July 6, 2020

Monday Mets: That Todd

For over a year now, Todd Frazier has embodied so much of what’s been wrong with the Mets, so much so, that many don’t realize how good he’s been lately.

When the Mets signed Todd Frazier, there were some who were upset with who he wasn’t, although most welcomed him with at least one open arm. It was shortly before pitchers and catchers reported last season, which is a time when hope is at it’s highest. So reviews of the Frazier signing often sited his power, his mostly reliable fielding, and his durability. Some articles went a bit further, such as pointing out his clubhouse leadership, his ability to handle the media, or mentioning that his wife makes a mean paella (that last one may not be true, but you get the point). Those articles may have mentioned some of Frazier’s downsides, like the fact that he strikes out often, his relatively low on-base percentage, that he whiffs a lot, his pedestrian OPS (especially considering he’s known for hitting HRs), and that he Ks with remarkable repetition. In fact, Frazier can be considered a two true outcome hitter, as he doesn’t walk especially often.

Much like the rest of the 2018 Mets, Todd Frazier’s season last year was a disappointment in just about every way. He severely underperfomed on the field, with his worst stats in just about every batting category, and more importantly, he missed significant time due to injury for the first time in his major league career.

When the Mets signed Jed Lowrie, there were some who thought that combining him with J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil would leave Frazier as the odd man out. When Lowrie got hurt at the beginning of spring training, most thought that this offered Frazier, who was hurt at the time as well, potential to play a little more than earlier anticipated, but not much more than that. Turns out that Jed Lowrie has played as many games in a Mets uniform as Jed Clampett, and even Jeff McNeil got hurt for a bit, while Davis has been called upon to cover for injured outfielders at times. Suddenly, Todd Frazier wasn’t merely an “oh yeah, that guy” member of the team, he was a key component of the Mets lineup.

And then he was terrible. That’s not me being a cranky baseball viewer, it’s just fact. In Frazier’s first 17 games this season, he had a .151 batting average, 2 HRs and 7 RBIs. In fact, those RBIs are kind of misleading, as he hit a grand slam in his second game. So really, in 16 of his first 17 games, he had 1 HR and 3 RBIs. To make matters worse, he didn’t walk once in those 17 games. Even worse, he had 18 Ks in those first 17 games (53 at-bats total). So, while he only got a hit in 15% of his ABs, Frazier struck out in 34% of those ABs. For frustrated Mets fans, he was an easy target.

In Frazier’s last 24 games, however, things have changed rather remarkably. He’s had 79 at-bats in those games, with 27 hits (a .342 batting average), 4 HRs,  12 RBIs, 11 walks, and only 18 Ks. While that’s no shortage of strikeouts, it is a significant improvement.

Often times in baseball, and life in general I guess, perception is key. Todd Frazier’s tenure with the Mets began with him being seen as someone who could bring the team together; 16 months later, and some are having trouble seeing past his failings to acknowledge how well he’s actually doing. The 2019 Mets have been frustratingly inconsistent, and that’s among the most positive descriptions I can come up with. Still, at a time when the team’s offense has regularly looked lost, or at least confused by their whereabouts, Todd Frazier has become the dependable component the Mets had hoped he’d be when they signed him.

Who knows how long this Todd Frazier run will last? It’s been a few years, and a few teams, since Frazier was this good for an extended period of time. The Mets are certainly hoping that at least another hitter will be ready to step up when Frazier starts to decline. In the meantime, as the Mets work to get to, and stay above, the .500 mark, it’s sad to imagine where they’d be without Todd Frazier. Had you told me a month ago that I’d be writing that sentence, I  wouldn’t have believed you.