We Need to Talk About Todd Frazier’s Home Run

I have a handful of rules I try to abide as an everyday writer. For example, I try not to pick favorites. My job isn’t to have any favorites. My job is to try to be as objective as possible. I also think it’s vitally important to not tell people how they ought to feel. This is sports. You’re in it for your own reasons. It’s not my business to dictate how you consume your chosen form of entertainment. You should get from baseball whatever you want to get. You should feel about baseball however you want to feel.

That being said, now I’m going to cross myself. I’m going to violate one of my own rules. Let’s focus on Todd Frazier’s early three-run homer in Monday’s Game 3. The internet response was fairly consistent: joke of a stadium, and/or the ball is juiced. The response was uniformly derisive. I get it, because I felt the same way! But I’ve come all the way around, and I’d like to encourage you to do the same, if you can. That wasn’t a home run to be mocked. That was a home run to be celebrated. For Todd Frazier, it was a good piece of hitting.

Pity poor Charlie Morton. All in all, I thought he pitched a good game, yet when it was all said and done, his game ERA stood at 17.18. Morton was victimized by hits on weak contact. He was also victimized by this.

That’s a home run. The ball very inarguably clears the fence. That’s all a home run needs to do. I can’t argue that it’s not in some way aesthetically displeasing. It looks like a silly home run. The major reason why, I think, is there just seems like something’s off in Frazier’s swing. It’s captured by Frazier’s follow-through. We’ve been watching home runs our entire lives. This isn’t how a normal home-run swing is supposed to finish.

Frazier looks like he’s out in front and off-balance. From appearances, Frazier simply stuck his bat out over the plate, and the ball left the yard. So, jokes. Everything comes together. But, say, consider a game-tying double Frazier hit to left-center in Houston over the weekend.

Frazier doesn’t look so bad there, because he’s standing a bit closer to the plate, but there’s that follow-through, again.

Ugly, right? Children grew up trying to mimic the sweet swing of Ken Griffey Jr. No child in the world tries to mimic the swing of Todd Frazier. In fact, during yesterday’s game, the broadcast even passed along an anecdote, saying that Frazier doesn’t even like to watch his own swings on video. Even the man himself doesn’t enjoy watching his own mechanics. But remember that mechanics are just a means to an end. You don’t score runs based on sexy mechanics. You score runs based on hitting the ball. Or watching the ball, but, mostly, hitting the ball. Let’s go back. Look what Todd Frazier did!

I know that Evan Gattis set up inside. I know that, therefore, the idea was likely a fastball around the inner edge, to try to get Frazier jammed. In that sense, maybe this is poor execution, but this is also great execution, because with a 1-and-1 count, Morton threw a fastball at 95 right in that low-away corner. That’s the toughest area for every right-handed hitter, and Frazier, for his career, has been awful to the opposite field. There was every reason to believe the Astros would get a positive outcome from this, as the ball left Morton’s hand. The pitch could be called a strike. The location was beautiful. The movement was beautiful. Morton always gets plenty of movement. Frazier swung, because the pitch was close, and you don’t want to get to a two-strike count if you can help it. Frazier swung, and he made contact. Frazier swung, and he made solid contact.

The look of the swing isn’t what matters. What matters is only the outcome. According to Statcast, Frazier hit the ball just north of 100 miles per hour. The launch angle was a hair over 20 degrees. Statcast calculated a flight distance of 365 feet. That’s not a mammoth home run, and, of course, Yankee Stadium’s right field has a reputation. It deserves its own reputation, and it comes back up whenever there’s a home run like this. But this wasn’t a completely laughable Yankee Stadium-specific gift. Okay, so Yankee Stadium is a joke? Then Minute Maid Park is also a joke. This recent home run had a lower exit velocity and distance.

Comerica Park must be a joke. This home run had a lower exit velocity and distance.

Great American Ball Park must be a joke. This home run had a lower exit velocity and distance.

Marlins Park must be a joke. This home run had a lower exit velocity and distance.

PNC Park must be a joke. This home run had a lower exit velocity and distance.

Safeco Field must be a joke. This home run had a lower exit velocity and distance.

There are so many more to choose from. I’m only stopping because I don’t want to exhaust you, nor do I want to exhaust myself. It’s absolutely, unquestionably true that Yankee Stadium’s right-field area plays hitter-friendly. We’ve known that from the beginning. That doesn’t mean you should roll your eyes over every home run to the spot. To be precise, Frazier hit his liner at 100.5mph. The ball got enough air to keep going. It didn’t look quite right, but that wasn’t because of the bat-to-ball contact. It’s because of what Frazier did after. It doesn’t matter what Frazier did after. The ball was already gone.

So the ball must be juiced then. How else do you explain it? How does that ball leave that yard? How did Frazier’s bat achieve that collision? I’m reminded of one of the most famous home runs of Frazier’s big-league career. Say what you will about recent conspiracy theories, but no one thought the ball was juiced in 2012.

That’s been referred to as the no-hands home run. Alan Nathan has covered it before. In that case, what was true was that the grip didn’t matter; only the force. Just like how, last night, the follow-through didn’t matter; only the force. Todd Frazier has a history of hitting the ball very hard, while looking like he’s doing something wrong. Not every hitter has picture-perfect mechanics. Even despite that, Frazier can hit the ball incredibly hard.

I was right there with everyone else. As I watched Frazier’s fly ball clear the yard, I thought it was ridiculous. It was a home run that didn’t look like how a home run is supposed to look. But based on the actual quality of the batted ball, there was nothing so extraordinary, and it’s a wonder Frazier was able to hit that pitch and that ball as hard as he did in the first place. Todd Frazier looked silly. Todd Frazier went deep. It wasn’t the first time. Todd Frazier is just a strong man.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Glad there is an article about this. Good summary.