL Central crown in 2010 is gone and isn’t coming back. He may still be a valuable bench player considering his defense remains well above average, but he OPS’ed .647 last year and that number seems unimaginably high compared to this year.
             
There’s little chance that many fans outside of Cincinnati, and certainly outside of NL Central followers, know much about Todd Frazier. What they’re missing is a breakout campaign from a guy who should undoubtedly be playing every day. Just for fun, let’s continue to put Frazier’s offensive numbers in prospective. In the NL, only one third baseman has an OPS better than Frazier (David Wright, 1.004) and just two in all of baseball boast a better OPS (add Miguel Cabrera, .938).
            
Frazier’s numbers are over a small sample size, so let’s not get carried away. Still, it would be hard to find many other teams across baseball who could ignore what he’s done while taking over for the ever-struggling Rolen. He’s more than run with the ball, he’s taken it and polished off a thundering slam dunk. Will the numbers stay at their current pace? His minor league history says no, but with the Reds’ offense scuffling the way it is, to bench one of its few regular contributors is not only silly, it’s down right offensive.

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