Jeff Francouer sympathizers may point to Frenchy’s decent batting average (.281 for the year, .313 in New York) and RBI (76 for the year, 41 in New York) and say that he’s been a valuable player. Not so fast my friend.
Take a look at his fangraphs page, and those same sympathizers might be surprised to find that Frenchy has been worth negative 0.7 million dollars. That’s right, he’s cost his teams his salary, plus a half million dollars this year. How could that be? Did those 76 RBI not happen?
Well, first an explanation of Win Values as they are calculated on fangraphs.com. That value is tied to what the player would get on the open market, so it’s tied to the number of dollars spent on free agents overall. Basically, fangraphs took the total salary of all the players and tied that combined salary to the number of combined wins above replacement the teams are all vying for.
A replacement-level team winning percentage was set at .300, and the lowest team salary was $12 million last year. All of the MLB spends $2.67 billion on all of the players’ salaries. Then, if you take away $12 million per team (minium/replacement level salaries), that means the MLB spends $2.31 billion dollars on wins beyond replacement level. The teams are all vying for the 1000 wins above replacement level (the other 70% of the wins), so a win above a replacement player is worth $2.31 million dollars.
The statistic is therefore based on wins above replacement. Using the pythagorean theorem for expected win-loss records, we can find that ten runs equal a win. Basically, if you score ten more runs than you give up, the pythagorean theorem says you should end up with 82 wins. If a player can help you score ten runs more than he helps you give up, he’s worth $2.31 million this year.
And fangraphs evaluates players based on how many runs they give up on defense and how many runs they add on offense – over a replacement player.
In other words, Jeff Francouer is just below a replacement-level player. If you had a team of him, the team would be the offense and defense of a .300-level team. Why?
Well, on defense, despite his good arm, Frenchy gives up over 13.5 runs on range. That means a replacement level player would get to 13.5 runs worth of balls that he can’t get to. Even using his career numbers in right field, Frenchy regularly gives up a win’s worth of runs in right field every year.
That would be okay if he hit like a corner outfielder. But his .281/.310/.425 line is not worthy of a corner outfielder. It’s actually even below average for any player in the National League, including shortstops, because the average OPS in the NL this year is hovering around .747. Ouch. So that means Frenchy is costing his team runs on both sides of the ball.
That’s how you play worse-than-replacement level baseball, folks. You don’t get to balls that the average right fielder would get to, and you don’t exhibit power or on-base abilities beyond the average player. Yes, you can drive in 76 runs and not be more valuable to your team than any other minor leaguer you could call up to play average ball in your place.