Why Does Everyone Want Frenchy to Go the Other Way?

From MLB.com

Playing for the first time since being sent to Double-A Mississippi to get his head and swing right this past weekend, Jeff Francoeur looked good in three of his five at-bats.

His only hit was a fifth-inning single through the left side of the infield. But he grounded sharply to the right side during his first plate appearance and didn’t look pull-happy in the fourth inning when he hit a sharp fly ball to right field.

Putting aside the sample size issue, I am tired of hearing people (I’m talking directly to you Joe Simpson) praise the virtue of hitting to the opposite field. While the ability to hit to all fields is a nice skill, not everyone has it. Take Jeff Francoeur, for example. Thanks to Baseball-Reference’s splits we can see how he performs when he hits the ball to different parts of the field (career numbers below).

Field		PA	AVG	OBP	SLG	OPS	BABIP
Pulled		441	0.451	0.447	0.815	1.261	0.396
Up Mdle		822	0.297	0.296	0.46	0.756	0.269
Opp FldR	258	0.289	0.283	0.443	0.726	0.275

He is far more successful when he pulls the ball. There is an Braves folk tale that involves Joe Torre telling Dale Murphy “there are a lot of hits out there in right field.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of outs over there too, and Frenchy’s finding plenty of them.

Unfortunately, similar data are not available for Mr. Simpson’s career. However, we can look at hitting coach Terry Pendleton‘s splits.

Field		PA	AVG	OBP	SLG	OPS	BABIP
Pulled-RHB	286	0.396	0.396	0.714	1.110	0.347
Up Mdle-RHB	553	0.293	0.290	0.357	0.648	0.285
Opp Fld-RHB	254	0.421	0.419	0.556	0.975	0.414
Pulled-LHB	611	0.396	0.393	0.723	1.116	0.336
Up Mdle-LHB	1164	0.305	0.304	0.401	0.705	0.294
Opp Fld-LHB	446	0.370	0.362	0.540	0.902	0.344

It’s easy to see why TP preaches the opposite-field philosophy: it worked for him. However, it doesn’t look like this is the proper approach for Frenchy.

Francoeur’s problem is a simple one: he has no plate discipline. He needs to worry about what he swings at rather than where he hits the ball when he makes contact.

7 Responses “Why Does Everyone Want Frenchy to Go the Other Way?”

  1. Rick says:

    Hitting to the opposite field is an excellent skill to have. I favor the philosophy of hit where the pitcher throws it. If it’s middle in then you should go up the middle and/or pull the ball. If it’s middle out then you should go opposite field with it.
    Unless you have a very disciplined bat and a n inside out swing you really can’t hit to the opposite field on demand. Unfortunately, Francoeur has neither a disciplined bat or an inside out swing. He takes some of the biggest cuts at the plate that I can remember. That’s probably part of his problem. He hasn’t learned to adapt his swing to different pitches. It’s pretty much all or nothing.
    If you try to go opposite field on an inside half pitch, odds are that you will hit some weak grounder or pop-up for an out. Same if you try to pull a pitch on the outside part of the plate.

    With the amount of pitches that he sees on the outside part of the plate it would be nice if he could hit it to RF sometimes to keep the pitcher honest. Good hitters learn to adapt to what the pitcher throws them. Unfortunately, he hasn’t reached “good” status yet.

  2. JeG says:

    Completely agree — Francoeur needs to solely focus on pitch recognition and pulling the ball.

    Furthermore, is it just me, or does Joe Simpson drive everyone nuts? I feel like his comments are almost always way off base, and this year especially, he seems devoted to reminding everyone that he used to be a major league player. Given his career stats, you wouldn’t think it would be something he would dwell on.

    When he and Chip Caray are calling a game together… I find myself wishing that I could turn off the voices and only listen to the sounds of the game.

  3. Frank says:

    What about those of us who just want him to go away? :-)

  4. Cliff says:

    JC,

    Your table needs work. Adding the numbers across has right field OPS almost at left field level. I think they ae misaligned. However, I tried several assumptions there and couldn’t make it work there, either.

    One difference I could detect is number of balls in play each way. Clearly, Pendleton made more of an effort to hit the ball to the opposite field.

    If pitchers pitch a player away, away, away, and then inside only when they try to lean, they will NEVER get an OPS worth a damn.

    As to the Dale Murphy quote, after he had been up about 2 years he developed (and continued to improve) an ability to take that low and away curve ball and pick it up and hit it out to right center field. Before that, they struck him out with low and away junk almost as bad as they do Francoeur. By Murphy’s 5th or 6th year 40% or so of his HR’s were going out right of center field.

  5. Ken says:

    No offense but this post doesn’t really say much. If Francouer can only hit by pulling the ball, of course every pitcher is going to be throwing him away. If he can’t adapt to walking more and learning to hit the away pitches pitchers will exploit him and he is going to fail as a MLB outfielder.

    You defend his style while being unwilling to accept that his style of swing has consequences to his outcomes as a hitter.

  6. Varoadrunner says:

    I cannot agree with you based on those numbers. How many attempts werfe made to hit to off field vs how many times he pulled. A big descrepency!

    And how about all the bases loaded situations where he attempted to pull an outside pitch and grounded into an out or a DP. Come on guys, he needs an attitude adjustment. It’s rediculous to provide any atta boiys to Franceour now. And it’s his head – Not his hitting ability. He feels he MUST pull and we all know what happened to Andruw when he abandoned hitting the ball where it was pitched.

    Pulling outside pitches results in poor results!

  7. Ron says:

    The whole point of suggesting Jeff hit to RF was to compensate for his lack of plate discipline. IOW, if pitchers know he’ll swing at anything and therefore throw him lots of sliders away he can counter that by hitting those pitches to RF. He has no chance of doing anything useful with those pitches by pulling them. Of course in the ideal world he would learn the strike zone and not swing at sliders in the left hand batter box at all. But as we’ve all seen Jeff just isn’t smart enough to develop that kind of pitch recognition. At least by hitting the off speed junk pitchers bombarded him with to right Jeff was able to turn in a not completely useless OBP last season. This year unfortunately he seems to have regressed badly. Going back to being a dead pull hitter might earn him a couple more homers but it wouldn’t solve his inability to recognize a bad ball and lay off it.

    I’d say he is basically a lost cause and hopefully once he becomes eligible for arbitration and thus too expensive for his (lack of) production the Braves will trade him or decline to make him an offer.