It’s hard to get mad at Jeff Francoeur. He’s flashy young player with speed and power. The stat-heads of the Braves community have been criticizing Francoeur for his plate discipline. This of course drives most baseball fans crazy. “He’s on a pace to hit over 30 home runs and 100 RBI! How can you complain about that?” Well, it’s true that Jeff has done some things well. But the thing he’s been most exceptional at is not knocking in runs but making outs.
While we’re talking about outs let’s see how many outs Francoeur projects to produce compared to the entire history of baseball.
Rank Player Team YEAR OPS Outs 1 Horace Clarke NYA 1970 0.595 514 2 Juan Samuel PHI 1984 0.749 510 2 Tom Brown LOU 1892 NA 510 2 Sandy Alomar CAL 1971 0.621 510 5 Omar Moreno PIT 1980 0.631 508 6 Jose Reyes NYN 2005 0.687 506 7 Frankie Crosetti NYA 1939 NA 503 7 Sandy Alomar CAL 1970 0.596 503 9 Bobby Richardson NYA 1965 0.609 500 10 Omar Moreno PIT 1979 0.714 499 10 Woody Jensen PIT 1936 NA 499 10 Roger Metzger HOU 1972 0.547 499 10 Bill Virdon PIT 1962 0.631 499 10 Jeff Francoeur* ATL 2006 0.710 499
*Projected for 2006 through 6/26/2006
Francoeur is on a pace to produce nearly 500 outs this season, which would be one of the top-10 out-making seasons of all time. And Horace Clark’s record is within reach.
In terms of home runs and RBIs, Francoeur’s numbers do look good; however, that’s only because people who put up those types of numbers don’t make as many outs as Francoeur does. If all you had was his projected traditional batting line of .250/ 32/116, you’d be right to guess that the player was having a good season. Of players who hit more than 30 but less than 35 home runs in a season, they average an OPS of .893 and produce 389 outs. That’s a HUGE difference: an OPS of 180 points higher and 110 fewer outs.
In the department of economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause – it is seen. The others unfold in succession – they are not seen: it is well for us, if they are foreseen. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference – the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favourable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse.
As fans, we see the home runs and runs batted in. They are visible good events that we recall fondly, because they directly produce runs. In a game where an out is the most common outcome, outs do not have the same visible impact on run production and they don’t stick in our memories. Furthermore, players who tend to do the good things Jeff does don’t normally do the bad things. In fact no player who has ever hit between 30 and 35 home runs in a season has posted as many outs as Francoeur projects to produce this season— the highest out total was 479 (Leon Wagner, 1964), and the lowest OPS was .728 (Tony Batista, 2004).
I don’t mean to pick on Francoeur, but he has a serious deficiency that needs to be addressed. I understand that he’s young, but I would like to see some signs than the Braves are working with him to solve the problem. I understand developing plate discipline isn’t easy, but it’s something that has got to happen.