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Just The Sports: A Slump or Not A Slump?

Just The Sports

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Slump or Not A Slump?

John Donovan raised an interesting question today in his article about Jeff Francoeur. For those of you who do not already know, Francoeur was the feel-good story of last year's MLB season. He was a hometown kid, played his high school ball in Atlanta, and was not only getting the chance to play professional baseball for the Atlanta Braves, but was doing so at a very high level. At least in the beginning. Since then, Francoeur has been in a tailspin when it comes to his productivity at the plate.

In Donovan's article, he opines when exactly Francoeur will work his way out of his 3 for 37 hitting slump. While this is not the most ridiculous question a sports writer has ever asked, one has to wonder about the wording of the aforementioned question. To ask if Francoeur is in a slump presupposes that he should be doing better than he currently is. However, I want to bring an opposing view to discussing the issue that is Francoeur's poor hitting. What if the good hitting was the aberration? What if what everyone sees as a problem is merely Francoeur regressing to the mean?

When Francoeur was first called up to the big leagues in July, he could do no wrong against major league pitching. In his first month, Francoeur accumulated amazing stats: .413 BA, .413 OBP, .913 SLG, and 1.326 OPS. Of course he did this in only 46 at-bats.

August, when Francoeur had 109 at-bats, saw his hitting stats drop some. While they were still respectable (.312 BA, .364 OBP, .514 SLG, and .878 OPS), evidence pointed to the fact that the more plate appearances Francoeur had, the worse a hitter he became.

By the time September rolled around, Francoeur was no longer a hot-shot rookie. Every team the Braves faced had by then compiled a scouting report on Frenchy and knew he was too aggressive at the plate and would swing at bad pitches. His stats for September certainly reflected this: (.247 BA, .287 OBP, .452 SLG, .739 OPS).

So with each month in Jeff Francoeur's career, there has been a regression across the board in his batting statistics. With this mountain of evidence, it is not too unsafe to conclude Francoeur may not be the great hitter everyone thought he was. Time will tell how Francoeur's career plays out, but if he keeps on the track he's on, he will mostly likely play himself right out of the major leagues.

Note: Of course, in today's game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Francoeur goes 3 for 4 with 2 HRs.


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