If the 2017 Boston Red Sox are to avoid mediocrity, significant alterations in the current roster are mandatory; the acquisition of Todd Frazier should be the first priority.
David Dombrowski is far too cerebral to believe that this 2017 Boston Red Sox team, as presently constituted, is destined for anything other than mediocrity.
Dombrowski is also perceptively cognizant that his justification for trading away four of the most highly regarded baseball prospects in all the land was that, “We are in win-now mode.” Well, David, in case the memo has eluded you, we are not winning now, and, in the immortal words of former New York Knickerbocker’s guard, Michael Ray Richardson, “The ship be sinking.”
This team’s success in 2017 fulcrums on Dombrowski’s capability to end the seemingly incessant parade of injury-riddled, power-challenged, third basemen who seem to find their way into the lineup each contest. Those men whom I refer to are easily identifiable, as they comprise a unique collection of players whose infinitesimal aggregate OPS’s, as low as they are, are still superior to their fielding percentages.
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The solution is Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier. Those readers who are exercising their right to mock me at this very moment may view things a bit differently upon reading this article in its entirety.
If I could offer Mr. Dombrowski one portion of guidance, and he is likely familiar with said recommendation, “Once one commits to going ‘all-in,’ there is no turning back halfway-through, simply because the waters have gotten a bit stormy.” It would be a most imprudent decision to deal away one’s best prospects in an attempt at championship triumph this season, and then, because one is besieged by unintended complications, to deviate from that progression. For those familiar with history, particularly Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire, “Dombrowski has crossed his Rubicon; there is no turning back.”
The rumor is, and I hope that said rumor contains some factual basis, that the Red Sox have been scrutinizing both Jose Quintana and Todd Frazier. This article will not address Quintana; however, it will argue in favor of Frazier’s acquisition.
It is no secret that the Red Sox rank dead last in offensive and defensive production at the position of third base. For those who would prefer a more quantitative illustration regarding the dreadful state of affairs at the hot corner, I will not disappoint you.
As a team, the Red Sox have bludgeoned a grand total of 37 home runs, the fewest in the American League. It should also be noted that the American League team average for HRs currently stands at 50. The horrifying play at third base has significantly contributed to this problem, as said position has produced three HRs all season, and nary a one since April 16.
However, the position’s league-leading thirteen errors, more than double the American League’s team average of six, may be an even greater indictment of just how pervasively venomous the position has been to the club’s success.
Although my esteemed colleague, Jake Sauberman, appears to have a slightly dissimilar opinion than I, the steadfast maintenance of said opinion would be virtually impossible upon digesting this piece, as it maintains immutable validity by advancing beyond the superficial, and making the ultra-important distinction between “causation” and “correlation.”
Who knows if, or when, Sandoval is coming back? Even if he were completely healthy today, do we really want to field a third baseman who has committed four errors in only 36 chances, while hitting a meager .213?
Todd Frazier is owed about $8-million for the remainder of the season, and enters free agency upon the season’s conclusion. If he does not work out, we merely bid him adieu and thank him for providing his Gold-Glove caliber defense.
The Red Sox do not have a choice in this matter. The acquisition of Frazier does not guarantee anything; however, the failure to acquire him, or a suitable replacement, guarantees an unsuccessful 2017 campaign. On the defensive side of the ball alone, Frazier is a necessity. To provide some perspective, Red Sox third basemen, collectively, have committed 13 errors in 123 chances, while Frazier has committed just two misplays in 67 opportunities. A season in which a team’s third basemen commit fifty errors, the path upon which the 2017 Boston Red Sox are traversing, cannot end in any manner other than failure.
I have zero concerns that Frazier is regressing; quite the contrary, I would contend that he is progressing, and I will cite three incontrovertible statements in support of my assertion. Throughout his career, Todd Frazier has averaged 3.92 pitches per plate appearance; however, in 2017, Frazier is second in baseball, seeing 4.50 pitches per plate appearance. His evolution into a more patient, disciplined hitter, has afforded him opportunities to place himself in favorable counts. Naturally, a power hitter who has worked the count in his favor will attempt to “key-hole” a certain pitch, with the intention of aggressively pulling said offering out of the ballpark.
Upon thorough analysis of the data, it is abundantly evident that Frazier’s increase in using the “pull” field is a result of his patient and progressive approach at the plate. In the absence of any data to support said hypothesis, this increase should not serve as an indicator that he is “cheating” to get to the fastball and, consequently, rendering himself susceptible to off-speed pitches.
An additional illustration of Frazier’s progression as a hitter, in stark contrast to the misinterpreted regression attributed to an increased use of the “pull” field, is that he is seeing approximately half as many curveballs as he has seen in past years, indicative of his prowess to adjust to the greater change in velocity between the fastball and the curveball.
The only pitch that Frazier has seen a statistically significant deviation in frequency from years past is the curveball, as pitchers present Frazier with about one-half of the quantity that they presented him last season.
To further bolster my claim that Frazier has progressed as a hitter this season, I present his career-best 10.6 BB% and 19.7 K% numbers that he is generating this season. Said statistics certainly provide significant discredit to any argument of Frazier’s demise, as he is actually being fooled at a significantly diminished rate than may have initially appeared upon only a superficial perusal of the numbers.
It would be incomplete journalism on my part were I to fail to mention that Frazier has a career .275 BABIP. This year, as can happen via the usage of small sample sizes, his BABIP is a paltry .207, and should return to normal over the duration of a full season.
After an in-depth examination of the litany of “camouflaged” statistics attributable to Todd Frazier, I see a more patient, productive, and aggressive hitter whom is striking out at career-low rates, while drawing bases on balls at career-high rates, yet has been suffering through an extremely severe strain of low-BABIP. In other words, I see an upper-echelon hitter and superb fielder, still in his prime.
As nothing is guaranteed, Frazier could be the missing piece to our championship puzzle. This team, as currently constituted has zero chance of winning a World Series and Dombrowski’s must remain resolute in his “win-now” endeavor. We have already traded our best chips in an effort to win now. Well, this team ain’t winning now. We might as well push all of our chips to the center of the table and hope Todd Frazier is the savior for whom we are desperately looking.