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Frazier Ready To Make a Ventura Like Impact

Heading into the 1999 season, the Mets desperately needed another infielder.  After debating names like B.J. Surhoff, the Mets went with 30 year old Robin Ventura, who was arguably coming off his worst season at the plate since his first full season in the majors.

While Ventura’s bat may have been a bit of a question mark, his glove wasn’t.  At the time he was signed, Ventura was widely regarded as one of the best defensive third baseman in the game – if not THE best.  With him alongside Rey Ordonez, the Mets knew from a defensive perspective they were going to have the best left side of the infield in all of baseball.

As it turns out, it was much more than that.  With John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo, the Mets assembled what many regard as the best defensive infield.  Both Ventura and Ordonez would win Gold Gloves giving that infield the metal it needed to prove the point.

More than that, Ventura was rejuvenated as a Met.  In 1999, he had his best every year hitting an astounding .301/.379/.529 with 32 homers and 120 RBI.  He would amass the third most WAR among NL position players, and he would finish sixth in the MVP voting.  As we know, he still had some magic left, as with this help of Todd Pratt, he would launch the Grand Slam Single in Game 5 of the NLCS.

After his Mets career, Ventura would eventually find himself as a manger of the Chicago White Sox, and he would manage Todd Frazier, the player who is now looking to pick up his mantle from the 1999 season.

Frazier has built himself a reputation as a good defensive third baseman.  In 2017, among players with over a thousand innings at third base, he had the third highest DRS trailing just Nolan Arenado and Evan Longoria.  With Frazier now joining Amed Rosario on the left side of the infield, the Mets promise to have the best defensive left side of the infield they have had in decades.  Along with the San Francisco Giants, they are on the short list of teams that can argue they have the best defensive left side of the infield in baseball.

At the plate, Frazier is a good hitter.  Over the past four seasons, he’s averaged a .243/.322/.464 batting line with 33 homers and 86 RBI.  That equates to a 113 OPS+ and wRC+.  Many will knock him for his declining batting average, but it should be noted last year, he had a career best .344 OBP and 14.4% walk rate.  In sum, his batting average is going down, but he’s getting on base more frequently.

Like Ventura, there’s optimism for a much improved season at the plate.  We have already seen him become a more patient hitter at the plate.  We have also seen him post an absurdly low .236 and .226 BABIP in succeeding years.  Part of that is Ventura is a dead pull hitter making it easier to shift against him.  Seeing how low those marks are and how hard he hits the ball, there’s some bad luck involved.

All of this makes him a prime candidate for a turnaround similar to what we saw with Jay Bruce last year.  The Mets will give him the information and will have him work with Pat Roessler.  This should allow Frazier to have a much improved year at the plate.

If that is the case, Frazier is going to have a great year with the Mets.  And while he’s admittedly not as good a player as Ventura was, he can have a similar impact.  Frazier can be the guy in the clubhouse blasting “Mo Jo Rising,” helps create a great left side infield defense, and deepen the Mets lineup.

And if all that happens, this could be a postseason team, which should give us excitement over what heroics we are about to see next.

11 thoughts on “Frazier Ready To Make a Ventura Like Impact”

  1. Ventura Zeile Olerud says:

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/v/venturo01.shtml

    Very sweet comparison.

    $8,000,000.00 in 2002 had the same buying power as $11,161,245.05 in 2018

    Annual inflation over this period was about 2.10%

    So today’s RV was had for just two years at >20% discount.

    HOW MANY LIFETIME GRAND SLAMS DOES FRAZIER HAVE.

  2. Bench Coach says:

    If AGON hits lefties and Cabrera stays healthy how many ABATs does Wilmer get?
    His days at third base are practically over…

    If Frazier plays first, Cabrera third there maybe a need for some speed at second base that day.

    Reyes is that man of fleet today.

    If Lance Lynn is affordable what happens to the other starters?

    Matz
    Gsellman
    Lugo
    Wheeler
    Syndergaard
    Harvey
    de Grom

    the pen already has guaranteed roster spots:

    Swarzack
    Blevins
    Sewald
    Ramos
    Familia

    Carry 13 pitchers?

    1. metsdaddy says:

      In my opinion, Gsellman likely starts the year in AAA and Lugo in the pen.

    2. OldBackstop says:

      I’d be kind of upset if we traded off two of those seven SPs and were just like “Five guys! GTG!” If all seven are healthy we can trade one….and Mickey was talking the other day about starting with a 6 man rotation.

      1. Five Tool Ownership says:

        I think there was eight.

        Bench Coach wanted a reply from Metsdaddy so he left out Montero.
        I think Flexen starts in AAA,,,

        Potentially nine!

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Montero is not an option

  3. OldBackstop says:

    Ventura is a nice hopeful comparison.

    Of course, the people who were screaming we needed high OBP tablesetters are losing their minds. But Moneyball wasn’t about guys that walked a lot, it was about smaller budget teams competing with higher budget teams by finding player types being undervalued in the market.

    And it seems like the Mets think the undervalued commodity is low OBP sluggers. We are all in on the model by adding Bruce and Frazier.

    I hope they are right. We can’t afford 8 five tool players, so…..let’s go Mets.

    1. Gothamist says:

      I see your thinking.

      Were you pleasantly surprised as I was with Jay Bruce’s raw power in situations with men on base. How he did “choke up” for less than full violent swings in other key situations. That he earned great respect for his work ethic and that he was durable and well liked.

      I never wanted him to stay last winter and never wanted his return this winter yet the Mets spent $15 M on a four deal for Grandy in 2014, the Met owners are broke and they now reacquired Jay Bruce for only three years at $13 per.

      If David Wright had a clutch bat as Bruce did last year I sure do not remember it after Matt Cain beaned him.

      I keep on hearing of clubhouse intangibles of Todd Frazier.

      So if Lagares sits for Conforto the Mets have SB threats (in theory) from Reyes, Rosario and Cespedes.

    2. metsdaddy says:

      Sandy has not followed any Moneyball principles since taking over as GM

      1. Gothamist says:

        Have you considered a search [Sandy Alderson Moneyball]?

        Sandy was general counsel and knew nothing about baseball. Supposedly he learned from statistics, upward and uphill.

        It was never Moneyball, you are correct.
        It led to Moneyball in Billy Beane.

        Now it is all about constraints and upward as a culture.

        “It’s easy to forget Alderson because he left the Athletics in the last millennium, well before this website even existed. He had arrived in the organization in 1981, hired by his former law partner, Roy Eisenhardt, to be the A’s General Counsel. (Eisenhardt had been hired by his father-in-law, Walter Haas, Jr. to be the A’s President when Haas had taken over the team.)

        Quick! Who was General Manager when Alderson first joined the A’s? None other than the original Billy, Billy Martin! Hah! Martin had been hired as field manager in 1980, promoted to General Manager in 1981, and then quickly canned following the disastrous 1982 season (68 wins, 94 losses). Can you imagine the management chaos left over after a dissolute, combative maniac like Billy Martin?

        Eisenhardt needed to restore order and there was only one man for the job, Sandy Alderson.

        Everything about Alderson suggests discipline. He was raised in a military family. His dad, John Alderson, was a fighter pilot who had served tours of duty in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. (In fact, both Aldersons, son and Dad, served in Vietnam.) He was admitted to Dartmouth College on an ROTC scholarship, then served his hitch in Vietnam as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Marines. In 1976, he got his J.D. from Harvard Law School and joined the San Francisco law firm of Farella, Braun and Martel. That was where he met Eisenhardt. Alderson is cool and buttoned-down, not flashy but everybody knows when he’s in the room. A classic, credentialed system guy, Alderson was trained to be your better.

        Surveying the mess Billy Martin had left behind, Alderson probably felt like Hercules tasked to clean out the Augean stables. It didn’t help that he had only the baseball experience of a casual spectator.

        “Sandy didn’t know shit about baseball,” says Harvey Dorfman, the baseball psychologist Alderson more or less invented. “He was a neophyte. But he was a progressive thinker. And he wanted to understand how the game worked. He also had the capacity to instill fear in others.” [from “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis.]
        Fortunately, Alderson had an advantage in his battle to impose order: Wally Haas had lots of dough and was willing to spend it on the A’s.

        Knowing the value of good research and analysis, Alderson overhauled the A’s intelligence systems. “Alderson hadn’t started out to reexamine the premises of professional baseball but he wound up doing it anyway.” Michael Lewis wrote. Through analysis of historical baseball data, Alderson was the one who discovered runs scored correlated more closely to on-base and slugging percentage, not team batting average. By testing various hypotheses, Alderson proved that, in many instances, bunting, stealing, and the hit-and-run were pointless exercises, even destructive. “I figured out that managers do all this shit because it is safe,” Alderson said to Lewis. “They don’t get criticized for it.”

        Of course, Alderson could do little with his insights because the A’s were rolling in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Wally Haas operated the team as a community entertainment trust, and he was prepared to subsidize the team’s financial losses like the philanthropist he was. During most of Alderson’s era, the A’s were never starved for player payroll. Indeed, in 1991, the A’s had the highest payroll in baseball. They were competing against the Candlestick Giants and their attendance was consistently two million-plus, hitting a peak of 2.9 million in 1990. So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

        Under Alderson, the A’s drafted phenomenally well (the Bash Brothers, Terry Steinbach, Walt Weiss, etc.) while acquiring some amazing talent (Tony LaRussa, Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson, Bob Welch, Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, etc.). As history notes, the A’s won four division titles in a row (1988-1991), three American League pennants, and one (sigh) World Series championship.

        Oh yeah, there was one other notable accomplishment by Alderson, perhaps his finest: In 1993, he promoted Billy Beane from advance scout to Assistant General Manager.

        The unusual pairing of Alderson and Beane had begun in 1990 when Beane walked off the playing field and asked Alderson to hire him as a scout. “I didn’t think there was much risk in making him an advance scout,” Alderson recalled to Michael Lewis, “because I didn’t think an advance scout did anything.” Three years later, Beane was officially Alderson’s right-hand man. I believe the five-year apprenticeship he served (1993-1998) gave him the foundation he needed for later success. But the experience may have stymied him, too.

        Other people are often, mistakenly, credited for things Alderson did. The movie, “Moneyball,” suggested the Paul DePodesta character, Peter Brand, was responsible for focusing the A’s on statistical analysis. Not even close. It was Alderson. (Alderson was DePodesta before anyone ever heard of DePodesta.) It was Alderson, the credentialed outsider, who introduced Beane, the failed insider, to the Bill Jamesian world of analytics. And it was Alderson who imposed the ruthless, top-down, organizational hitting philosophy.

        To aid him in determining the most efficient way to hire baseball players, Alderson commissioned a pamphlet written by Eric Walker, a former aerospace engineer. In so many words, Walker stated the most important trait a baseball player could have is an ability not to make an out, since outs were in such limited supply. On-base percentage is just a measure of how well a hitter avoids outs.

        Walker said fielding mattered only five percent of the time. Pitchers were the most important factor in winning, along with hitters who could avoid making outs. Pitching was fairly valued by the market, but hitting, and particularly high OBP, was undervalued.

        In 1995, when the A’s ownership changed from the Haas family to Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann, Alderson unleashed his inner-Marine. He created an exacting, uniform system of training and evaluation for every level of the organization. He felt the system was the star. Improve the system and you improve the results on the field.

        It was Alderson who actively sought to diminish the status of the on-field manager. Lewis reported Alderson’s rhetorical question: “In what other business do you leave the fate of the organization to a middle manager?” He cut LaRussa some slack, in deference to his success and celebrity. Once LaRussa bolted for St. Louis, however, Alderson quickly stuffed the field manager genie back in the bottle. He hired Art Howe to implement the front office strategy on the field.

        (I have read several interviews in which LaRussa has disparaged the A’s under Beane for disrespecting the importance of the field manager. Tony, I have some news for you! Beane learned that from your old mate, Sandy Alderson! And here’s another shock for you: The “Moneyball” movie made up a lot of that conflict Beane supposedly had with Howe. Hollywood, Tony, is quite a bit less than meets the eye.)

        In 1998, Sandy Alderson’s ambition got the better of him and he departed for the Commissioner’s office to impose order on the umpires, which he did. (In 1999, when the umpires union promised to walk off the job and tried to intimidate Alderson with an ultimatum, he said coolly, “It is either a threat to be ignored or an offer to be accepted.” The umpires never knew what hit them.) It was generally thought that Alderson was grooming himself to be Commissioner of baseball. That possibility died when Bud Selig kept extending his tenure.

        The era of Beane had begun. The thing about running a Sandy Alderson system is it really, really helps if you are Sandy Alderson. Billy Beane is not. Alderson is a guy undeterred by doubt. Beane was defined by his doubt, at least, as a player. Alderson is a master of the finite; Beane is the man of the infinite quest. Can you imagine Alderson pulling a tantrum and destroying a dugout with a baseball bat? Conversely, can you imagine Alderson ever mustering the flim-flam necessary to pull off the Ricardo Rincon deal in 2002?

        Beane was l’enfant terrible. At an early age, Beane had been a STAR ballplayer. Alderson, from an early age, was trained to be part of a system. The problem with stars is nobody says, “NO!” to them. (Remember, not even Beane’s parents said, “No, don’t sign that Mets contract.” They deferred to their son, the star.) The problem in Alderson’s system environment is, everybody says “No” to you, unless you happen to be the general. Acts of artistic initiative are not tolerated.

        And that’s how Alderson’s systems may have stymied Beane. It was Marine rigid. Everything Beane knew about the front office he learned under Alderson. Alderson had mentored him, given him his opportunities. Maybe it was Beane’s loyalty and respect for Alderson, plus his inexperience with any other management system, that led him to suppress his own talent and personality in service of Alderson’s system.

        Not only were their personalities different, their management challenges differed as well. Alderson had to achieve field excellence while imposing discipline on a chaotic organization. But he had the financial resources to do what he wanted. Beane’s management problem was to win in the era of little-or-no-money ball. I have often wondered, could Alderson have achieved what Beane has, given the limitations Beane has had to respect? I don’t know. But Alderson could only take three years of the Schott-Hofmann ownership. He only lasted four years as the San Diego GM, and now he is with the Mets. We’ll see.

        Beane bristled, and yet flourished, for eight years under Schott and Hofmann. And he’s gotten even better under the benign strictures of Lew Wolff and John Fisher. Certainly, Alderson had the greater on-field success, three World Series, one title. Beane’s teams have yet to win “The Big One,” as his detractors are fond of saying.

        For me, a big part of the pleasure of watching Beane over the years is seeing him grow into his job. Beane’s longevity in a small market has allowed him to do things even Alderson could not have envisioned. Beane has had time and a long enough rope to learn from his mistakes.

        Beane has built far more flexibility into the A’s system. In constructing the 2012 A’s, Beane demonstrated a mastery of team-building the big money teams can only envy from afar. In hiring and extending Bob Melvin, Beane seems to have learned a lesson about field managers that Alderson probably never would have tolerated.

        Beane finally seems to have found his métier. His dugout-destroying days seem to be long gone. Just remember the Grant Desme episode. Desme, as you know, was the A’s top outfield prospect who quit baseball in 2010 to become priest. I still remember the wailing and rending of garments on this website over that decision. The nerve of this kid!

        Beane, however, was okay with Desme’s choice. Why? In 1990, Beane did the same thing. He walked away from baseball, not into a Catholic monastery, but into the A’s front office (which may be the same thing for Beane.) And he did it for the same reason as Desme did, to find peace.

        So Beane understood the difference between a desertion and a calling. When Desme broke the news of his departure, Beane simply congratulated him and calmly said, “I look forward to hearing your first homily.” [Jeff Passan]”

        1. OldBackstop says:

          Thanks for that, Gothamist. My hope is that the Mets are writing Moneball 2 with their assembling teams from cheap vet castoffs like Adrian Gonzalez and Reyes and discount sluggers.Bruce and Frazier. They haven’t given many long contracts, as they have to prepare in the years ahead to pay whoever emerges from the young SPs.
          I think in today’s strikeout environment, you can’t play small ball against a Kershaw or a MadBum or Scherzer. You aren’t going to string together four hits and two walks in an inning against them. But home runs out a core of 30 home run guys like the Mets have assembled might be the way to win the low scoring games a healthy Mets staff could give us.

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