A Few Notes From April

Sometimes, rather than having a bunch of thoughts on topic, I find myself in a position of wanting to mention a few different things, but only have a brief snippet to say about them. Today is one of those days, so, we’re doing a notes-style column with some nuggets from the first month of the season.

Jeff Francoeur is off to a good start in Kansas City, and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer is giving credit to his new found plate discipline.

“The amazing part for me is how disciplined he has become when everyone said he couldn’t be,” Seitzer says.

This “disciplined” version of Jeff Francoeur is swinging at 38% of the pitches he’s been thrown out of the strike zone, the 16th highest total in baseball. It’s also the second highest mark of his career. He has cut way down on the percentage of strikes that he’s swinging at, however, so it’s possible that he has become more disciplined in a subtle way and is doing a better job of waiting for a hittable strike. Or, perhaps, he’s just trying to be more patient at the plate, but doesn’t have good enough pitch recognition to determine ball from strike.

Either way, he’s off to a strong start, and Seitzer has more insight on Francouer’s approach than we do. I will guess, however, that he won’t see long lasting success while still chasing nearly 40% of pitches out of the strike zone.

Also noted by Ken Rosenthal, though on Twitter this time, Jonathan Broxton‘s velocity has taken a pretty big nosedive from where it was two years ago. His PItch F/x velocity chart should be a bit scary for Dodgers’ fans, and the fact that his fastball averaged just 93.8 MPH last night is a sign that this doesn’t seem to be correcting itself.

Given that his strikeout rate is plummeting as well, this should be an area of real concern for the Dodgers. Broxton is leaning on his slider more this year than he has in the past, perhaps because he knows his fastball isn’t what it used to be. The problem is that he doesn’t have great command of his slider, and it’s a pitch he needs to throw ahead in the count to have sustained success. Without the big heat to blow by hitters, he’s significantly less effective. Getting Broxton throwing back at 97 again should be a priority for LA.

I have learned my lesson of declaring any player “done” after a slow start to the season – see this mistake in 2008 – but Raul Ibanez is exhibiting every sign of a player who might just not have it anymore. His hallmark has always been a high contact rate for a hitter with decent power, but he’s down to 73.4% contact this year, and we’ve seen a huge spike in his strikeout rate to go along with it.

In addition, only 3 of his 14 hits have gone for extra bases, and he’s the proud owner of the worst UZR (non Aubrey Huff division) in baseball. Ibanez has been fighting off old age for years, but the fact that he is 39 is eventually going to catch up to him. Given that he’s been worth -1 WAR in the first month of the season, it seems like this might be the year where he finally stops being useful.

Pablo Sandoval is hitting .319/.382./565 so far this year, and it seems like Operation Get Less Fat has been a huge success. It’s probably worth noting, though, that the oversized Kung Fu Panda of 2010 hit .368/.433/.575 in April. Let’s not proclaim a return to greatness just yet.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


15 Responses to “A Few Notes From April”

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  1. Ryan Braun says:

    I am great.

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  2. Deadpool says:

    You know, I’ll always say that Jeff Francoeur’s problem was getting hit in the eye during Spring of ’08.

    Before that he was tracking balls well, and his reach let him hit balls out of the zone for pretty decen tcontact. He was never goint to be elite without taking walks, but I really don’t think he tracks balls as well as he did before.

    His approach was the same before, and I really don’t see how the league wouldn’t have adjusted to him before 2008 given he played in 162 games in 2007. So you have to think there was a change in his skill set.

    A look at his defensive numbers seems to show he was getting poorer jumps on balls as well, which could be a vision problem.

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    • Ryan says:

      The cause of Francoeur’s tailspin was his decision the bulk up going into the 2008 season. In 2006 he hit 29 homers but despite having demonstrably better offensive season in 2007, he only hit 19 homers. I don’t think eye issues had anything to do with it. His K% actually went down in 2008, but everything else was worse. His former teammate (with the same medical staff obviously) Brain Mccann had eye issues and is still one of the most productive catchers in the MLB. Francoeur’s bulking up led to a slower swing and being much, much slower in the outfield to diminish his range. He also wasn’t given the opportunity to use his arm (his best outfield asset) as much because teams started running on him much less. He has been around replacement level ever since.

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      • Deadpool says:

        I’m actually talking about some sort of impingement of the abductors that move the eye, which would cost him performance. The bulk up may have been part of it, and I did think that it was all of it at the time, but he’s returned to size since then and hasn’t gotten demonstrably better.

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  3. RC says:

    “Brain Mccann had eye issues and is still one of the most productive catchers in the MLB”

    Because all eye issues are the same.

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    • Deadpool says:

      Aside from which, that’s not even really a true statement. Look at his April numbers for the last two years. When he was struggling to adjust from LASIK two years ago he was pretty bad, and last year after the correction he was pretty bad as well. The first year they gave up and he wore glasses, it took them two years to tell him to cut out the Red Bull.

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  4. Young Gung says:

    I watched Broxton pitch on the 24th, because I had to see what he looked like. He avg’d 92 mph on his fastball (confirmed with Brooks Baseball) and topped out at 94 on it. He couldn’t locate much of ANYTHING and it seemed like mentally he felt like he was “naked” without that typical high 90s fastball. It looked like his confidence was shot and he looked real hittable. To be honest, from what I remember, everything was seemingly lined out. If it wasn’t for unbelievable defense that required sick dives he would’ve gave up runs. All in all, he didn’t look like a closer at all, not even a setup man. There is NO WAY he maintains this job if he doesn’t get his fastball velocity back soon.

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  5. brendan says:

    re: sandoval, a lot of giants fans are giving his diet credit for improved defense. anecdotally, he seems to have better range this year — probably too soon to look at UZR’s range factor. As for the hitting, he has taken more walks, but I don’t think anyone is giving the diet credit for that. It would be great if he hit more like 2009 vs. 2010. It would make up for some of the probable regression of huff and torres.

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  6. CaR says:

    Finally, Dave Cameron’s prediction circa (what 2002?) has come to pass for Raul Ibanez. We knew that you were right about him Dave, Raul just waited ten years or so to prove it!

    Let’s see here: … He was never very good, inflated BABIP, the (infamous) ‘old-player skills’, minus 40 runs via ridiculous defensive metric ‘projections’, bad contract in Seattle, horrible contract in Philly, terrible in comparison to slash lines of other LF’s. ( This I found hilarious, due to Dave’s insistence that power need not ever be required of Mariner corner OF”s). Do we have it covered Dave?

    Ibanez had better thank his lucky stars that he hasn’t been educated by your sooth saying over the years, he would have been out of the league long ago. Yet, he has had a fine career, posting better than average numbers for average or less money, seems like he should have been the poster boy for roster construction per Dave Cameron, yet he sadly only managed to be the whipping boy, born from Dave’s stat o’ the day absolute analysis.

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    • The Ancient Mariner says:

      Dude, did you even read the post?

      “Ibañez has been fighting off old age for years, but the fact that he is 39 is eventually going to catch up to him. Given that he’s been worth -1 WAR in the first month of the season, it seems like this might be the year where he finally stops being useful.”

      Your tone sure as heck doesn’t describe Dave’s.

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  7. Ben H says:

    Re: Francoeur

    I’d like to draw attention to a career low Z-Swing% of 63% (81% career avg) with a career high Z-Contact% of 91% (85% career avg). His overall stats show a similar trend, with a career low Swing% of 49% (59% career avg) with a career high Contact% of 82% (77% career avg). Accordingly, SwStr% is down to a career low of 8.8% (13% career avg) and BB% is up to a career high 7.3% (4.9% career avg).

    Though I can’t say through roughly 100PA if this is a significant enough sample size, these numbers seem to suggest that Seitzer’s observations are correct, and Francoeur may indeed show legitimate improvement this year.

    Perhaps “discipline” is less of not getting fooled by breaking and off-speed stuff out of the zone (O-Swing), and more of not swinging at pitches in the zone that aren’t in your wheelhouse (Z-Swing).

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  8. tarheelcoach says:

    Ha! The annual Frenchy is fixed article. Google Jeff Francoeur improved plate discipline and one of the first articles to come up is actually from last year –
    http://www.amazinavenue.com/2010/4/29/1449744/is-jeff-francoeur-more-patient

    And one from MLB.com in 2007 –

    http://forums.realgm.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=97&t=800007

    The one from last year shows some of the same ‘encouraging’ numbers after one month that Ben H cites.

    Could it simply be that Frenchy is a fast starter? His career OPS in April is .800, then drops to .657 in May and .681 in June.

    Enjoy it while it lasts Royals.

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  9. Kyle says:

    I always said I’d be the guy who’d claim Francoeur was back after a fast start no matter what… he’s playing for Kansas City with NO pressure. Plus regardless of most peoples’ claims, he’s a 4(instead of 5)tool player. He has raw power, a canon for an arm, and is the type of guy to have one freaking insane season that people on this site call an outlier season or whatever. This might be that year…

    And it will get him a big time contract eventually or extension…he’s making 2.5 million this year and there’s a mutual option for 2012. I can seriously see him keeping focused enough to have a dumb team give him something more lucrative if he hits 30 homeruns, drives in 110 RBI again and bats over .300. He’s also 27(and people expect most baseball players to have their best years from 27 to 30.)

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