Todd Frazier

Todd Frazier’s adjustment

[This post was written by Jux Berg, who has his own website at Bergonsports.com and @bergonsports on Twitter. Thanks, Jux. — spm]

They call it the “Sophomore Slump.”

2012 was the first year Todd Frazier received regular playing time at the big league level, and he virtually carried the Reds in July and August when he batted .320/.371/.567 with eleven homers and 40 runs driven in. In 2013 however, Frazier suffered through several prolonged slumps, finishing with .234/.314/.407 — a fall of almost 40 points below his 2012 mark in batting average and 90 points in slugging percentage. Todd had a 10-game hitless stretch in 2013, a 4-game 0-for and five 3-game knockless streaks.

Translation: Major league pitching coaches and pitchers, as they tend to do, figured Todd Frazier out in 2013. Pitchers began using Todd’s power (and the time it was taking to generate that power) against him.

In response, Todd made noticeable adjustments in the offseason and thus far, 2014 has been a different story. The former Little League World Series stud has had two 3-game hitless stretches this season — and that’s been the extent of his struggles. Through August 6, Frazier is hitting .281/.339/.463.

Frazier discussed his offseason adjustments with MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon back in March. He spoke about consistency: “I can be unorthodox, but is my path to the ball the same?” Frazier said. “Are my eyes the same? Am I in a good position to hit? I have to be in a good position. For the first couple of years of playing, sometimes I got away from that…That’s going to be a big word for me this season – consistency.”

The result: Frazier has become a consistent spray hitter while putting good wood on more pitches. Not only do the statistics tell the story, but so does watching “The Toddfather” hit on a daily basis through the first 4+ months of the ’14 campaign.

The Stats

In Frazier’s breakout 2012, he finished hitting .273/.331/.498 as he played a major role in Cincinnati’s NL Central crown. In 2013, he clubbed 19 home runs in 150 games. According to FanGraphs, twelve of those 19 HRs were pulled and 54 of his 124 hits (43.5 percent) were to the left side. So far in 2014, Frazier has cracked 20 taters, only five of which have flown over the left field fence. 45 of Todd’s 57 RBI have come on base hits up the middle or to the opposite field. Frazier’s spray charts for 2013 (left) and 2014 are shown here. The black dots are his home runs and red dots his line drives. You can see he’s hitting much more to all fields this year.

tf copy 2

Frazier’s monthly numbers have, as a whole, improved dramatically from 2013 to 2014. Last season, his best average was .261 in September/October, and he suffered through a .220 May and a .180 August. In 2014, Frazier shook off a .247 April to post a .291 May and a .316 June, by far and away his two best months since his mammoth .330/.393/.587 August back in 2012. In short, that magic word, consistency, has been Todd’s theme this year.

Adjustments in the Batter’s Box

If you’re like me, and you pay close attention to each Red’s stance, load and swing path, you’ve probably noticed three major changes in Frazier from 2013 to 2014.

Hands

In his batting stance this season, Todd has lowered his hands significantly from up around his head to down around his chest. He shaved precious time off of his load-to-contact by starting his hands in the loaded position instead of having to bring them all the way down to that zone. This allows him an extra tick or two to identify the pitch and to let it travel a touch longer before starting his swing. That adjustment cuts down on the number of times he’s been out in front of a pitch, which in the past caused him to hit grounders to the left side on good pitches and whiff on pitches moving down and away.

Stride

Frazier has also modified his stride from a significant toe-tap/twist stride timing mechanism to more of a simple ‘step and stride’ approach this season. He still generates rapid hip rotation but in much less time. That, coupled with his lowered hands, has made Number 21 much quicker and shorter to the baseball without sacrificing any of his power. And, since Frazier has decreased the time it takes to get to impact, he can use that extra time to be a bit more selective. According to Pitch f/x, his swing percentage on pitches outside of the strike zone has dropped from 35 percent in ’13 down to 32.5 percent in ’14.

Swing Differences

Here’s a gif from 2013 when Todd flails and misses at a curveball in the dirt. Notice his high hands, his prolonged stride and generally just how much movement there is in his swing and how long it takes him to get to follow through.

Frazier1.gif.opt_-1

In contrast, here’s a gif of a 2014 Frazier blast to dead center field. Notice where his hands are before the swing and his modified stride. Also note that he hit a middle-in fastball to dead center. That’s an improved swing path.

Frazier_HR_0ayne3vh_pyw2r5l2-1

Swing Path

Most hitting instructors harp on “keeping your hands inside the baseball” and “putting the sweet spot on the inside part of the baseball.” This is something Yankee legend Derek Jeter has made a living doing over the years; it’s an area in which most of the great hitters have excelled. I believe it’s a huge reason Todd Frazier has avoided slumps this season.

What does keeping your hands inside the baseball mean? There’s a drill a lot of hitters do where they stand about a foot away from a net and take practice swings. The goal: Don’t hit the net with the bat. The only way to do that? Keep your hands tucked tight into your chest as you power through your swing. It keeps the fat part of the bat on the inner half of the baseball, which prevents coming around the baseball and being out in front on pitches down the middle or on the outer half. Essentially, when you come around the baseball, you’re early. There’s an old saying: “If you’re early, you’re out.”

Think about it like this. You’re at the plate. You’re a right-handed hitter. The pitcher makes a mistake and leaves a fastball belt-high, right down Broadway. If you’re not keeping your hands inside the baseball, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll “roll over” and ground out to third or short (or directly into the shift, like a certain Reds right-fielder). And occasionally (but not frequently) this season, that’s what we’ve seen Frazier do on pitches down the middle. But when you are focused on keeping your front shoulder closed and your hands inside the baseball, you’ll oftentimes blast that heater to straightaway center or right center, which allows you to get your arms fully extended and maximize your power.

That’s why 15 of Todd Frazier’s 20 dingers have been to center or right field this season. That’s why he’s avoided slumps. And that’s why he was selected to his first All-Star game.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Todd Frazier’s adjustment

  1. Do you know if Frazier’s adjustments that he made over the winter were on his own or through the Reds new hitting coach Don Long? Negron seems very competent at using the opposite field for most of his hits since coming up. And at the 2 AA games I saw last weekend, most of the players hits were going to the opposite field, especially the doubles that were hit. I hope its a system wide approach to get away from the hack attack philosophy of the past.

    • Thanks for reading, WVREDLEGS. I wasn’t able to find anything pertaining to who exactly is responsible for Frazier’s adjustments. I would venture a guess that Todd realized he needed to modify his entire approach and swing path in order to become more consistent and that Don Long helped him make those necessary adjustments through film watching and drills.

      As for Negron, you’re dead on. I have tweeted about his approach. I’m 34 – I played in a 28-and-over baseball league in Bellingham, WA the past 6 years…and right before my 6th season I realized: Hey, pitchers always seems to try to get a first pitch strike on the outside corner..why not just jump on that and blast it to right center? I ended up cracking a few doubles deep into the right center field gap early in the season…

      I think Negron probably realized the same thing, which is why he has a .302 AVG and 12 of his 13 hits have been to CF or RF– and it’s something I wish Jay Bruce would focus more on, as I discussed here: http://bergonsports.com/2014/07/20/the-jay-bruce-approach-why-the-reds-right-fielder-has-regressed-in-14/

  2. Interesting and informative stuff. Thanks a lot for all the work that went into this.

    Two questions: 1) If I’m not mistaken, 15 of TF’s 20 homers this season have come at GABP. Do you think the adjustments he’s made improve his GABP opposite field HR power, at the expense of his HR power in less “hitter friendly” environments? 2) A couple of times recently, Chris Welsh has mentioned that Frazier moved to a heavier bat. Any idea when/why he did that, and how it fits with the stuff you’ve uncovered?

    You clearly know way more about this stuff than I do, so I’m curious what you think. Thanks.

    • Thanks for reading, ERIC THE RED. I don’t know that Todd’s new approach has come at the expense of his HR power in bigger ballparks. I do remember him crushing a 9th inning go-ahead laser to dead central in Pittsburgh earlier this season, which is definitely not a hitter-friendly park.

      The stat I like to see is that The Toddfather has 63 hits on the road and 60 at home. He has cracked 9 doubles on the road and 9 at home. Of course, 25% of his home hits have flown over the fence and only 8% have been yahtzeed on the road…but #21 has been very consistent this season as opposed to 2013 overall, while the entire Reds offense has been up and down and up again all season. It’s nice to have a guy you can count on.

      As for the weight of the bat, that’s a good question. My only thought there would be that since his path to the ball is shorter and quicker, he can afford to add an ounce or two to his bat weight now–which helps in that old “speed + weight” physics equation.

  3. Excellent. Hope to see more of your stuff grace RLN in the future! In the mean-time, I’ll be checking out your site!

  4. Really good stuff here. Awesome that you still play ball. I played in an over-30 league for 3 years, starting at age 29 using one of the team’s exemptions. I haven’t played in a dozen years and I miss it.

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