How did Todd Frazier, the 26-year-old rookie IF/OF for the Cincinnati Reds, became a “best-kept secret” playing for a first-place team? How has Todd Frazier, producing a statistically strong year in a limited role, been “forgotten” for just going out and doing his job every time he plays the game?
The answer seems pretty simple: the national media doesn’t really care all that much about Cincinnati. Sure, I realize that simplifies the conversation, but it was true back in 1990, too. Despite a team that draws incredibly well in local television markets (via Fox Sports Ohio), national coverage treats the organization as “unworthy” of conversation compared to bigger metros (i.e. bigger dollars and more viewing eyes). How many times do we really need the New York Yankees versus the Boston Red Sox on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball? Every week if programming directors had their choice, most likely.
I began with the thought of how media attention (or lack thereof) for the Cincinnati Reds themselves impacts national voting for what are essentially popularity contests for most of the post-season awards that will ultimately be given. The BBWAA is the body that will cast votes for MVP, Cy Young, Manager, and Rookie in both leagues every year. The Reds have at least one person who qualifies in each of those categories (even if Joey Votto has been hurt with all the time off for MVP now). Dusty Baker has most likely benefited in the Manager of the Year conversation conversely with Votto’s absence most specifically, although Davey Johnson is going to get more attention for the Washington Nationals if things hold the same. Johnny Cueto is unquestionably getting much-needed attention (Reds spanking R.A. Dickey earlier in the week was a good thing), and it’s hard not to doubt the All-Star snub is going to work in Cueto’s favor by the end of the year. Then there’s Todd Frazier.
Votto has won a previous MVP award (2010). Baker has won NL Manager award before (1993, 1997, and 2000, all with the SF Giants). No Red has won Cy Young in the history of the award (since 1955). On a positive note, previous Reds HAVE won ROY awards, although it has been a little while (Scott Williamson in 1999, Chris Sabo in 1988, Pat Zachry shared the award in 1976, and then Reds’ legends Johnny Bench (1968), Pete Rose (1963), and Frank Robinson (1956) before that). I guess I could turn this into the case for Johnny Cueto, but that case may need to be made before the season is over. At this stage, Todd Frazier needs more pub, plain and simple. MLB Network barely gives him attention. ESPN barely gives him attention (thank the Bryce Harper machine for that one).
So, at this point in time, what do the numbers say?
If you were told all four of those stat lines belong to current NL rookies, would any one of them get your vote over another? I intentionally made the names “generic” to compare them for the numbers alone and not their names. Player 1 has the fewest plate appearances (and fewest games) but a telling number is most Total Bases, which goes hand-in-hand with best OPS. Player 2 has scored the most runs by a decent margin but is being dwarfed in RBI by both Players 4 and 1 by a decent margin as well. If you boil it down, I honestly think two guys stand out in the table: Player 1 and Player 4. Power numbers are good to very good for both.
If you happen to know the particular stats (like HR, for example) of any current rookie, you may know who is who already. The surprising thing for me is, the weakest of the lines arguably belongs to the “popular” guy – Player 2 – Bryce Harper. Player 3 is having a solid season (Norichika Aoki) but is a classic singles hitter with minimal pop (think Ichiro, same position and strong defense). Player 4 is a guy off my radar, but maybe he shouldn’t have been – Wilin Rosario of the Colorado Rockies. If poor Frazier hasn’t been getting enough publicity, surely Rosario has been getting even less. He’s more dark horse in this race than I even realized.
What is boils down to is pretty simple: Todd Frazier has nearly a .900 OPS (superior number by healthy margin) and is the lead candidate for National League Rookie of the Year. I know who would have my vote right now.
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