Archive for June, 2006

Calling Me Out

Two weeks ago, Lang Whitaker called me out for my post on Jeff Francoeur in SLAM magazine.

In the larger picture, this book apparently mirrors the trend in all sports of putting more of an emphasis on numerical evidence and drawing conclusions based on numbers, like Linkstigator John Hollinger does or like they do at 82games.com. I understand the movement and in some ways I appreciate the way numbers make everything so cut and dried. But at the same time, I find it impossible to rely solely on numbers. For instance, a couple of weeks ago Sam sent me an article from sabernomics.com about Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur started the season slumping, and this article went back and analyzed all sorts of numbers and determined that “There is a real problem,” that the Braves were “going to have to gut this one out.” The author also called for everyone to stop pretending that Francoeur is an All-Star.

Since then, Francoeur warmed up, and he’s now up to 10 home runs and 36 RBIs (good for 6th in the National League).

So what happened? Well, Francoeur made adjustments. He figured out what he was doing wrong and fixed it.

And I guess that’s illustrative of my main beef with the reliance of numbers in evaluation. I loved Moneyball and thought it was a great read. Given the circumstances on Oakland — no money to spend, etc. — it’s worked really well.

But at some point, don’t we have to just look a guy and watch him play and say whether or not he’s going to be good or bad or a good fit for our team?

Since then—refering to the time since Whitaker posted the article— Frenchy has posted a .200/.213/.267/.479 line in 47 PAs. For the season, he’s put up an ugly .247/.260/.426/.686 .

As to the insinuation that I only looked at numbers, I’ve watched nearly every at-bat of Francoeur’s this season. I know that if you throw it high and inside, he can’t hit it; and I haven’t seen any stats on his hitting zone this season. You don’t need to: Frenchy looks bad up there. He is talented and can hit the ball a long way when he connects, but he is an out-machine right now. My eyes tell me this, and the stats confirm it. I suspect hit OPS will not stay below .700 for the entire season, but he’s not an All-Star yet. If you think otherwise, play The Jeff Francoeur Game.