Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Frenchy's Cheaters

Jeff Francoeur is having a hell of a time at the plate, and the Braves think they have a solution:

Searching for answers to his extended slump, Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur was fitted Monday for a single contact lens for his right eye.

His vision in the eye has deteriorated since Francoeur was struck in the face by a pitch while squaring to bunt in a 2004 minor league game, and he thinks it might be a cause for the wide gap between his offensive statistics in day and night games.

“It’s been tough, but I try to stay positive,” he said. “There’s so much of the season left. We can really take off. They need me to do what I’ve done the last two seasons.”
Yes, Francoeur has some pretty big day-night splits -- for his career he's about .100 points of OPS better during the day -- but the 26 day games this season notwithstanding, the difference is almost all in the slugging percentage, not the OBP. That suggests to me that he can swing harder and the ball can carry farther during the day, but that he's not much better at recognizing a good pitch from a bad one when it's light than when it's dark. Maybe the contacts will work -- they did for Matt Diaz for a while -- maybe they won't.

I think Francoeur's biggest problem is not his eyesight but his utter lack of a plan when he comes to bat. He's been up for four seasons now -- nearly 2000 plate appearances -- yet he still swings at everything regardless of context or game situation. He still chases awful pitches. He still sits dead red and swings for the fences. If I were forced at gunpoint to bet my children on a single baseball outcome, "Francoeur hits into a first-pitch 4-6-3 with one out and the bases loaded and his team down by two" would be my horse.

Francoeur's numbers show a tremendous regression in their own right, but you can get a better indication of just how lost he is by simply watching him hit. At least when he came up -- before people realized they didn't have to throw him strikes -- he looked confident and balanced. Now he's all over the place.

I hope it's just eye trouble, but I fear that he's just a victim of arrested development, a discipline deficiency, poor coaching, and too much success too soon.

(thanks to themarksmith for the heads up)

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