How Historically Bad Is Jeff Francoeur?

At least he has that going for him.

I’m going to do something I won’t do very often, I’m going to admit that I was wrong. However, I would like to say I was misled.

At the beginning of Spring Training and this season, much was made of Jeff Francoeur’s new stance, and unless you watched, you probably didn’t take it very seriously. Well, I watched, and I was actually impressed.

I didn’t care too much about the stance. Everyone talks about stances and how much effect they have, but I’ll tell you what — they don’t. If you succeeded enough to get to the majors, your stance isn’t the problem. What I was more concerned about was the approach. The approach is much more important, and with Frenchy, it’s usually his biggest problem.

Last season, his mechanics were, in fact, off. He continually stepped “in the bucket” (down the third base line for righties, first for lefties) and not back towards the pitcher. That causes the shoulders and hips to clear early, leaving zero power and little ability to square up the ball. One reason I despise Terry Pendleton, this should have been an easy fix, but it never was. His approach wasn’t any good, but if your mechanics are off, it won’t matter.

So when it came to Spring Training, I paid attention to when he was swinging and not how. For the Spring, he was much better than I had seen him in some time. He was patient and letting pitches go that weren’t good to swing at. He had 7 BB in 67 AB’s (over 600 AB, that would work for a very acceptable 60 BB), and he wasn’t pressing. When the season began, he was still patient, but better pitchers were now forcing him to hit. At that point, he was, and he was doing it by going the opposite way. Now? Not so much.

He’s gotten completely away from the new approach, even though the stance has not changed. Last night in his one at-bat with a hit, he let the first two pitches go for balls, and on the 2-0 count, he took a high slider and roped it into right. In the other bats? He swung at the first pitch and did little with them. If you want to be aggressive and swing at the first pitch, make it be a good pitch, not the crap Frenchy has swung at.

So what to do? Well, he needs to go away. Partly, he needs to leave because the expectations in Atlanta are too high for him to get back into a groove. Mostly, he needs to work with a hitting coach better than Terry Pendleton, who has continually screwed up. How the Braves accomplish this is up to them.

So how bad has Frenchy been? Looking at last year’s .653 OPS and 72 OPS+, I took a look. In terms of his .653 OPS, it was the 236th worst season since 1901 (1901!) for an outfielder that received at least 500 at-bats. One way to make up some value is to steal bases, but Francoeur stole 0 (many of the others on this list stole at least double-digits). Vince Coleman, in 1986, only had a .581 OPS, but he stole 107 bases. The OPS isn’t good, but when he got on, at least he did something. Frenchy barely got on and barely moved when he did. For trivia’s sake, George Barclay’s .495 OPS in 1904 is the worst ever, and Bobby Tolan’s .555 in 1973 is the worst in the last 40 years. Brian Hunter’s .581 OPS in 1999 is the worst in the past 10 years. In that past decade, Francoeur’s .653 is sixth-worst, in Endy Chavez levels.

But because I like advanced statistics, what about OPS+? It, predictably makes him look worse. His 72 is good for 56th worst in major-league history. The worst is Hunter’s 1999 season of 48. Willie Taveras and Michael Bourn’s 2008 seasons of 56 and 57, respectively, are the third and fourth-worst ever, but again, they stole bases at least (44 for Hunter, 68 for Taveras, and 41 for Bourn). Making all this worse, Francoeur went to the plate 652 times, more than 100 more than any of the other three.

Any worse? Well, those statistics included all outfielders. Right fielders are projected to hit well and for power. Jeff’s 2008 is the 61st worst (OPS) and 11th worst (OPS+) in major-league history. In the past decade, it is the 2nd worst in both categories. This season’s 63 OPS+ would be the worst for a right fielder who received at least 500 at-bats.

What about this season? He’s worse. His average is 12 points higher (.251), but his OPS his fallen 33 points (.620). His OPS+ is a robust 63. A .620 OPS season would make him the 88th worst in major-league history, and his 63 OPS+ also moves him up, this time to 13th all-time. So, the Braves continue to play one of the worst hitting outfielders in major-league history, and they do it every day. Why? Defense, maybe? His defensive worth was negative last year and is again this year. I have come to the dark side (or is it the light?), and as one of Francoeur’s most faithful, I no longer consider him good enough. Too bad Cox does.

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One Response to “How Historically Bad Is Jeff Francoeur?”

  1. Ian Says:

    Bobby Cox must really love Francoeur’s arm. Other than that he’s not a major league-caliber player. Even his blog (sponsored by Delta Airlines, don’t you know) is a trainwreck.

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