Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 9, 2010
BASEBALL: Frenchy Must Go
OK, this is perhaps the most obvious post I've ever written, but it needs to be said: Jeff Francouer must go. The Mets have sufficiently faded from the division and Wild Card races - they're not out of either race yet, but they're in miracle-comeback territory - that it's no longer worth pretending that they are playing for 2010. Which means it's time to get rid of Jeff Francouer by any available means.
Not that Francouer is an asset in the short run, either. But he's the most visible symbol of the futility of a Mets lineup that, based on today's stats, has yet to field a lineup this season in which everyone in slots 1-8 had a slugging and on base percentage above .300. A .300/.300 line should be the barest minumum competence for any major league "hitter," yet the Mets have given extensive playing time to four batters with sub-.300 OBPs (Francouer, Rod Barajas, the just-released Alex Cora and Ruben Tejada) and three so punchless they can't slug .300 (Luis Castillo, Cora and Tejada). If you're keeping score at home, that's a catcher, three middle infielders...and an everyday right fielder who is slugging .385 and has hit .255/.300/.390 over 1668 plate appearances over the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons, with more GIDP than HR over that period. Among players with 1600 or more plate appearances over that stretch, only Kevin Kouzmanoff and Billy Butler have scored fewer runs.
I've been a Francouer skeptic ever since he arrived in the NL in 2005 due to his total lack of plate patience, but early on, his talent was undeniable; he hit .300/.336/.549 in half a season as a 21-year-old, and after stumbling his first full season, batted .293/.338/.444 at age 23, cracking 40 doubles and doubling his walk rate.
How far has Francouer fallen? Here's the 10-most-comparable players' rest-of-career lines for him, from ages 22-25 - note the revival of hope at the end of last season, which undoubtedly will vanish this year:
22 (2006): .273/.350/.461 (120 OPS+)
Even as late as early this season, I held a sliver of hope that, like Jose Guillen, the 26-year-old onetime first round draft pick who batted .311/.338/.498 after leaving Atlanta last season might put together a 1-3 year prime where he had just enough discipline at the plate for his talents to briefly shine through in his physical prime.
Not to be. Francouer has never learned, and still says he's just not comfortable taking pitches early in the count, which means he never sees strikes. Unlike last season and April of this year, he's not even hitting at Citi Field anymore, .222/.267/.375 on the season. He's still dangerous against lefthanders - .318/.379/.471 in 95 plate appearances this season, .300/.344/.485 career - and still has the great throwing arm, but at $4 million a year and eligible for arbitration, he's far too expensive to keep around just in a Tatis-style role. And starting a corner OF who hits .217/.266/.357 against righthanded pitching should be grounds for immediate termination.
I don't expect the Mets can get anything useful for Francouer, and perhaps they would have to eat so much of his salary it would hardly be worth it, but they're stuck paying him as is, so the only benefit to not trading him is the joy of watching him make outs. Yes, it may sound churlish to say that when he's hit three game-winning homers in a week, but sell high if you can, and if not, just cut the cord.