June Comes Early for Jeff Francoeur

Surprising fact of the early season: with 8 games and 35 PAs Jeff Francoeur has six walks. That puts him in the top 35 for number of walks and walk rate. Last year his walk rate of 3.6% was 4th worst, and he did not collect his sixth walk until June 2nd (he finished with 23). His best walk-taking eight-game span last year was 6/2 to 6/10 when he took four walks. In 2008 it was 7/27/08 to 8/2/08 when he had five walks. And back in 2007 he had two eight-game six-walk spans (4/11/07 to 4/18/07 and 9/8/07 to 9/16/07). So Francouer has had such periods of patience in his past, but they are relatively distant and very rare.

Looking at the per-pitch numbers his O-swing rate is just as poor as always, but his Z-Swing rate is down (67% this year compared to a career average of 81%). It is counter intuitive but swinging at fewer pitches in the zone could contribute to more walks. By swinging at fewer of these pitches he gets called strikes, but also extends at-bats in which he could potentially take a walk. The other big change so far is his number of pitches in the zone (44% compared to 50%). Fewer swings and more pitches out of the zone means more walks. With the small number of PAs the lower Zone% is probably just random variation, but it might also have to do with the quality of hitters he is in front of (twice Fernando Tatis, twice Gary Matthews Jr. and four times Rod Barajas).

Either way as Dave C. noted we should take these 35 PAs with the smallest grain of salt compared to his almost 3000 career PAs. But the fact that he has accomplished something that it took him until June 2nd to do last year (get six walks) and that he has done just twice before in his career, and both times back in 2007, (six walks in eight games) should at least be applauded. This is also encouraging based on his apparent change in attitude towards walks: going from “If on-base percentage is important, then why don’t they put it up on the scoreboard?” in the middle of last season, to “If I can mix in 50-60 walks, I become a totally different guy” this offseason. You sure do Jeff.




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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


20 Responses to “June Comes Early for Jeff Francoeur”

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  1. Reuben says:

    I’m rooting for the guy even if I don’t believe him.

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  2. JoeyO says:

    If you say this
    “If on-base percentage is important, then why don’t they put it up on the scoreboard?” (on 5/5/09)

    and this
    “Last year I was able to drive the ball because I got myself into a lot of 2-0, 2-1 counts, something I’ve never done,” he said. “The pitcher’s got to come to you and you can do damage.” (2/25/10 in the second article)

    then I really believe people talked you into repeating the “mix in 50-60 walks” thing without you really believing it.

    Sure, Francoeur is taking more pitches. But it sounds as if it may be with the idea of swinging at later pitches and the early walk total might be more indicative of batting ahead of Tatis/GMJ/Barajas coupled with who he was facing.

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  3. Ingeindahouse says:

    Yeah did anyone else notice that Jacobs and Francoeur both had 2 walks last night. I woke both of my roommates up when I read it.

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  4. Bill says:

    baseball players – could they possibly be dumb?

    Seriously, how did he not see OBP on the scoreboard?

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  5. MGL says:

    Nothing against you Dave, but it always amuses me when I read something like, “While such-and-such in 32 PA means almost nothing (which is correct), there is reason for optimism (or concern)…”

    Well, if “such-and-such” in 32 PA truly means almost nothing, then there is NO (or at least very little) reason for optimism (or concern), unless you consider a .5% chance (or whatever it is) that someone has significantly changed their true talent level “reason for optimism.” You can’t have it both ways. Personally, I don’t (think a tiny chance of a change in true talent level is reason for optimism), but that is certainly a matter of opinion and personal taste. Or perhaps you and other writers along these lines are talking about “false optimism” such as when you observe a roulette wheel land on red 10 times in a row, you bet on black (or red) and you are “optimistic” that it will land on black (or red again, I guess) on the next spin. Who am I to tell someone what to be optimistic about…

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    • JoeyO says:

      If I say I am going to quit drinking, and a week later I havent had a single drink since saying it, do you still say I am an alcoholic and act as if there is no chance of me changing?

      There is reason for optimism because he is doing something different. Its only been done for a very limited amount of time so it doesnt mean much on the big scale yet, but that doesnt erase the fact something different is happening either.

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    • Dave Allen says:

      MGL,

      I think that is a fair criticism that I on the one hand said ‘don’t make a big deal out of this’, but then on the other hand said ‘oh you should be encouraged by it.’ Your comments are always appreciated.

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  6. Hey he’s still relatively young and he’s shown natural ability to hit the ball very hard. He’s obviously not the brightest bulb, but maybe something’s clicked. I have watched just about every Met game since spring training and he does seem a like he has a more patient, professional hitter approach as opposed to his usual hackery. I’m not holding my breath as I’m a Mets fan and I know better, but I’ll enjoy watching him swing (or not) either way.

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    • Timotheus says:

      Not hating, but I just want to throw this out there — the only people who have ever accused Jeff of being dumb or stupid are the same people who are so obsessed with OBP that they cannot fathom why anyone thinks Milton Bradley IS dumb or stupid (which he clearly is).

      People who have ever truly known or played with Jeff (of which I am one) know he’s one of the hardest-working, good-natured people in the game. He’s a quality individual and has always worked hard to improve his game.

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  7. MGL says:

    As I said, it depends on your definition of optimism. I define it, in this context, as the percentage chance that his walk rate (or whatever it is you are optimistic about) increases over the rest of the season. Of course, if you are a Met or Francouer fan, you only care about his overall production.

    Now, the only way to settle how you REALLY feel about the situation, other than just an irrational feeling, which we ALL have all the time, is to ask you (Joey O and 3 Fingers), what line would you be willing to post and let me bet either over or under on Frenchy’s over/under for the rest of the season?

    Zips originally has a projected OPS for the season of .735. CHONE had .752. The current updated ZIPS for the rest of the season is .762. so ZIPS is in fact “optimistic” about Frenchy to the tune of 27 more points in OPS. So perhaps his excellent performance in 35 PA is NOT such a small grain of salt.

    So, since you are so optimistic, what line would be willing to post on Frenchy’s rest of season OPS? That answers all of our questions without resorting to such nebulous words and concepts as “optimistic” which can mean many things for many people in many different contexts.

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  8. MGL says:

    “increases over the rest of the season.”

    As compared to the last 3 or 4 seasons, or, more accurately, as compared to a good pre-season projection, which includes regression, park adjustments, and aging.

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  9. MGL says:

    “over/under for the rest of the season?”

    Sorry, I am multi-tasking. That should read “OPS for the rest of the season.”

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    • JoeyO says:

      “As I said, it depends on your definition of optimism. I define it, in this context, as the percentage chance that his walk rate (or whatever it is you are optimistic about) increases over the rest of the season.”

      So you openly admit to having almost no clue what optimism means? Well that explains it I guess…

      and to these
      “OPS for the rest of the season.” and
      “So, since you are so optimistic, what line would be willing to post on Frenchy’s rest of season OPS?”

      So you now, OPS also doesnt mean Walks or BB% or taking pitches… at all, in any way. Give Francoeur a 18.4 BB% in 2008 and his season OPS would be .731, a point lower then the .732 from 2009 when he posted a 3.6 BB%.

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      • deadpool says:

        That’s not even a remotely fair way to answer the question, but you knew that. What is interesting about it is it highlights the fact that simply walking more won’t really solve Francoeur’s problems, he needs to translate patience into production, which I think is what MGL is getting at. Although I would be interested to see a what that would translate to in wOBA or WAR. I may run that later, would you consider it unfair to just take out unproductive non-strikeout at-bats to replace with BBs? Or would it be more fair to just add the BBs on top and assume if he walked more he’d get the 7 or 8 games worth of at-bats he missed out on last year?

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      • JoeyO says:

        “That’s not even a remotely fair way to answer the question, but you knew that.”

        Not sure what question I was answering. Unless of course you include answering a question that doesnt make sense by pointing out an incorrect definition is being used.

        “What is interesting about it is it highlights the fact that simply walking more won’t really solve Francoeur’s problems”

        Only MGL seems to assume that is the only thing that needs to be done

        “he needs to translate patience into production, which I think is what MGL is getting at.”

        He hasnt said anything to the effect, and instead just questioned someone saying what boils down to “he wanted to walk more. He is walking more. You can be optimistic”

        “Although I would be interested to see a what that would translate to in wOBA or WAR.”

        It would increase his wOBA, but it is OPS which was MGLs concern

        “would you consider it unfair to just take out unproductive non-strikeout at-bats to replace with BBs?”

        I could care less what you do with it – the point was solely to show that higher BB% doesnt equal higher OPS. I showed what adding 81 additional PA where he took nothing but walks does to numbers, and that extreme walk rates doesnt mean extreme OPS lines. But I could have just as easily done this
        2008 – 6.0 BB%, .653 OPS
        2009 – 3.6 BB%, .732 OPS

        No matter what, his idiotic “question(s)” which he attacked others with will never make any sense.

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  10. deadpool says:

    I think that the point here is that it wouldn’t take much additional patience for Francoeur to de-marginalize himself. Last year he had to bat over .300 in order to establsih a league average OBP. So any patience just makes a league average OBP that much easier to attain (since his true talent level is probably around .270-.280 hits/at-bat) I also think that a look at his chase percentages on ESPN inside edge can be enlightening, because he is taking more pitches outside and he’s cut his inside chase percentage alot. He’s proven that he can get hits below the zone, so I don’t worrry as much there. I’d also point out that his gb% has risen, which should have a positive effect on his BABIP. If I had to come up with a best case scenario I’d say HoJo has taught him something about his swing, that his arms and reach make him better suited to hitting balls the further they are from his body, and he’s only swinging at pitches he can make solid contact on. The walks may be an “accidental” result of that, but at the very least its improved the rate at which he makes solid contact. .290/.335/.460 for a season in that result.

    Worst case scenario he does what he’s done in the past and expands his zone because he gets confident. .265/.290/.425

    I also think there’s a chance that he lost some ability to track the ball visually when he got hit in the eye in ST a few years ago, his BB% had been improving gradually year to year before that and that was the year he started his real decent. Maybe its healed?

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  11. Jack Straw says:

    I read MGL’s posts as a pleasant challenge to take an educated guess at what Francouer’s numbers are going to be over the rest of the season. No idea why they’ve generated a vitriolic response.

    As for me, I think it’s dandy Francouer’s approach has changed a little over the first nine games of the season. His response to his first slump will tell us more, as will his response to this hot streak.

    Over/under on 2010: .280/.320/.460. The leopard does not change his spots (much).

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  12. Eric Simon says:

    The scoreboard is Runs in each inning, total runs, hits and errors, as well as the current at-bat. That’s all. OBP is part of the individual stat screens that teams display, but it is not part of the traditional scoreboard. That is all what Francoeur meant.

    Remember, context is key.

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  13. DavidCEisen says:

    1 walk in his last 14 games, so much for a new approach. His Z-swing is now at 76% and his O-swing is 40%. Same old Jeff.

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