An existential jaunt through Jeff Francoeur’s past

Jeff Francoeur said this to Kevin Kernan of the Post yesterday:

“One of my big goals is to have better pitch recognition…. Sometimes you try to say it doesn’t bother you to swing at a bad pitch, but it does. I’m human. I want to get better because I know if I can get better at that the rest of my game will follow. If I can mix in 50-60 walks, I become a totally different guy.”

Sounds awesome, right? Better pitch recognition seems like exactly what Frenchy needs to maintain the level of production he posted in his half season as a Met and avoid slipping back to the sub-replacement level player he was for his final season and a half with the Braves. After all, there’s no doubt he can crush the ball when it’s thrown over the plate.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution doesn’t have a great archive, but thanks to commenter named “Kyle S at work” at Baseball Think Factory, we can find evidence (most pointing to AJC articles) that Francoeur has actually set out to better recognize pitches in each of the last four offseasons:

2006. 2007. 2008. 2009.

His career walk rates:

2005: 4.0%; 2006: 3.4%; 2007: 6.0%; 2008: 6.0%; 2009: 3.6%.

It’s great that Francoeur knows he needs to walk more. The problem is, there’s no evidence he has the ability to do so. He’s still only 26 — which is sort of amazing given how long it seems like he’s been around — so there’s hope he can finally pull everything together and starts recognizing pitches the way he apparently hopes to.

He’s a Met, so I’ll be rooting for him.

9 thoughts on “An existential jaunt through Jeff Francoeur’s past

  1. Really like that photo of Francoeur’s swing. When you watch on television from the centerfield camera it always looks like he’s lunging. But when you see him from the side you can really see the balance he has.

  2. Maybe getting dumped by his hometown team will give him the extra push to actually make it happen? I mean we don’t need him to turn into Adam Dunn, but if his defense can rebound and he can post respectable walk/obp rates, which will probably help his power too since he hopefully wouldn’t be hitting as many weak grounders on bad pitches, and will rate for pitches he can actually do something with, he could at least be an average right fielder.

  3. His walk rate aside, we have to remember that just a couple years ago francoier was considered a young cornerstone player for the braves that mets fans were fearing for the next 10 years.

    The guy has some serious talent and if he can regain any of that like he did last year he will be a huge boost,.

  4. I really hate the sabermetric and number crunching guys bashing of Francouer all the time; not saying you are Ted.

    My dad is a life long Braves fan and loved the kid and like many in Atlanta felt that Terry Pendleton is and was the problem ruining many of the “Baby Braves” but Cox is one of those loyal guys who won’t budge. Many of Frenchie’s problems started with Pendleton trying to fix his swing, problem is Terry is a lefty. If you look at the burn outs in Atlanta they’ve practically all been righties. HoJo’s success with hitting to me is because he’s a switch hitter.

    Anyway my main gripe is that CLEARLY he adjusted and changed his approach and got results- in the same league and divisions facing the same guys he struggled with and still people want to think his second half a fluke.

    There’s tons of successful ball players who didn’t have high obp; hell Dawson just got in the HoF. So it’s not like he can’t make a career out of his method. Also clearly his presence on the team as a person has been and is huge. And looking at Frenchie and the Hawk one might draw some comparisons and think maybe this move to the Mets could be like when Dawsons went to the Cubs after 3 disappointing seasons with the Expos. Their numbers are very similar both coming in as hot young talents having success then the league figuring him out and then having to make adjustments.

    • I’m pretty sure Dawson had a pretty solid obp relative to his era. Relative to his era Frenchy’s obp postings have been near bottom. If you look at the current era of baseball, the era Frenchy is actually playing in, which would be the last 10-20 years not many players have been successful posting similar obps.

      And the problem with Frenchy’s second half is it’s an incredibly small sample size, there are just too many guys in the league who you can isolate half a season of date that makes them look great. If you just look at Daniel Murphy’s second half last year, or his 150 at bats in 08, he looks like a soon to be all-star too.

      My dad is also a life long braves fan, and I’ve lived in GA for 4 of the last 6 years, and North Carolina for the last 2 and my family is still in GA, and he seemed to think Frenchy was stubborn and unwilling to change when the Braves tried to work with him. And I know plenty of Braves fans who feel the same way and were growing tired of him and started believing he was just a guy who was never going to tap into his talent.

      The other problem with Frenchy is when he came up most of his value came from him being an AWESOME defender, but then he tried to become a slugger, added 20 pounds of muscle in the 08 off-season, and his defense hasn’t been the same sense. So on top of his troubles at the plate he’s gone from a well above average defender to slightly below average.

      • Dawson’s big detractors even back then was his obp. He liked putting the ball in play and was a very free swinger especially on first pitches. His last two season’s with Montreal people thought he was washed up. He high strikeouts and low obp.

        I just feel like there’s this thing that half the the Mets fans just don’t want to look at the kid objectively; especially the sabermetic people as he is the poster child for them. He came to the team was humbled by the trade, worked hard with HoJo, made friends and worked hard and was successful and people would rather assume it’s a fluke. He did this all playing for the team that was his rival int he most hostile fan environment in baseball.

        And the one factor that sabermetrics doesn’t account for is the human element of adjustment and learning to play better. Baseball isn’t a freak sport, it’s one that relies on growth constantly and sometimes players have to have a bad season or two to realize they need to change. I honestly feel; as does my dad watching him bat now that he did that. He’s not batting like he was in Atlanta at all from his hands to his swing. His entire approach is different.

        So what more does the kid have to do to get the benefit of the doubt? For once we’re the team that got a guy another team gave up on and he’s performing well and many Mets fans are so negative and want to assume it’s a fluke and write the kid off.

        I mean the kid was traded form his hometown team where he thought he’d play his career. if that’s not a catalyst to make you rethink your approach I don’t know what is.

        BTW I know you want him to do well to I’m more talking about the numerous Frenchie haters int he blogging circles.

    • Also even if you hate number crunching, you don’t need to crunch numbers to realize that the making outs is the only thing that can stop your offense from scoring. So it stands to reason that players who make outs at much much higher rates compared to the rest of the league are going to be less valuable than players who don’t.

  5. pendleton was a switchhitter first of all. second of all, no one is disparaging the human element of sports. of course there is a human element. however, the media and the average sports fan greatly overrates the human element. that’s why numbers are always more reliable. also dawson’s career obp was .323, which is slightly below average for his era (average at that time was around .325). francoeur’s obp so far in his career is under .300. the average is like .345. so obviously the difference is great between the two. especially when you factor in that francoeur’s defense (not his arm which is superb) is also vastly overrated.

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