Patience, pitch selection keys to Frazier's success
With the help of Eric Davis, Todd Frazier hopes patience and pitch selection will help him return to his 2012 form.
Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier makes a catch during baseball spring training.
Gregory Bull / AP
By Hal McCoy
PEORIA, Ariz. -- On a dull rainy morning, the first rain drops in 71 days falling on the Phoenix area, Todd Frazier and Eric Davis sat face-to-face in a semi-dark video room.
Davis talked and Frazier listened, because Frazier is looking for answers and Davis probably has them.
Eric Davis, a coach now, is remembered in Cincinnati as one of the all-time best, not only a five-tool player but a player whose all five tools were the best around.
All Frazier is looking for these days is how to make consistent contact and how to be more selective, swing at pitches in the strike zone and not every pitch in the same zip code.
Why Davis -- other than the fact that early in his career they were calling him the next Willie Mays until injuries piled up on him?
"I've been talking with him the last couple of days because I have an unorthodox swing and he had an unorthodox swing," said Frazier. "We've talked about my swing -- I sort of have an arm bar -- but you can't change what you've done all your career. What you have to change is your mindset."
Frazier, 28, was in the running for Rookie of the Year in 2012 when he hit .273 with 19 home runs and 67 RBI. But last year his average dipped to .234, aided and abetted by one 0 for 31 skid. He hit the same amount of home runs, 19, and he had six more RBI, 73, but those were acquired with 109 more at-bats than he had in 2012.
"We talked about just being consistently smooth on your swing," said Frazier. "You have to have the same bat path. He brought up a great point about Miguel Cabrera -- why is he consistently a great hitter?
"Every 10 at-bats all major-league hitters can get two hits," said Frazier. "So that's 2 for 10. And Eric asked me, 'What makes the difference between you and Miguel Cabrera with the next eight at-bats?'"
Frazier said Davis told him that Cabrera's bat path is consistently where it needs to be and he is going to hit the ball hard seven out of eight times.
Davis emphasized to Frazier that it all starts in batting practice, "And he told me I don't have to swing at every pitch in batting practice. But you have to be consistently in a good position to hit."
Frazier thought it all over, slept on it, thought it all over again and realized, "Last year I got away from all that a little bit."
New manager Bryan Price knows the importance of the reincarnation of his No. 6 hitter in the batting order.
"It comes down to pitch selection," said Price. "He has a plan. He is a bright kid. He is an aggressive kid who wants so badly to do well. He gives us everything he has every day and I love that about him. I can live with that."
But he can live a lot better if his third baseman can regain his productive bat.
"There is definitely a better player inside him," Price added. "Pitch selection is our main focus with him this spring."
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Frazier wants to wipe away the memory of last season, the .234 average, the 0 for 31, the lunging at unreachable low-and-away pitches.
"It is crazy how you think," he said. "You can remember every bad pitch at which you took a bad swing. I know why I did that. But when I swing good, somebody asks, 'Fraze what did you do there?' I don't really know. I just swung.
"It is amazing how you can think about all the bad pitches you swung at and how you weren't in a position to hit," he said. "When you are doing good it is just, 'Ah, I swung at the pitch and hit it.'"
So his goal, with the help of Eric Davis, is to take the same smooth swing in the same path so there wont be times when he thinks back and says, "I wasn't in position and I took a bad swing."
And that doesn't even take into consideration that there are holes in his swing, weaknesses in his swing.
"I have plenty of weaknesses," he said. "Those pitchers know what your weaknesses are. I needed to make them strengths. I need to be consistently be in the right position to hit and I'll lay off those bad pitches."
His 0 for 31, of course, was a never-ending nightmare -- game after game after game.
"That 0 for 31 was tough," he said. "And I went five weeks without hitting a home run. I should hit three or four in that span and then we're talking about 23 home runs last season instead of 19. When you hit 'em in the 20's it is a lot better-sounding than 19."
Frazier is confident about 2014, confident that he can return to his rookie numbers, if not better.
"I know what the pitchers have," he said. "Am I saying I'm going to hit .330? Probably not. All I have to do is remember what Eric Davis told me -- be in the right position, swing at good pitches, swing on the same path."
And that, he believes, will lead him down the path to bigger and better things.