Jeff Francoeur, Extended

At least one person in Kansas City will be flashing his trademarked smile today. Jeff Francoeur had his contract extended two years. Fans in New York and Atlanta are probably stifling laughs of their own, coming from an entirely different place, but was the signing so bad? Even without terms, we can try to evaluate the signability of the 27-year-old corner outfielder.

Frenchy is having his best season at an age where most baseball players are peaking. On the other hand, very few of his core stats represent a career-best. He’s shown a better ISO before (.189 in 2006), struck out less the last three years in a row, and probably won’t hit career highs in home runs, runs or RBI. He’s only showing a personal best in stolen bases and walk rate, and that walk rate (6.6%) is only percentage points above his best (6.0%, achieved thrice).

He has shown one of his better power years this year, yes. He reversed a decline in home runs per fly ball, but even his current number (9.4%) is right in line with his career (9.9%). His ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio is on the right side of his career ratio, but in line with what he’s done in the past three years. There’s no power stat that screams luck.

His defense has been a plus this year, but he’s also been a plus over the span of his career. His UZR/150 (1.9) makes sense (6.9 career), even if it continues to be based on the strength of his arm (+53.5 runs) rather than his range (-13.5 runs). He can continue providing value with his glove in the corner outfield.

Now we get to his legs. Francoeur has as an above-average speed score for the first time in his career, and should collect 20 stolen bases when he’s never cracked double digits in that statistic before. Part of this is team philosophy. The Royals lead the American League in stolen bases and so they’ve sent him more than any other team. Part of this is improvement. He’s been successful on 73% of his attempts this year, 63% career. Maybe he concentrated on his quickness in the offseason, or maybe this is a one-year blip.

But the fact remains: Other than some of his speed-based statistics, there’s not really one outlier statistic when seen in the context of his career.

And yet, he’s showing his best wOBA (.344, career .318) and wRC+ (115, career 92) numbers of his career by far. Some of this is about the rest of the league getting worse. In the last three years, the league OPS has gone from .750 to .716, and the league’s wOBA has declined from .329 to .316. That drop has made his career wOBA go from below-average to above-average. In some ways, Frenchy has watched the league to get worse while he stayed the same.

A two year extension to a corner outfield in his peak ages is not going to cripple the Royals, and neither will it suppress any prospects that are ready to go. Wil Myers needs more seasoning and Lorenzo Cain is a center fielder or he should remain in the minor leagues. Even if Francoeur steals fewer bags and takes a step back in the power department, he’ll most likely put up close to an average wOBA next year. On the Royals (team wOBA .319), that’ll be useful.

[Edit: KC Star’s Bob Dutton reports that it’s two years, $13.5 million. That seems like he’s getting paid for his average production, not as if he’ll continue at his peak. Not terrible. Not great, but not terrible.]



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AustinRHL
Member
AustinRHL
5 years 1 month ago

That contract sounds like okay value for the Royals, although it doesn’t look like a bargain.

(Also, someone has to say it: you misspelled his name twice, including in the title.)

MikeD
Guest
MikeD
5 years 1 month ago

Ahh, mnemonics!

Brandon Warne
Member
Member
5 years 1 month ago

13.5 over two I’m hearing from Dutton.

Brandon Warne
Member
Member
5 years 1 month ago

Edit: Saw your edit.

Over and out.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel
5 years 1 month ago

Not a bad deal for the Royals. Frenchy is only 27 and even if what we’re seeing is his peak he should be able to maintain it for the next year or two, assuming if he stays healthy.

Yes, it’s chic to bash they guy and I’m sure there will be plenty of people whose initial reaction will be to laugh before they actually look at the numbers, but the Royals could have done much, much worse.

Drew
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Drew
5 years 1 month ago

His numbers are average this year and far, far below average any other year. What’s to see?

Doyle
Guest
Doyle
5 years 1 month ago

Average compared to what? To himself? To the MLB average from 2007? They’re still above average compared to MLB this year.

“In some ways, Frenchy has watched the league to get worse while he stayed the same.” That pretty much sums it up.

Dwezilwoffa
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Dwezilwoffa
5 years 1 month ago

All KC fans are aware of Dayton Moore’s ex brave Fetish. Keep waiting for Chipper Jones to retire and become the new answer at 3rd base for the Royals.

MikeD
Guest
MikeD
5 years 1 month ago

Hopefully the Royals plan here is to get value out of an unexpected year and trade Frenchy before the start of next season to a team in need of a RFer.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 1 month ago

Frenchy’s character was one of the main things mentioned when he was brought over initially. I’m not going to use his character as a sole justification of the contract extension, but I do think there’s some value for having a veteran presence on that young team.

The reason why some may have such a “Braves Fetish” is that Atlanta is a top notch organization, and guys that come up through that organization get to see how the org and players do it “the right way”. That’s not common. IMHO, what the Braves do is highly under-valued because it’s neither [1] sabermetrically-dominated nor [2] new. The Braves have been generally awesome since the 90s. Ho-hum, the Braves make the playoffs with another group of young players. Seen that movie before (hint, they don’t win the world seires), and the sequel, and the sequel’s sequel, and part 4, etc.

That’s he’s not making a ton or that he’s not taking time away from a MLB ready prospect maybe even more defensible. Somebody has to play RF, and the way KC is going and the way the ALC is, they could be contenders next year (could be).

People really seem to not like Frenchy, and for a variety of reasons. I have no emotional attachment to the guy, nor do I really care if he succeeds or fails.

Looking at what he HAS to do in order to be valuable (2 WAR) is surprising:
[1] league average fielder (he’s got that covered).
[2] slightly below average bat or better (50/50)
[3] stay healthy (better than average chances).

That’s it. If he does those 3 things, he’ll be valuable. I know it sounds much easier than it is, but that’s because he’s a lock for the average or above fielding. He’s had 3+WAR seasons before buoyed by a +20 FRun season, and a +14 FRun & .249 ISO HALF season (now THAT’s how to enter the major leagues).

His seasons alternate between a .300+ BABIP and a .270 BABIP, and in 2012 he’s due for a .270 BABIP That will lower his bat value.

Jeff Francouer BABIP

2005 – .337
2006 – .284
2007 – .337
2008 – .274
2009 – .305
2010 – .270
2011 – .311

Frenchy is in a new class of players called “Knee-Jerk Regressers”. I mean when they regress, they go overboard with it. *grin*

His .186 ISO is likely to regress (to aorund .150ish), which will also lower his bat value.

His career is actually kinda interesting. He alternates good/bad years rather well, revolving around BABIP. He’s either ~1WAR or ~3WAR. If it holds, 2011 will see 1 WAR, 2013 with 3 WAR.

No wonder he drives people crazy.

Deadpool
Guest
Deadpool
5 years 1 month ago

I think what we’re seeing with Francoeur in his BABIP is actually a cycle of behavior. He seems to focus on hitting good pitches at times, making better contact without upping his walk rate. Then he gets overconfident and expands his strike zone, making worse contact. These cycles would show the BABIP fluctuations you mention if you consider that they actually break down near the mid-season points every year.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 1 month ago

Just heard on Baseball Today that he has had (in 2011) [1] 2 months with an OPS over .900 and [2] 2 months with an OPS under .700

What you’re describing is a probably scenario. He gets going good, and gets overconfident, overagressive, sloppy, etc and it crushes him, then he “gets back to basics” and the cycle repeats.

It could also be due to schedule, and it could be due to pitcher adjustments, etc.

Welp
Guest
Welp
5 years 1 month ago

He was always fluctuated wildly like that. This season his highs have been higher (slightly more power) and his lows less amazingly low.

Is that reason to think he’s figured something out? Inconclusive. This extension is justifiable, but I don’t understand the baseball motivation for it (as opposed to the Dayton Moore motivation).

NEPP
Guest
NEPP
5 years 1 month ago

Most players not named Pujols have pretty streaky numbers if you break it down.

Welp
Guest
Welp
5 years 1 month ago

“he’s a lock for the average or above fielding.”

It’s interesting how much TZL hates him compared to the other metrics.

Playing like an average major league regular, easy as it sounds, is exactly what Francouer has struggled to do his entire career. This extension and the justifications for it reek of recency bias.

The extension is nowhere near a disaster; it’s fine. Just very unnecessary. Best case scenario he continues to mash lefties and play plus defense so a contender gives KC a useful piece in a trade next year.

shthar
Guest
shthar
5 years 1 month ago

The problem with regurgtations of figures like this, is it’s a failed attempt to describe two players, F vs LHP and F vs RHP.

Vs LHP, he’s a pretty good hitter.

Vs RHP, well, he’s got a good arm.

Trying to understand a player without taking into effect the l-r breakdown reduces your understanding back to the level of a seventies ‘game of the week’.

Brandon Warne
Member
Member
5 years 1 month ago

Off the top of my head, I wonder how similar his career path is/will be to Delmon Young…

baty
Guest
baty
5 years 1 month ago

The Royals needed to buy more developmental time for eventual replacements, and Francoeur’s defense and durability alone might be worth the contract. I think it could be very tradable if/when the Royals need to clear space for 2013.

I’m curious if Alex Gordon might be a long term solution in right field when the next set of prospects move in.

well
Guest
well
5 years 1 month ago

He got better because he was traded to the weak AL

Evan
Guest
Evan
5 years 1 month ago

When does a guy’s power actually peak? If Francoeur’s ISO is higher because he’s actually getting a little bit stronger as he approaches his peak?

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 1 month ago

Frenchy may have peaked at 21. *grin*

AGE – ISO (Jeff Francouer)

27 – 186
26 – 134
25 – 143
24 – 120
23 – 151
22 – 189
21 – 249

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 years 1 month ago

From an ISO standpoint, Frenchy *almost definitely did* peak at 21. /fixed/ =)

Very unlikely to surpass that 249 high-water mark, methinks.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 1 month ago

Since the 21yo season was a half season, I was giving Frenchy the benefit of the doubt that he may have an ISO of .249 or so for a half season (most notably the first half).

But yeah, his age 21 and 22 seaons were, by far, his best power seasons.

NEPP
Guest
NEPP
5 years 1 month ago

SI told me he was “The Natural”…why would they lie?!?

shthar
Guest
shthar
5 years 1 month ago

Versus left handers.

Bodhizefa
Guest
Bodhizefa
5 years 1 month ago

Could Francoeur feasibly live up to this contract? Sure, I guess. But who else would have given him this much money to play on their team? The Royals bid against themselves here. I can’t imagine another big league team (outside of perhaps LA/Colletti) even offering Frenchie a starting job, much less $13.5 mil guaranteed over two years. It’s just far too much money for a guy who, despite having a decent enough year, isn’t in demand at all and could have been signed for much much cheaper.

walt526
Guest
walt526
5 years 1 month ago

As this will keep Brian Sabean from making him another FA mistake for at least another two years.

Flharfh
Guest
Flharfh
5 years 1 month ago

“Lorenzo Cain is a center fielder or he should remain in the minor leagues.”

You don’t think Lorenzo Cain could provide similar production as Francoeur for a fraction of the cost, even in RF?

Better for the Royals to keep Melky, put him in RF, and play Cain in center. Cain is being wasted in AAA. I don’t discount the possibility that Melky may be with another team come next year, but if the Royals start 2012 with Gordon/Melky/Frenchy and Cain in AAA I think that is a mistake.

Jack Schirmer
Guest
Jack Schirmer
5 years 1 month ago

Those of you claiming this is a decent to good signing understand that Francouer was easily in the running for worst player in the majors, 2008-2010 division, right?

His OPS+, starting in 2008, was

72
93
84

That’s for a RFer. Since May 4th his OPS+ has been slightly below league average. April counts, but that’s what the Royals are paying for, with their 13 million dollars. One month’s production out of the last four years.

When did Fangraphs become AmazinAvenue?

Doyle
Guest
Doyle
5 years 1 month ago

Sure, he’s not directly block Lorenzo Cain from coming up, but I’d say this signing absolutely blocks Cain from playing next year (and maybe in 2013) even though he’s more than ready to come up now. They have control of Melky through next year and they should sign Alex Gordon to an extension after this season (priority #1 in my book) so next year’s outfield will look exactly like todays.

They could have let Frenchy walk, moved Gordon to right (not sure how good of a move that would be, actually, but it’d probably be better than sticking Melky there), moved Melky to left and brought up Cain to play center. Now Cain will remain in AAA for another year with nothing left to prove or he’ll be promoted to ride the bench in 2012. I’m not a fan of either of those options.

If, on the other hand, this signing was the Royals way of saying that they’re keeping Frenchy over Melky, then they made the wrong call. I’m glad Dayton got over his “I’ll take anyone who has played in Seattle” phase, I just wish he’d stop taking everyone that Atlanta gets rid of.

Jack Schirmer
Guest
Jack Schirmer
5 years 1 month ago

Yup–not only could they have let Frenchy walk, they could have gotten something for him. Now they get the worst of all possible worlds. No distant lottery ticket, and they’re paying him actual money.

Isn’t this the signing that’s always excoriated, for good reason? You pick up a guy whose promise was years ago, and who has been horrible for three years. You get phenomenally lucky, but instead of dealing him for someone who juuuust might be good on the next good Royals team, you not only keep him, but sign him to the largest contract he could conceivably get.

This is GMing at its worst. Sad to say, it’s not surprising.

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