Ask fans, coaches, players and owners of the Cincinnati Reds who is the key to success for the team’s offense, and you will get a wide range of answers.
An argument can be made for all of those mentioned, and that case has definitely already been made for Mesoraco). However, one player who truly can carry this team on his back when he is producing is fan favorite Todd Frazier.
In 2012, Scott Rolen was often injured and replaced in the lineup by Frazier. Receiving his first extensive amount of major league playing time, Frazier made the most of his opportunity, as he batted .273 with 16 home runs, 67 RBI and a .331 OBP (and yes, he was robbed of the Rookie of the Year award by Bryce Harper).
If Frazier can get back to producing as he did offensively in 2012, the Reds’ lineup could become a consistent force to be reckoned with in 2014. Production doesn’t just mean home runs and runs batted in — Frazier was consistent (16 home runs in ’12 and ’13; 67 RBI in ’12, 73 in ’13). The production that Frazier needs to replicate is that of reaching base successfully.
In 2012, Frazier batted .273 with an OBP of .331. In 2013, Frazier hit .234 with an OBP of .314. His inconsistent numbers from last season proved to be problematic for the Reds. Sure, the team is accustomed to the streaky Bruce, but having two streak-prone hitters in the lineup can produce an inconsistent offensive outcome.
However, while he may have decreased in ways offensively, Frazier improved his defensive game in 2013. Last season, Frazier sported a .970 fielding percentage with just 10 errors. Only six times in his 16 year career did Rolen have a season with a better fielding percentage than .970, and only fives times did Rolen have fewer than 10 errors in a season.
The fact remains, the success of Frazier directly impacts the success of the Reds’ offensive output. Take a look at Frazier’s win probability chart from Baseball-Reference and note the differences between 2012 and 2013:
Even looking at this topic without statistics, one can see the importance of a consistent Frazier in the lineup. A dangerous Frazier batting sixth means that Bruce and Ludwick will have protection in the lineup. It also means more runners on base for Mesoraco when he comes to bat in the seven-hole.
So much in baseball offensively revolves around a ripple effect. With Votto/Brandon Phillips/Bruce anchoring the top of the lineup by providing protection for each other, who is providing such opportunities for Mesoraco in the back half?
Todd Frazier holds the key to connecting a fragmented Reds’ lineup that is made up of two halves that have yet to be connected. One night it might be the top half of the order producing while the rest of the lineup struggles. The next night the roles might be reversed. It hasn’t been often that we watched the Reds put together a fully complete offensive performance yet.
If Frazier can provide that missing link, we might finally see an offense just as consistently potent as the team’s starting pitching.