Todd Frazier, leadoff candidate

As the 2018 ST season gets underway, there is some uncertainty about who will be the Mets’ leadoff batter this year. Recently, in the New York Post, sports writer Mike Puma suggested that the club could consider third baseman Todd Frazier to fill that spot in the lineup.

Frazier is a power hitter (27 HR in 2017) who strikes out a lot (125 times last year), and that is not the typical profile for a leadoff batter. He does get on base at a reasonable clip, his OBP in 2017 was .344. But his BA was only .213, below his usual average, and if he could bump that up a bit say into the .230s or higher, that would mean a boost to his OBP.

Frazier is no burner on the basepaths, but he is not a slug either. Manager Mickey Callaway considers him a good base runner since Frazier knows when to take the extra base, and he takes efficient routes from base to base. As recently as 2014 Frazier had 20 steals, a total that would be out of reach for a good part of the Mets’ likely roster.

Although traditional lineups tend to feature speedy, high OPB, and low strikeout hitters at the top of the order, other approaches have worked. The Cubs, for example, used slow-footed, high OBP power hitter Kyle Schwarber at the leadoff spot at times last season. As to the Mets, they have a history of deploying power-hitting high strikeout players at the top of the order, and it has worked out. That strategy worked successfully in their first pennant and also in their most recent pennant.

In 1969, the Mets used CF Tommie Agee as their primary leadoff hitter. Agee had been acquired from the White Sox before the 1968 season at the urging of then new Mets manager Gil Hodges. His first season was subpar, but in the 1969 pennant year Agee was a force. His slash line was .271/.342/.464, in 149 games, and he banged 26 homers that year to lead the team. He did strikeout a lot, he had 137 whiffs in 149 games in 1969. That total would be high today, and it was really high in 1969.

Despite the high K rate Agee was a terrific factor for the Mets in 1969. In the Mets’ sweep of the Braves in the NLCS, Agee batted .357 with two homers. Although his stats did fall off in the World Series, he was a one man wrecking crew in the crucial game three, played at Shea Stadium. Leading off in the bottom of the first Agee homered, giving the Mets a lead that was not relinquished. He also made two sensational catches in the outfield, possibly saving five runs with his glove in that game that became a 5-0 victory for the Mets.

In their most recent pennant winning season, 2015, the Mets again followed the power hitting leadoff batter route. Manager Terry Collins frequently used slugger Curtis Granderson atop the batting order that season. Granderson responded by putting up a slash line of .259/.364/.457 with 26 homers and 151 strikeouts. His production helped propel the Mets past the Nationals to win the Eastern Division, and the team subsequently won the pennant before falling to Kansas City in the World Series.

Frazier may not be the prototypical leadoff batter, and he may well find a home lower in the batting order. But at least until Michael Conforto returns, Frazier could be a good option hitting leadoff.

10 comments for “Todd Frazier, leadoff candidate

  1. Eraff
    February 20, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Brian/all…. I’m looking for a NL specific “Place in Batting Order” Stat—-

    Beyond Leading off a Game, does the Lead-off Hitter Lead off an Inning More than the other lineup slots? I’m sure they do in the NL…mostly led by #9 Pitcher ab’s ending innings. That’s my Hypothesis.

    And my “reason for asking”— I don;t want to see Rosario hit 8th because he’ll get eaten up with pitchers who won’t throw him any strikes…. he’ll either learn quick or struggle mightily. I’d predict great struggle based on hitting 8th.

    Some people have suggested that He hit 9th, after the pitcher…so, here’s the payoff to my question: if he hits 9th, does he then become the Most Frequent Lead-off Hitter for all innings except the 1st inning? That would make the lineup transposition much less beneficial, imho

    My Vote is for Rosario to bat 7th…Catchers 8th. That provides some speed in front of a bit of power. It also provides him some protection from nibblers…and Himself!

  2. Mike Walczak
    February 20, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Low batting average, strikeouts. Don’t like him as a leadoff hitter. Let’s just get Conforto back.

  3. MattyMets
    February 20, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    Eraff – I was thinking about this as well. The other thing you have to take into consideration when putting together a lineup is that the top half guys often get in an extra AB over the course of a game. I mean, in Little League, you put you best hitter first. I agree with you about Rosario. He has to learn pitch recognition and patience before he goes to the top half, but I don’t think he belongs in front of the pitcher. 9th might be a good spot for him. He has a lot to prove.

    What I like about this lineup is the balance of lefties, righties and switch hitters. I think there’s plenty of power too. Just wish we had a bit more speed. It shouldn’t always require 3 singles or a home run to score. Teams built that way go through dry spells and collective slumps. This team is not built to manufacture runs.

    • John Fox
      February 20, 2018 at 3:02 pm

      Matty,

      the best hitter batting first has been done as an experiment in MLB, not just little league. I can remember when Willie Mays was in his prime he was batted leadoff several times. although it was the all-star game, not the regular season

      • Eraff
        February 20, 2018 at 3:17 pm

        Matt…. my hypothesis would be that Rosie would then lead off more innings, other than the first, than any other player … that makes no sense

        If you’re transposing the pitcher and R, then you’re sort of making the 7th hitter into a # 8 man—— so, taken together, why not just bat the kid 7thband have “the 7 hitter” hit 8th

        • Remember1969
          February 20, 2018 at 7:24 pm

          I am one that thinks that batting Rosario in the 9th slot makes a lot of sense. A few points – none scientific:
          (1) Hitting 9th is really a pseudo-leadoff position and is followed by the best hitters.
          (2) By hitting 7th, he is still followed by only one batter before the pitcher.
          (3) Having the most speed on the team, it would seem that they would want to have multiple hitters behind him – sure, he could score from first on double, but if the 8 guy doesn’t double, the next guy is the pitcher with at least one out.
          (4) I think I used the term ‘training wheels’ as the 9-spot – IF he learns to lay off the stuff outside the zone and take some walks and gets the OBP up to .330 or .340, he is the best leadoff option they have. Let him learn down there with the 1-2-3 guys following.

  4. Metsense
    February 20, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    Frazier had a .344 OBP in 2017 and has a career .321 OBP. Cabrera had a .351 OBP in 2017 and .331 career OBP. Cabrera should bat lead off over Frazier because of the OBP. Frazier should bat behind Bruce in the lineup where his home runs could result in more RBI’s.
    Nimmo has an opportunity to force his way into the center field platoon if he can have a good spring and maintain his career .367 OBP (in 250 AB’s). He would get 70% the starts because of the platoon and be the ideal lead off batter until Conforto returns.

  5. Eraff
    February 20, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    I’d let the CF’ers bat 1st…let the rest of the lineup settle to their slots. I would bat Catchers 8, Rosario 7

    Nimmo/Lego
    Cabs
    Ces
    Bruce
    Frazier
    1b
    Rosario
    D’arnauf/Plaw
    Pitcher

    • February 21, 2018 at 10:19 am

      Lagares should never bat first. Or second.

  6. TexasGusCC
    February 21, 2018 at 10:11 am

    I have a question for those wanting Rosario 9th: Doesn’t that weaken your lineup? Meaning, if a pitcher gets in a little trouble with walks or something going through the 5/6 guys, if after 7 is your pitcher, then you’re weakening your heart, or your aorta in this instance. By getting the 7th hitter out in our example here, that opposing pitcher has a great chance to escape the inning unscathed.

    Dave’s Johnson used to make his pitchers take bunting practice. When Rosario gets on, they can move him up.

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