After a flashy offseason back in the winter of 2014, the Chicago White Sox looked poised to burst out of their 1.5-year ‘rebuild’ in exciting fashion.
But we all know how that went.
The Sox from a year ago had far too many flaws. They didn’t defend well enough, needed help ‘bridging the gap’ in the bullpen, had the gigantic flop that was Jeff Samardzija in the rotation, and just couldn’t hit. And while one big acquisition wasn’t going to solve all of the team’s problems, they certainly did need an impact player or two brought aboard. Ideally that guy would be a third baseman, which seemed to be the biggest of the holes that needed filling.
So it made all the sense in the world when General Manager Rick Hahn went out and worked his way into a three-team deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who got prospects Micah Johnson, Trayce Thompson and Frankie Montas, while the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds shipped shipped star third baseman Todd Frazier to the south side.
He’d finally bring a competent glove and bat to the south side, a luxury the Good Guys haven’t had at the hot corner since the Joe Crede days. But the Johnson-Thompson-Montas package was significant, especially considering all three guys were Major League-ready, or at least close, for a club that has struggled to produce from within their organization for years.
With that being said, Frazier is proving to be a completely worthwhile acquisition.
Considering Frazier checks all of the following off the ‘Sox Needs’ list, he was pretty much the perfect fit…
- He rakes
- He defends
- He leads
- He vibes
In a sport that is becoming more of a numbers game by the day, it’s easy to overlook the off-the-field intangibles that a club needs. And while the biggest positives to Frazier are certainly what he does on the field, you can’t underestimate the value presented by the leadership and seemingly fun vibes he brings to the team. I can’t see anyone that follows this team closely disagreeing with that. He’s garnered non-stop praise in that regard from coaches and teammates and it definitely seems to myself, the outside observer and fan, that his presence adds a lot to the team that you can’t measure in numbers.
But the numbers are what’s most important, and Flava Fraz’s numbers certainly pass the test.
Yes, he’s only hitting .228 through a little over one quarter of the season. I bring that up first and foremost because it’s really the only aspect of his game from the first six weeks of the season that you can nitpick at. But if anything, I think that number is encouraging.
Hear me out: .228 is low, but…
- It’s on the way up
- He’s drawing walks
- He’s cut down the strikeouts
- His BAbip is .207
While .228 isn’t impressive, it is better than straddling the Mendoza line (.200), which Frazier was for awhile. And that recent increase in average is a trend to be trusted, as his batting average on balls in play (BAbip) is .207, well below the usually-league-average ~.300 line.
BAbip is often used as an excuse for a player that doesn’t hit well, as it was for Austin Jackson when he was making a lot of hard hit outs early in the season. Yes, a jump in his average was to be expected, but that operates under the assumption that A.Jax was going to keep squaring the ball up going forward. It’s a more reliable metric when discussing someone like Frazier who, simply put, is actually a good hitter whom you can expect to hit the ball hard with regularity.
So while 20.7% of the balls Frazier is hitting are falling in for knocks thus far, we’ve all seen him making good contact consistently outside of a quick slump or two, so it’s definitely fair to trust that number will wind up much closer to his 28.3% career mark.
He’s a .255 career hitter, so even if he can just be get up to the .240-.250 range, the other trends in his offensive production will render that totally competent.
Todd is both striking out below his career rate — (18.3% compared to 20.9%) and drawing walks above his career rate — (11.4% compared to 7.8%). Oh, and the production has been there at least as much as advertised. He’s tied for first in the American League in home runs and tied for fourth in RBI.
Factor in all expected regression and/or improvement across all facets of his offensive output, and barring a statistically significant and extended slump (or hot streak, for that matter), we should be able to expect something around a .240/.330/.500 slash-line (which would be good for an .830 OPS), and that’s not even being overly optimistic.
Todd Frazier is producing runs for the Sox’ offense. Todd Frazier is helping the Sox’ pitchers prevent runs. And while doing so, Todd Frazier is also helping the team vibe and mesh together as a cohesive winning unit.
As I mentioned near the top of this post, no one acquisition was going to solve all of the team’s problems. And as good of a fit as Frazier has been, that has proven to be true. The Sox’ roster still needs help, but considering that he’s still under team control through next season and the great fit both on and off the field he’s appearing to be, Rick Hahn may have pulled off the move of the 2015-16 offseason in bringing The Todd Father to the Pale Hose.
Photo Credit: Tom Pennington, Getty Images