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2015 in Review: Todd Frazier in "The Tale of Two Halves"

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Todd Frazier was good, bad, and ugly in a lost season for the Reds.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

We continue Red Reporter's player by player look at the 2015 Cincinnati Reds. We'll profile every player who got time for the Reds this year, and will imagine their tenure with the Reds going forward.

A decade from now, I'm sure we'll all look back at Todd Frazier's final 2015 stat-line and shrug. "Yep, pretty good season by Todd there," we'll say. "Too bad the Reds totally stunk." And we won't be wrong. Frazier's final line:

.255/.309/.498, .806 OPS. 117 OPS+ (down only 4 points from his career best in 2014). A career high 35 home runs and 89 RBIs. Another 13 stolen bases. 43 doubles. 83 runs scored. All Star.

But even taking all of that into account in 2025, it would be doing Todd's season both a disservice while also missing all of the nuance in the player himself. What turned out to be a perfectly solid season could've been one for the Reds history books before the player not just regressed to the mean, but fell of the damn cliff.

No, you can't discuss Todd Frazier through the lens of just season long numbers. As Dom Cobb might say, "We need to go deeper."

April, May, June

It all started inconspicuously enough. Through April, contact wasn't much of Todd's friend as he batted just .238 through the inaugural month of the season. However, he was walking enough (actually, the most he walked in any month despite recording the least amount of plate appearances for any month) and still mashing everything he hit for a .550 SLG, leading to a .890 OPS for the month. All was well with the Reds starting third baseman, and it appeared as though he was continuing to build on his solid 2014 campaign.

However, Frazier would reach another planet over the next two months. Todd effectively reached out his hand, grabbed the Reds offense and said, "Go ahead, climb aboard these broad shoulders." For the calendar month of May, Frazier reached orbit, slashing .327/.398/.683 for an interstellar 1.081 OPS with 9 home runs and 7 doubles.

Frazier rolled into June bashing, mashing and slashing, leading to talk of "MVP" and "one of the best players in baseball." It seemed like night after night, Todd was making play after play, giving Reds fans a beacon of hope in an otherwise frustrating and disappointing season. This happened (though, I'm not sure there were more than a dozen people that saw it). The night before, this happened.

What should always be remembered about Todd Frazier's 2015 season as noted in one of those links: his extra base hits pace was BETTER through mid-June than would've-been 2012 MVP Joey Votto.

Through June, Frazier slashed .287/.310/.598 and while he quit walking, he mashed another 9 home runs and 11 doubles. On the year as of June 30th, here was Todd's overall line: .287/.348/.614, 25 HR, 22 2B, 1 3B. Keep in mind this was before Joey Votto's own meteoric output in the second half (though, he was still doing just fine). Votto was reaching base nearly 40% of the time, and Todd Frazier was the straw that was stirring the drink.

Oh, and there was that little thing called the "Home Run Derby"

In what was quite possibly the highlight of the season for Reds fans, Todd Frazier stepped onto the field of his home ballpark for the Home Run Derby and just decided to win the whole damn thing in the most dramatic fashion ever. I'm sure the new format helped (along with 40,000 strong squarely behind one participant), but Todd Frazier winning the Home Run Derby was by far the most exciting and entertaining thing to come out of all of the festivities, even if it didn't award the National League with home field advantage. While the Derby also did nothing to boost the Reds meager win column, it provided the city and its fans something to cheer for and be proud about.

The pure joy on Todd Frazier's face after he won sure helps, as well.

The Wheels, Where Have They Gone?

Unfortunately for Todd Frazier the real season continued after his dramatic Derby win. After rolling over a few at bats in the All Star Game for easy outs at third base, Todd fell into a slump that basically lasted the rest of the season and torpedoed his overall line. It might've been aggressive to believe that we'd really seen a new Todd Frazier. Regression was inevitable. Todd met regression and he crashed right through it.

For the rest of the season, Todd's OBP reached Billy Hamilton levels of ineptitude, failing to ever reach .280+ until the last month of the season. The near .350 OBP season mark started it's free fall before settling nearly 40 points lower by season's end. Frazier bopped just 10 home runs the rest of the way, and his slugging percentage failed to top .400 in any of the remaining months. His K% ticked up more than 6 percentage points in the second half. His ISO plummeted (.301 to .170). Basically, if there is any offensive stat held in baseball, Todd Frazier was worse at it in the second half of the season when compared with the first.

Naturally, we went in search of what had happened to the promising third baseman as he floundered through mid September. I could crunch the numbers and tell you what I found, but Neil Weinberg over at FanGraphs tells us just about all we need to know. Long story short: Frazier had made himself into an extreme flyball, pull hitter in the first half and it helped his hits find the seats. In the second half, his flyball percentage returned to his pre-2015 numbers, while he pulled an even greater percentage of batted balls. Thus, you get a lot of swings that look like those from the All Star game, rather than the Home Run Derby.

It's easy (and probably inaccurate) to blame the second half funk on the Derby messing up his swing. Who really knows how that affects a hitter. There's little to suggest, numbers-wise, that there is anything behind that theory, though I can see where swinging your absolute hardest on swing after swing after swing (as fast as you can, in this particular vintage of the Derby) would have a tendency to tucker you out and cause a tinkering with mechanics. But, you can point to to the weeks leading up to the Derby and find the swoon getting into full swing. All that is to say: Todd was beginning to flounder before home run contest.

Add it all up and you finish at a stat-line that is more than acceptable for your starting third baseman. But, a look closer, and you really begin to imagine what could've been.

Looking at 2016

As will become a common theme in these player previews, we have to ask: "Who will even be here next year?"

Todd is about as sure of a bet to be in the starting lineup for the Cincinnati Reds in 2016 as anyone currently on the roster. But, it's completely fair to ask if it would be in the Reds best interest to deal Frazier for the replacement pieces needed to make a more competitive team for the future. By Opening Day 2016, Todd Frazier will already by 30, meaning he'll be on the wrong side of his career the next time the Reds field a particularly competitive team. When the question was asked at the trade deadline (when Todd still looked as though he was turning into a superstar), there were many who wondered if the Reds could get anything close to equal value in the return. At the end of the season, I don't think that's a concern. Second half collapse aside, he's a valuable, cost controlled asset that many "win-now" teams would covet.

It's tough to imagine that this particular front office and sentimental ownership would consider trading a player many considered to be the face of the franchise just three months ago.

So, barring something unforeseen, Todd Frazier will be starting games for the Reds at the hot corner when the 2016 season opens its doors. He'll be a versatile, 3-4 win player with a 6 win ceiling and an eleventy win personality. The highs will be leather-mashingly high, the lows will be bafflingly, why-did-he-swing-at-that? low, and some of the home runs will undoubtedly be no handed.

Chance of making the 2016 Reds roster: 95%+