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Just The Sports: The Longest Slump Ever

Just The Sports

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Longest Slump Ever

Either that or Jeff Francoeur is an absolutely horrific hitter. With the first month of the baseball season behind us, it is time for the monthly Francoeur update to see if he has finally broken out of the "slump" John Donovan thinks he was in. When we last checked in with Francoeur, he had started the season 3 for 37. Since then he has raised his batting average to .216, a mark still well below the average for major league players. In addition, he continued his trend of seeing his offensive statistics decline across the board. For the month of April, Francoeur's stats were god-awful: .216 BA, .230 OBP, .371 SLG, .601 OPS.

If Francoeur's hitting woes were a result of poor mechanics, I would be far less concerned about it than I am. But the problem lies in his approach at the plate. His most glaring weakness is his uber-aggressiveness and his propensity to swing at bad pitches, which, in turn, keeps the pitcher from having to work too hard to get him out. Yet, Francoeur is on the record saying that he needs to be more aggressive, not less. Maybe if he took a look at his on-base percentage, he would start singing another tune. To get some idea of how little patience Francoeur has once he steps into the batter's box, he sees on average 3.08 pitchers per plate appearance. That is good enough to rank him 189th out of 190 major league players with at least seventy plate appearances. Compare that to the median average of 3.85 pitches per plate appearance. When a player sees as few pitches as Francoeur does, he will be unable to learn anything about the pitcher's stuff or get his timing down leading to bad at-bats throughout the game.

Furthermore, Francoeur's inability to lay off pitches means he is not going to take walks and therefore, his on-base percentage will be solely tied to his batting average. Since he is not hitting well, he is not getting on-base, and is therefore hurting him team more than he may be helping it with his above-average defense. After 100 plate appearances, Francoeur has walked a total of zero times. For a player to go up to the plate 100 different times and not manage to walk at least once, he has to really hate to get on base. Or maybe Francoeur hasn't learned that being a good hitter isn't always about getting home runs and that is as as much if not more about simply finding a way to get on base.

With that said, even I think Francoeur will be hard-pressed to continue his regression. The bottom for him has to be somewhere, right? In a month, we will know for sure.


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