Reds’ Todd Frazier is Underappreciated

Last night, when most of the Eastern Time Zone’s residents had gone to bed, Todd Frazier hit his fourth home run in the last two games. It served as a beautiful example of how underappreciated Frazier is. A walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 13th inning for his 22nd homer of the year and the poor guy gets this lackluster call from Thom Brennaman.

I get it, it’s the thirteenth inning in a game with a long rain delay and it’s threatening to stretch until one in the morning—you’re tired, Thom. Really, it’s understandable, it just seems endemic to fans’ and All-Star Game voters’ enthusiasm for Todd Frazier. It’s not that he’s in third place or behind Matt Carpenter and Kris Bryant—both of whom deserve consideration—it’s more that it seems a there’s a level of appreciation for Frazier that is disproportionately small to the season he’s having.

It all revolves around how much loft Frazier is putting on the ball when he puts it in play. This season, Frazier’s posting a career-high 48.5 percent fly ball rate, but also a home run-to-fly ball (22.4 percent) rate awfully close to the high-water mark he set in his abbreviated 2011 season (23.1 percent). The last three seasons, he’s never exceeded 17 percent in HR/FB rate.

Those first two rates are what are most impressive when used together. Frazier’s homer-to-fly rate is awfully good and puts him 14th among all major leaguers. That’s impressive enough, but Frazier is hitting more balls in the air than anyone ahead of him on that list—1.5 percent more than Giancarlo Stanton and 4.1 percent more than Bryce Harper. On top of that, he has an OPS of an even 1.000, the fifth-highest hard-hit ball rate in the majors, second-highest isolated slugging mark in all of baseball (tied with Stanton at .345), and he’s cut down on his strikeouts this year by nearly three percent.

Maybe that’s it—not everybody knows or loves those numbers. It’s harder to get excited about percentages which work in conjunction with other ones than it is to talk about nice, round numbers. So, here’s one: Mathematically, Todd Frazier is on pace to hit 50 home runs.

Now that we’ve had two and a half months to stabilize the samples we have, we can go one step further than guessing based on how many plate appearances he averages between homers. It seems—despite it being quite an outlier in comparison to the last two years—Frazier’s elevated fly ball rate is here to stay, with maybe some minor fluctuation due to batted ball classification (e.g. borderline fly balls being labelled line drives) or an extended slump.

Assuming Frazier reaches somewhere around 630 plate appearances this year and his walk and strikeout rates stay consistent, he’s on pace to hit 125 fly balls over the remainder of the season resulting in 28 more home runs.

Frazier would likely be joined by Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper in the 50 home-run club this season, which would make them just the third, fourth, and fifth players to hit 50 in a season since 2008. That’s not to say any or all of this will happen, but all three are in the middle of monstrous offensive seasons.

Before Tuesday, both Stanton and Harper were slated to be starting in the All-Star Game (Stanton was supplanted by Nori Aoki in the most recent update, but trailed by just 73,549 votes)—it would be nice to see Todd Frazier get the same appreciation.

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