Francoeur in Queens

This past July, the Atlanta Braves severed ties with Jeff Francoeur.

Formerly the golden child of the farm system, Francoeur appeared to establish himself as a franchise pillar in 2007. As a 23 year-old, Frenchy increased his walk rate (albeit modestly) and posted a .337 wOBA. His .340+ BABIP suggested he got some fortunate bounces, but few could have predicted his atrocious 2008 season.

Francoeur’s BABIP regressed severely, but he was an unmitigated disaster at the plate:

Francoeur went from a dark horse MVP candidate in the eyes of some to a Mississippi Brave during the course of the season, as he was demoted to the Southern League for a brief period of time. He did experience pretty awful luck on balls in play, as his expected BABIP (.327) was much higher than his actual BABIP (.277). If we adjust for that, his line improves to .289/.344/.409. Where’s the power, though?

Frenchy posted a stunning -22.7 Park Adjusted Batting Runs in 2008. No other batter in the majors did more damage to his club’s run-scoring chances.

2009 began no better for Francoeur. As a Brave, he batted .250/.282/.352 in 324 PA. But following his July trade to the New York Mets for OF Ryan Church, Francoeur posted a .311/.338/.498 line in 308 PA.

This gave rise to countless “change of scenery” narratives, suggesting all the erstwhile top prospect needed was a one-way ticket out of the Peach State. But did Francoeur really make any changes at the plate that portend to sustained success?

Here are Frenchy’s plate discipline stats with the Braves:

April: 27 O-Swing%, 80.2 Z-Swing%, 89.9 Z-Contact%, 67.1 F-Strike%
May: 42.9 O-Swing%, 79 Z-Swing%, 84.4 Z-Contact% 69.6 F-Strike%
June: 33.1 O-Swing%, 82.7 Z-Swing%, 89.5 Z-Contact%, 65.6 F-Strike%
July: 40.9 O-Swing%, 78.1 Z-Swing%, 84.4 Z-Contact% 68 F-Strike%

O-Swing= Outside-Swing Percentage (25% MLB avg)
Z-Swing= Swing pct. on pitches in the strike zone (65.9% MLB avg)
Z-Contact= Pct. of contact on pitches in the strike zone (87.8% MLB avg)
F-Strike= First-Pitch Strike Percentage (58.2% MLB avg)

..And here are his numbers with the Mets:

July: 33.1 O-Swing%, 86.8 Z-Swing%, 93.9 Z-Contact%, 61.8 F-Strike%
August: 37.8 O-Swing%, 79.9 Z-Swing%, 87.8 Z-Contact%, 61.7 F-Strike%
September/October: 37.2 O-Swing%, 83.5 Z-Swing%, 90.1 Z-Contact%, 58.7 F-Strike%

Overall with Braves: 35.4 O-Swing%, 80.3 Z-Swing%, 87.4 Z-Contact%, 67.6 F-Strike%
Overall with Mets: 36.5 O-Swing%, 82.9 Z-Swing%, 90.2 Z-Contact%, 60.5 F-Strike%

Francoeur put the ball in play on the first pitch or got behind in the count 0-and-1 less often, and he made more contact on pitches within the strike zone. But it’s hard to say that he made any progress whatsoever in terms of working the count. He still hacked at a sky-high number of pitches, both inside and outside of the zone.

Take a look at Francoeur’s BABIP by month:

April:.280
May: .273
June: .267
July: .282
Aug: .368
Sept/Oct: .348

Frenchy’s BABIP with the Braves was .281. With the Mets, it was .343.

According to this XBABIP tool from The Hardball Times, Frenchy’s BABIP with Atlanta (based on HR, K’s, SB, line drives, fly balls, pop ups and grounders) should have been around .310. As a Met, his batted ball profile suggested a BABIP between .295 and .300.

Francoeur was unlucky with the Braves, and got plenty of breaks with the Mets. His overall XBABIP for the season was .304, compared to an actual .311 mark. In other words, his overall .280/.309/.423 triple-slash is a pretty accurate reflection of his talents.

Frenchy did hit for more power as a Met, with a .187 ISO and 10 HR compared to a .102 ISO and 5 HR with the Braves. However, there are few signs that the soon-to-be 26 year-old made any sort of alteration in his strike-zone judgment. In his new digs, Francoeur still chased pitches wildly off the plate, walking in 3.7% of his PA (3.8% with the Braves).

Over the next few months, much ink will be spilled on how Francoeur got a new lease on his career and is poised to break out in 2010. Unfortunately, a closer look at his season suggests that he remains the same free-swinger who has been nearly 30 runs below average with the bat during his big league tenure. Approach Francoeur cautiously on draft day.



Print This Post

A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Pat
Guest
Pat

Could a park like Citifield skew BABIP higher because of the expansive outfield?

If so could we expect him to continue to outperform his xBABIP

The A Team
Guest
The A Team

That depends if David used park adjusted numbers or just the raw data. It looks like he used the raw data so there could be some variability. In any case, the Braves don’t exactly play in a bandbox so I’m guessing the effect would only be a handful of points in xBABIP.

I wonder how this tool’s treatment of speed affects the output. Francoeur has speed score numbers in the range of pathetic to below average. However his 6 steals last year might lead the tool to think he has modest utility on the bases. Especially because it fails to recognize the 4 CS.

wpDiscuz