Jeff Francoeur continues to battle a slump that has now extended for about a month and a half. Through the first 10 games of the season, Francoeur had been a man possessed, batting .457 and—get this—walking 7 times. We should have known right then and there that this Francoeur was an impostor and that there was really no way that that kind of hitting and plate discipline would continue.
Since April 17th, the day of that 20 inning marathon between the Cardinals and the Mets, the day that Francoeur went 0-for-7, the Mets’ lineup has essentially consisted of 7 position players because Francoeur’s bat is nowhere to be found. The ugly, ugly numbers show a slash line since then of .154/.201/.231 in 130 AB’s.
Putting our stat-hat on for just a minute, if we compare Francoeur’s performance so far this year, he would have a RAR (runs above average replacement player) of -2.5 and a WAR (wins above average replacement player) of -0.3. In other words, the Mets would not have to look very far to find someone who can outperform Francoeur as he is hindering the team more than helping. The Mets owe him $5.0 million this year and and it wouldn’t be unfair for the Mets to ask for their money back. And while we’re at it, Oliver Perez is another one who should be hanging his head all the way to the bank as he cashes in on his $36.0 million contract. But we’ll save that discussion for another day.
There was an article printed on ESPN that mentioned that Jerry Manuel had called Francoeur into his office for a talk prior to Saturday’s game against the Brewers. Apparently, Manuel told Frenchy to “tune out all the voices”. I’m assuming the “voices” that Francoeur needs to tune out are the countless people that are giving him hitting advice and not some voice like Shoeless Joe Jackson speaking to him from a cornfield. Or perhaps the whisper voices that the LOST castaways heard in their island paradise. That would raise far more concerns than a .226 batting average.
So we can only assume that Francoeur is over-thinking. He is not staying within himself and he is pressing. That’s sometimes tough to tell on Francoeur since normally a batter who is pressing tends to reach for pitches out of the strike zone or tries to be more aggressive at the plate. But Francoeur swings at the first pitch over 60% of the time and he widens the strike zone anyway. Although this season he seems to be reaching a little more with a 44% rate compared to career average of 37%. But in any case, poor plate discipline is the norm for him irregardless.
The larger problem that’s more easily identifiable is that his line drive rate is…well let’s call it like it is, pathetic. He hits line drives only 11% of the time. This is 8% lower then his career norm and this is having the biggest impact on his poor hitting along with popping up the ball more than 18% of the time. To put it simply, he’s just not squaring up on the ball and his pitch recognition is off.
What the future holds for Francoeur is uncertain. Since, Carlos Beltran is still on the mend and Beltran’s return seems to be a moving target that keeps moving deeper and deeper into the season, the Mets need Francoeur’s bat to contribute. The talk with Manuel seemed to have helped on Saturday as Francoeur went 2-for-3 with a walk and has put together a modest 3-game hit streak, batting .400 during that short time. It’s not a lot, but it’s a spark that we can hope gathers momentum.
So whatever, voices or non-voices Francoeur has been listening to or not listening to over the past few games, let’s hope that he keeps it up. Otherwise, the Mets may find themselves turning to Chris Carter more and more and Francoeur could find himself on the bench when (if?) Beltran comes back.