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Francoeur returns to form

May 27, 2011, 3:00 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals Photo Day Getty Images

That’s the headline of this later-than-usual “Jeff Francoeur has figured it all out and is kicking butt and taking names” story from Stan McNeal at the Sporting News.  I mean, we’ve come to expect them when Francoeur gets off to his usual fast start following a chance of scenery, but late May is certainly an outlier in terms of the calendar.

That’s especially true considering this one spends the first several paragraphs with “best shape of his life” stuff. Makes me wonder if this wasn’t written in early April and inadvertently posted just now.  I dunno, maybe it got caught up in the editing process someplace.

But hey, I always love these, so why not:

He ran every day, two miles and then sprints. Lots of sprints, all by himself, outside the front door of his home in Atlanta. Eighty-yarders, shuttle-runs, gassers. That combined with healthier eating melted off the pounds. Francoeur had reached 237 by the end of last season. By February, he says he was 210. He is playing between 208-210, and the bounce in his step is hard not to notice …

… Besides his improved fitness, Francoeur has refined his approach at the plate under the coaching of Kevin Seitzer. Instead of trying to pull home runs, Francoeur is using right and right-center fields, too. He still has roughly three times as many strikeouts as walks, but he isn’t the free-swinger who went 33 games without walking at the start of his career.

Francoeur had a great April, there’s no denying that.  But in May he is hitting .247/.316/.435.  For his career he is hitting .269/.311/.430.  You tell me whether his great April performance or his May performance is more likely to be replicated as the season wears on. Thing is, he has “returned to form.”  Just not in the way McNeal means in the story.

And someone please tell me why Francoeur gets treated differently than every other ~.750 OPS player with some pop, a big swing and a decent platoon split in baseball history.

  1. halladaysbicepts - May 27, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    The only thing I ever really liked about Franceur’s game is his arm in right field. I recall many times him throwing out Phillies trying to stretch a single into a double. After a while, no one would test his arm.

    • ILoveBaseball - May 27, 2011 at 3:30 PM

      Bicepts, I beat you up in the article about Sabr but here you’re right. According to BaseballInfoSolutions Francoeur’s throwing has been well above average every year in the majors saving 45 runs vs. the average since 2006 with his arm. Sabermetrics aren’t (isn’t?) all bad.

      • halladaysbicepts - May 27, 2011 at 3:40 PM

        And I’m not always wrong? Wow. Biggest compliment I had all day.

        And you know what? I could have told you how good of a fielder he is by just (2) things. (1) his fielding percentage and (2) watching him play. The one thing that no statistic can really tell is arm strength. It is somthing that can’t be quantified.

        Arm strength is the most important assit an outfielder can have. I would even take it over speed.

        I hate watching Francisco for the Phillies and his candyass arm throwing a ball in from right field.

      • drmonkeyarmy - May 27, 2011 at 3:43 PM

        I agree with bicepts. You don’t need some sabermetric calculation based upon numerous assumptions to tell you that Francoeur has a cannon for an arm.

      • StottsEra - May 27, 2011 at 3:47 PM

        He has arm strength, but without accuracy that doesn’t mean anything. Instead of seeing how many assists he has, as he is always in the top 10 or so, I would like to know the number of guys he throws out vs the total number of guys that run on him. Is that too much to ask?

      • trevorb06 - May 27, 2011 at 4:12 PM

        You’re not always wrong, but you’re still a nozzle in general. Some days you make Fiorentino look like a nice guy (although lately he’s gotten off his nozzle post…).

    • ILoveBaseball - May 27, 2011 at 3:48 PM

      Arm absolutely can be quantified.
      In simplified form you count how often all runners go first to third on a single, 2nd to home on a single, first to home on a single/double when the ball is hit to your guy. Compare the results to all other fielders at the same position. If he throws out a runner he gets credit. If the runner holds because he thinks he might be thrown out, the fielder gets credit. Count the credits. Quantified!

      • halladaysbicepts - May 27, 2011 at 3:56 PM

        OK, then what about a baserunner that can run like the wind going from 1st to 3rd on a single to right field when your right fielder has a cannon for an arm? Say this runner is on 1st base on (3) occasions in the same game and the hitter after him singles (3) times to right field and the runner with blazing speed at 1st makes it to 3rd on all occasions.

        Where can you measure that in Sabermetrics? The guy in right field has a great arm, but a runner at 1st advances to 3rd on all 3 occasions.

        It’s not measurable.

      • ILoveBaseball - May 27, 2011 at 4:04 PM

        Absolutely is measurable. Over the course of a whole season (or many seasons) the runners’ speeds will tend to even out. I worked at a company that produces and analyzes this stuff. The basis is established (provided the sample size is large) and every major league team uses a variation of this metric. If you get the same guy leading the league in this every year there’s a reason. Have a look at :
        http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=rf&stats=fld&lg=all&qual=y&type=1&season=2011&month=0&season1=2011&ind=0

        The current major league leader in this is Shin-Soo Choo followed by Frenchy, Bautista and your guy Ben Francisco. It’s more than arm. It’s about getting to the ball and quick release as well.

      • paperlions - May 27, 2011 at 4:19 PM

        Sample size is important, any stat or prediciton is unrelaible when based on few events (which is why saying things like Madson suddenly can’t pitch in non-save situations despite doing it 400 times during his career because of 1 bad performance is silly). The accumulation of individual events is used as a basis to assess an overall performance (season, career, whatever). The focus is not on the details, the details are used to draw general conclusions or to make predictions about performance/ability.

        Of course there are situations where who the player is doesn’t matter, as in the example of a runner that will always make it from 1st to 3rd on a single to RF, where the difference shows up is in situations where who the player is does matter….and guys with better arms will either throw out or not be run on as often as guys with shitty arms. Statistics are about likelihood, not certainty.

      • halladaysbicepts - May 27, 2011 at 4:19 PM

        ILoveBaseball,

        I just got done looking at the graph. According to this graph, Jayson Werth and Jay Bruce, two of the best defensive rightfielders in baseball, are at the bottom quarter of the list. Most of the players above them neither have the speed, range, or arm that either them have. Yet, sabermetrically, after placing different values into a convoluted formula, you have a guy like Ben Francisco at #4?

        You have stated my point as to why sabermetrics are flawed.

        Respectfully, I see no logic in this whatsoever.

      • Joe - May 27, 2011 at 4:24 PM

        Bicepts, that fast guy is going to run on guys with lesser arms, too, and over the course of a season he’s going to make it more often against the average arms than he does against the great arms. Stats guys will count all that, and in the final analysis a guy like Frenchy will have better numbers.

        Similarly, runners with average speed are going to test the fielders with average arms more often than the guys with great arms. If the runner goes and makes it, the fielder’s throwing stats* suffer. If he goes and gets thrown out, the thrower gets credit for that. If he doesn’t try for the extra base, the fielder gets some credit for that, too. Over the course of a season, a lot of data piles up, and you really can quantify who the best throwers are.

        And just so you know, the stats guys are tracking where the ball goes and how hard it’s hit, so they can also account for the possibility that the base runner’s choice was affected by the hit type (e.g. hard liner vs. slow grounder) rather than the fielder’s arm.

        Honestly, people are recording everything that happens, quantifying six ways to Sunday and comparing all the players against all the other players. Sabermetrics can quantify anything.

      • paperlions - May 27, 2011 at 4:37 PM

        So….what you are saying is, because you preconception was not confirmed, the stat must be wrong? Yeah, that’s a problem.

        For the record, UZR over such a short period of time is highly unreliable. In general, three seasons of data are required to have an accurate assessment of fielding ability (in other words, that much information is required to filter out the vagaries of chance).

      • drmonkeyarmy - May 27, 2011 at 5:46 PM

        Bicepts is on a roll today. I agree with everything that he wrote. There is absolutely no way that Ben Fran should be rated #4. As Bicepts stated perfectly, I the “convoluted formula” is obviously flawed.

      • paperlions - May 27, 2011 at 7:46 PM

        The problem isn’t the calculation of UZR, but his (and your) understanding of how/when to apply it. Two month of data is not sufficient to estimate a players defensive ability. If you click on B. Francisco and go to his D stats, you’ll see he is rated as a below average defensive player over the course of his career.

        If you use 3 years of data guess who is the best RF? Jay Bruce.

      • paperlions - May 27, 2011 at 7:47 PM

        To expound, you wouldn’t use 2 months to determine how good a hitter really is would you? Well, why would you do so with defensive metrics?

  2. seanmk - May 27, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    it’s that charming smile. if anything he’s on pace to strikeout more then he ever has, but he has hit for more power so far this year. but yeah he’ll be jeff francoeur we all know and love by the end of june

  3. ILoveBaseball - May 27, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    And someone please tell me why Francoeur gets treated
    differently than every other ~.750 OPS player with some pop, a big swing and a
    decent platoon split in baseball history.

    Answer:
    Because Frenchy smiles and treats sports reporters well.
    It shouldn’t be that way but it is. The reporter ends up entanged with the content the way Bill O’Reilly is.

  4. The Dangerous Mabry - May 27, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    The three reasons Francoeur gets treated differently:

    1) He’s a great guy, by all accounts, and that goes a long way.
    2) He had that strong 70-game rookie season, and from that point on, everyone expected him to not only replicate, but improve on that start.
    3) His career March/April splits are completely respectable (.804 OPS, 23 HR, 104 RBI in 146 games), and so every year it looks like “This could be the year” for him.

    I wouldn’t want Francoeur on my team, and the press about the guy can be downright ridiculous, but it’s nice to hear about genuinely nice guys in any line of work, so at least there’s that.

    • scatterbrian - May 27, 2011 at 3:30 PM

      4) http://bit.ly/f6Q6S0

  5. stottsera - May 27, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Terence Moore published this yesterday and I wanted to scream

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110526&content_id=19620844&vkey=perspectives&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

    • bobulated - May 27, 2011 at 5:56 PM

      Your first mistake was wasting time on anything T-Mo wrote or said.
      He was clueless when he wrote for the AJC and somehow has managed to become worse since moving on to blogging full time.
      When he was an Atlanta writer his panacea for all ATL pro sports teams was to trade for/overpay/draft the most unattainable/over-the-hill/most available African American athlete in that particular sport. Then he would support that statement with a blurb/phone-call/beer conversation quote with a retired African-American athlete within that sport to lend his column “credibility”.

  6. jwbiii - May 27, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    Wasn’t it the Phillies who did the Rambo-style “Glennbo” promos for Glenn Wilson, a similar player?

  7. royalsfaninfargo - May 27, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    mr. calcaterra,
    just because frenchy is on my favorite team now and not yours does not give you the right to rub it in :-)!

    • yankeesfanlen - May 27, 2011 at 5:20 PM

      Frenchie has been our lovable bust whipping boy around here since at least 2008.

    • cur68 - May 27, 2011 at 11:45 PM

      royals: first of all, nice to meet their fan. I’m the Blue Jay’s Fan.

      Second; Frenchie is our b!tch. He will remain as such till he plays up to his hype. So long as one blogger calls a spade a spade there will be a voice pointing out that “Frenchie is not that good”.

      Third; we all feel sorry for the Royals so no ones rubbing anything in, just whipping on Frenchie, which is what we do around these parts (aside from castigating the pie eaters).

      Fourth: change your stance on pie or punishment will be swift.

  8. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - May 27, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    Who’s more huge? Frenchie or Jesus?

    • spudchukar - May 27, 2011 at 6:02 PM

      I dunno, Jesus wasn’t much into taking either.

      • kiwicricket - May 27, 2011 at 9:55 PM

        +1

    • cur68 - May 27, 2011 at 11:49 PM

      Can Jesus throw a guy out at the plate from right field? I bet not so I got Frenchie in that one, so yeah, I think Frenchie is bigger than Jesus. Anyway, I thought we were talking about Right Fielders not catchers…that is Jesus Montero you meant right?

  9. Chipmaker - May 27, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    I think it is because BBWAA writers never, ever change the player’s narrative that develops during a player’s rookie season. For one, they’d have to abandon all the solid background material that is kept on file. For another, horrors, what if one of them doesn’t see the memo? No; the narrative, once established, only changes for a significant and drastic reason.

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