The latest contestant in the celebrated “Who Wants to Bat In Front of Votto” game is Todd Frazier, a traditionally likable Red that has fallen on hard times. And in the wake of some of the offense’s worst performances, Dusty Baker has made the call to bat Frazier second, despite currently having the worst slump of his young professional career (zero for last 31). So, Todd Frazier is currently hitting at a dreadful average of .233. But as every saber has readily pointed out, Frazier’s OBP, newly deemed the only stat that matters atop the lineup, is about fifty points higher. And don’t mistake the unintentional condescending tone as dismissive – the role of any hitter batting that high is to set the table for Joey, Brandon and Jay. So naturally, a .326 OBP is more preferable to a .276.
But when examined a bit closer, it’s not so nice of a trade-off. First, Cozart is batting .243 to Frazier’s .233. While batting average matters less and less by the blog post, Cozart is still out-hitting Frazier; however, again, it’s about getting runners on base, which Frazier has proven he’s able to do at a much more frequent pace (higher OBP).
The problem with this logic is that it’s not taking into account walks. Frazier has 41 walks compared to Cozart’s 19. There’s enough
Jul 30, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) is congratulated by shortstop Zack Cozart (2) after scoring in the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
distance between the numbers to parallel park a Greyhound bus – if we want someone who can get on base in front of Joey, the obvious choice is Todd Frazier and his .326 OBP.
Only one minor problem: we know about batters hitting in front of Joey. We know they’re going to see a lot of straight balls, because pitchers know who is lurking right behind him. The two hole, on this Reds team, has walked just 27 times this year. The only batting spot that has been issued fewer walks is the pitcher’s spot at ninth.
Frazier walked 41 times, primarily from the 6th spot in the order. And because of that, he’s managed to build a solid OBP that people can point to and make a case for hitting second. But if the rationale behind batting Frazier second stems from his decent OBP, which is significantly attributed to the amount of walks he’s amassed, how does it make sense to put Frazier into a position where hardly any are issued?
It doesn’t. And while it’s less surprising that Baker is merely exploring less conventional options to shake this lineup it, it is surprising that a large demographic of Reds fans have endlessly criticized Baker for not trying Frazier at the two and instead sticking with Cozart for months at a time. Cozart hit .254 and amassed a .284 OBP from the two, statistically the best Red at that spot in the order (considering total plate appearances).
I’m definitely not saying it can’t work. But the logic behind it doesn’t.