Kevin Frandsen is no longer a Giant, but he has clearly left at least part of his heart in the San Francisco Bay area. The 27-year-old infielder is now a member of the Red Sox organization, having been dealt by his hometown team in late March after never quite living up to expectations—or, in the minds of some, never fully being given an opportunity to do so. A native of Los Gatos who left San Jose State University as its all-time leader in hits, Frandsen has a slash line of .326/.381/.449 in 1,600 minor-league plate appearances. In 174big-league games—most of which came in 2007—he has a mark of .240/.304/.341.
David Laurila: How would you describe yourself as a baseball player?
Kevin Frandsen: I feel like I’m a gritty, hard-working, get-after-them-every-day guy. I know that I’m going to make consistent hard contact. I’m not going to put on a show of power, ever, but I’ll run into a couple of balls here and there. I’ll do the right things when I’m up at the plate and I’ll catch the ball.
DL: What constitutes "the right things" up at the plate?
KF: For me it’s always been to make hard contact—to have good at-bats and make sure that you’re not wasting any of them. You try to eliminate as many bad at-bats as you can, as far as chasing after bad pitches and just putting those in play. Get a guy over, get a guy in. Do the little things, whether it’s a bunt—a bunt here and there. That’s what I pride myself on and I’ve always done that. I feel like I’ve consistently shown that, all the way through, from Little League on up.
DL: Your career numbers suggest consistent hard contact, but your walk rate has been relatively low.
KF: Yes, but so is my strikeout rate. So I don’t really care. I’m going to get on base. I’ll get hit by a pitch and to me, getting hit by a pitch and a walk are the same. I always lump those together.
DL: Presumably, you don’t take a lot of pitches…
KF: I do, here and there. I just don’t… I put a lot of balls in play. If I do swing, it’s usually in play. It’s not swing and foul off, foul off, foul off. A lot of guys who walk are really good at spoiling pitches and fouling them off, and keeping that at-bat going. What I do is that if I swing, it’s usually in play. It’s not one of those "aagghh." There are times where I try to foul it off and I put it in play. It just happens like that. I think that if you consistently watch a guy that walks a ton—watch his at-bats and watch when he gets to two strikes—he fouls off a lot of pitches. Like Kevin Youkilis. He fouls off a lot of pitches, fouls off a lot of pitches—then he walks. He’s able to spoil pitches but also lay off a couple. He doesn’t put everything in play. He works an at-bat the best of anyone, in my mind.
DL: Do you see yourself as a bad-ball hitter?
KF: You know, at times, but late in the count—definitely not early in the count. I’m looking for something that I can actually hit early in the count. Late in the count, I might consider myself a bad-ball hitter because I feel that I can cover out and up, down and away—it just doesn’t matter.
DL: Do you have favorite zones?
KF: Yes and no. It just depends—it depends on the pitcher for me. I feel like I can go to a lot of zones and feel really happy about that.
DL: Do you like to look at pitcher data to see how guys usually work?
KF: Here and there. I like to know what he’s done against me. I like to know what he’s done against guys who are about the same as me—what I deem to be the same type of hitters. I see how they go with that. As a hitter, you want to eliminate as many variables that are coming at you as you can. If you know a guy isn’t throwing his breaking pitch for a strike all day and he has a fastball, slider, and changeup, and you eliminate one pitch, you’re making yourself that much better of a hitter. You’re just looking for a fastball or a changeup, and as long as you can do that, it’s fine with me.
DL: Is hitting simple or is it difficult?
KF: It is one of the hardest things in the world to do. Ultimately, by the time that we’re here, our mechanics should be locked in—they should be honed in. I think it’s more mental, upstairs. Either you know exactly what’s going on and you have the confidence, or you don’t. I think that, day in and day out, it’s about whether you can keep those levels consistent, where you’re going to be concentrating and your confidence is staying high—you’re not going on these big old dips. When people talk about slumps, for me, totally, it has to do with people… you just watch them. Watch how they are. When they’re confident in their hitting, their swagger when they go to the plate is totally different than when they’re in a slump and kind of feeling, "Aagghh, is today going to be the day that I break out of it?" They’re quite unsure when they go to the plate. You want to have that consistency of, "You know what, I’m going to go out there and rake every day." That’s what makes for a good hitter. It makes it a little bit easier when you have that same mentality all the time.
KF: No, not at all. Barry is the greatest hitter I’ve ever seen play. But Dustin can absolutely just mash. He’s a great hitter, but they’re two different styles. Dustin isn’t up there trying to hit 50 out during the year, if you know what I mean. He’d love to, but he’s not doing it. Barry was so great at coaxing guys into giving him his pitch. He’d show guys, "Oh, you threw that slider; don’t throw that again," but it’s actually "Yeah, I want you to throw that again." And if he does throw it again it’s off the wall or over the wall, or maybe through the second baseman. He was just consistently great with hard contact. That’s the parallel they do have—they’re always making consistent hard contact. They’re always finding the barrel on the ball. That’s where I find them to be similar. They put the barrel on the ball as consistently as anyone.
DL: It sounds like maybe they do have something in common.
KF: Both of them are great. There’s no way to go around that. But they are two different styles of hitters and Barry did it for 20-plus years. Dustin is still in the beginning of his career, but while he’s doing some amazing things, to say that they’re very similar is hard to justify.
DL: Did you get a fair shot in San Francisco?
KF: All I know is that the Red Sox wanted me and are giving me an opportunity to show myself here in Triple-A, and hopefully I’ll get a chance up there at some point. My opportunity, that I wanted, probably didn’t happen. But they gave me the ultimate opportunity of playing in my hometown, in front of the home fans—fans that I was a part of when I was growing up—so they did give me a huge opportunity.
DL: Did injuries adversely impact your opportunities with the Giants?
KF: Very much so. Unfortunately, with the Achilles tear—that wasn’t great, but everyone is always going to be able to hold something against you and I guess that everyone is going to hold the Achilles thing against me. But I feel that I can play better than when I was healthy, before that happened. I think that people get set in stone with things like, "Oh, this guy injured his Achilles," and that’s their impression instead of, "This guy can play baseball." I feel that I can play the game of baseball and help a team win, and I’m glad that I have an opportunity here. Hopefully my skill set and my ability to play baseball can help this organization at some point in time.
DL: Philosophically, do the Red Sox approach at-bats differently than do the Giants?
KF: I don’t know, because the Giants way isn’t about being aggressive, it’s just going with what the guys are able to do. You’re not going to morph a guy into being someone who takes a lot of pitches, you know what I mean. It’s whom you have in your system, and when Barry was there, we had a lot of guys—and I’m a Giants fan, so you knew what was going on. When Barry was in his prime you had Jeff Kent, Rich Aurilia, all those guys. They took a lot. And it went from the top—it went from Barry. If you have a guy in there that is able to take all the time and provide great at-bats, I think it resonates through everything. In Boston you have guys like Dustin and Jacoby at the top of the lineup who take a lot of pitches but also make hard contact. Then you get to the Youkilises and the Ortizes that take a ton of pitches, and if you think about it, the whole lineup—just one right after the other—it’s like a snowball effect. That’s what I think. I think it has to do with the personnel in your lineup.