The numbers 2, 3 and 4 are not in Todd Frazier’s vocabulary this year. He doesn’t even want to hear those numbers in sequence.
One can talk with him and use 3, 2, 4, but not 2, 3, 4. That’s because the popular Cincinnati Reds third baseman hit .234 last year and would like to turn that around to .324.
And toward that end he is picking the brain of one of the all-time best all-around players in Reds’ history.
On a dreary early morning recently, 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.
All Frazier is looking for these days is how to make consistent contact and swing at pitches in the strike zone as opposed to swinging at 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?
“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 RBIs. But last year his average dipped to that number he won’t say, aided and abetted by one 0-for-31 skid. He hit the same amount of home runs, 19, and had six more RBIs, 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 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.
Taking the Davis message to the field, Frazier has started fast, collecting that extra hit in his first nine spring at-bats. He is 3-for-9 (.333) with a home run, a walk, two RBIs and a stolen base.
Davis emphasized that it all starts in batting practice. “And,” Frazier said, “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.
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. When you are doing good it is just, ‘Ah, I swung at the pitch and hit it.’ ”
So his goal, with the help of Davis, is to take the same smooth swing in the same path so there won’t be times when he thinks back and says, “I wasn’t in position and I took a bad swing.”