2013 Reds / Dusty's Lineup Shenanigans / Reds - General

Up Goes Frazier!

The #2 hitter in a baseball lineup receives the second-most at bats of anyone on the team. For example, over the course of a season, the #2 hitter will have about 60 more plate appearances than the #6 hitter. Studies have determined that the first two positions in the lineup create the most runs. The #2 hitter bats in situations about as important as the #3 hitter, except more often.

Not only is the #2 hitter vitally important, big league managers recognize it.

“I don’t think it’s as it used to be, when the No. 2 guy was primarily a bunt guy or a hit-and-run guy,” says Rays manager Joe Maddon. “It has changed,” said Manny Acta. “You don’t need a guy who can just bunt and move the guy over. You need to get him on base a lot because you have the No. 3 and 4 hitters coming up behind him. It’s a very key part of the lineup.”

Among the players batting second in the major leagues this year are Joe Mauer of the Twins, Robinson Cano of the Yankees, Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals, Mike Trout of the Angels, and Jose Bautista for the Blue Jays. Joe Maddon has given most of the Rays’ two-hole AB to Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist who are hitting an astonishing .338/.433/.532 in that spot. Somewhere, Jean Segura of the Brewers is getting on base against the Reds right now, and he bats second, too. In 1973, the year the other Frazier famously went down, the Reds’ 2-hole hitter was a guy named Joe Morgan (.287/.402/.484).

Meanwhile, Dusty Baker’s concept of the #2 hitter remains stubbornly mired in the past. His ideal second hitter is a good bunter and someone who can hit the other way to advance the leadoff runner. Zack Cozart leads all major league position players in sacrificing his out with a bunt. Keep in mind that most of the time the leadoff hitter isn’t on base when the #2 hitter bats, so that entire premise for a “good” #2 hitter is completely irrelevant more than half the time. Or Baker uses the #2 spot like a charity, to help struggling hitters “get goin’.”

As a player, Dusty Baker had over 8,000 major league plate appearances. Only 37 were batting second and he hit .171/.194/.286. Batting second never got him goin’.

This has resulted in hundreds of extremely sub-optimal at bats over Baker’s tenure with the Reds. Cesar Izturis has 33 PA in the #2 spot (.094/.121/.125). When Baker rightly pulls Shin-Soo Choo out of the leadoff spot against tough left-handed pitchers, he just drops the centerfielder to #2 (38 PA, .152/.237/.182). Wilson Valdez had more than a hundred plate appearances batting second last season. Paul Janish, who I loved watching play, hit over 300 times as a #2 hitter for Baker (and, not surprisingly, not once for the Braves). Willie Harris hit second last year.

This year, the 2-hole hitter for the Reds bats between Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto, two of the most productive players in baseball. A running joke in the Nation is that with Dusty Baker’s lineup, the #2 hitter could be referred to as The Cooler. Considering the overall performance (.231/.276/.342) of the Reds 2-hole hitters this year, that’s one of those jokes that really isn’t funny when you think about it. Gallows humor, maybe.

On Wednesday, Todd Frazier was installed as the Reds’ #2 hitter against the Oakland A’s. He also hit there on Friday. It took over 1,000 plate appearances for Todd Frazier to bat second in the Reds’ lineup, a move that has been obvious for over a year.

But only in Dusty Baker’s Bizarro world of lineup construction would the move be precipitated by how poorly Todd Frazier was hitting. After all, Frazier had been hitless for nine games, spanning 28 at bats prior to Wednesday. Baker treats The Cooler spot with reckless abandon.

But even if for the wrong reason, Baker made the right move. If the Reds #2 hitter has to be right-handed, it should be Todd Frazier.

Not because Todd Frazier can’t hit, but because he can.

He’ll also take a walk.

The reason Shin-Soo Choo has been valuable leading off for the Reds isn’t his batting average (.280). He ranks #52 out of #149 qualified hitters in batting average. Choo’s elite worth lies in his on base percentage (.414), which is fourth in MLB. He blends OBP skills with power.

The reason Zack Cozart failed in the #2 spot wasn’t primarily because he couldn’t hit enough, although that was part of it, it’s that he didn’t walk enough. After a slow start, Cozart’s batting average has hovered at .240-.245 (.241 today). But he only walks 4% of the time, so his OBP is around .275, the sixth worst in baseball among qualified players.

Todd Frazier walks. His walk-rate of 9.9 percent this year contributes more than 90 points to his OBP. So even after his terrible slump funk, his OBP remained a respectable .329. In his first two games batting second, he’s walked twice.

Frazier credits a conversation with Pete Rose for breaking out Friday. Like giving a rooster credit for the sunrise, local broadcasters and beat reporters will surely laud Baker’s move for jump-starting Frazier’s bat.

21 thoughts on “Up Goes Frazier!

    • Send Dusty a copy of this article.

      Send Bob Castellini and Walt Jocketty this article. Immediately!!!! It’s not even funny anymore. I guess it never was.

  1. It’s incredibly ironic and frustrating that Dusty values RBIs so much but does not recognize on base skills of batters at the top of the lineup and the symbiotic relationship between the two.

    Unrelated: Joey Votto leads the NL in wRC+, OPS, and walks and is 2 in hits. If Votto is not the NL MVP front runner right now, who is?

    • @bohdi: Paul Goldschmidt would be a pretty good guess. He’s having a very good year, is on a real hot streak right now, and will finish the season with more than 30 HR/100 RBI. So he has the proper numbers right now and also has the traditionalist HR/RBI numbers too.

      If Votto keeps on his hot streak and hits a couple more HRs though, then he’ll have a real good shot at winning his second MVP. At least in my eyes.

      • @ToddAlmighty: Yea, Gonzalez has comprable numbers as well. Regardless, it’s sad that some of our media personnel and fans need to be reminded that Votto is still one of the best, if not, the best.

    • It’s incredibly ironic and frustrating that Dusty values RBIs so much but does not recognize on base skills of batters at the top of the lineup and the symbiotic relationship between the two.

      Unrelated: Joey Votto leads the NL in wRC+, OPS, and walks and is 2 in hits. If Votto is not the NL MVP front runner right now, who is?

      He has no chance if defense is part of the equation. He’s had a really good year overall but not a GREAT year in my opinion.

      • @AnnapolisHoosier: I doubt defense will be much of a factor, if anything I think his lack of RBIs and HRs will be a bigger issue. They shouldn’t be, but the reality is that a ton of value is still placed on those stats.

        His 2013 numbers are comparable to 2010, the exception being his slugging (HRs and 2B are down substantially). He’s not competing with Joey Votto 2010 for the 2013 MVP though. Using this year’s numbers, he’s right up there at the top.

  2. My concern with Frazier in the 2 slot is whether he would turn into a GIDP machine to such a degree as to offset his reasonable OBP. This is one of those things that can only be found out by giving him a try there.

    I do think if the theory that a person batting in front of someone like Votto sees more fastballs is true, then Frazier is a person who would put more of them into play than Cozart managed to do.

    • @OhioJim: Compared to who though? I mean how many more double plays is Frazier going to hit into compared to Cozart or one of the bench guys? Just given how much more he makes contact compared to the bench guys he’s bound to hit into some but I don’t see why it would be a concern when considering who to hit #2. It mostly just comes down to who you think is the best hitter that hits right handed because Dusty has seen Ghostbusters too many times. Right now I’d say that’s Frazier for the reasons stated in the article. He knows how to take a walk on a team full of guys who do not possess that particular skill in abundance beyond the two obvious ones.

      • @Mwv: One of the advanced metrics (among other things) measures the negative impact of GIDP on OBP. So in the end, I guess a person would compare Frazier versus Cozart or whomever on this account.

        I agree with you that on this Reds team Frazier makes as much or more sense as anyone else on the 2 slot; and that includes BP who seems to have lost a step or two and become classic DP bait.

        • @OhioJim: Yeah, I mean I wish we had someone with both speed and OBP skills for the #2 slot but we don’t. So in the end you have to keep it simple and just go with the best hitter we have left beyond the “set” parts of the order because Dusty is Dusty.

          • @Mwv: On a team which was organized in such a way that Derrick Robinson could be an everyday player, based on his OBP to date, he might make a very good #2 guy. In fact I would not be at all surprised if he and not Billy Hamilton opens the year as the Reds CF next season batting either 1 or 2.

  3. The Sunday line ups are posted. Frazier is batting 2nd. Maybe Dusty did some early morning browsing of this site.

    Courtesy of C.Trent and The Enquirer:

    Venable 9
    Amarista 8
    Headley 5
    Alonso 3
    Forsythe 4
    Decker 7
    Cedeno 6
    Rivera 2
    Kennedy 1

    Choo 8
    Frazier 5
    Votto 3
    Phillips 4
    Bruce 9
    Heisey 7
    Mesoraco 2
    Izturis 6
    Leake 1

    • @OhioJim: Yes, maybe he did.. and in reading this site, he decided it’d be funny to give Izturis a start. Just as a final act of rebellion against decency.

      Because nothing says wanting to win like starting a .187/.243/.224, 28 OPS+ batter.

    • @OhioJim: Hey atleast Izturis is batting 8th. A month ago I could have seen Dusty with Izturis at 2 or even 7 in front of Mez. Atleast he is starting to value Mez a little.

    • @OhioJim: Izturis, once we get over the fact that he doesn’t belong in a major league batting order, is at least shielded down at 8. I like today’s lineup much more than last night’s lineup, to be honest.

  4. Good stuff, Steve. I agree somewhat with the concern about speed or GIDP. Any data on this?

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