Jeff Francoeur’s Head Is Still Up His Butt

This morning, Jeff Francoeur was the guest on the 790 “The Zone” morning show. During my drive in I heard part of the interview, and I was not at all happy with what I heard.

— He said he’s put last season behind him. He plans to start fresh and has already started hitting.

So far so good. Any player with a down season ought to have this attitude. Any human who has a bad year needs this attitude.

— He said last year wasn’t so bad if you take out about 80 games.

Uh, what? You know all my students would earn As on their tests if I didn’t count the questions they got wrong. You don’t get to pick the good and exclude the bad. When you look at the good and the bad from 2008, it’s an ugly season.

— He continues that it was just one bad season, and that he had over 100 RBI in 2006 and 2007.

Yeah, well it’s kind of hard not to when you have Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Edgar Renteria, and Mark Teixeira always on base in front of you. You’d think he might take a hint from their approaches.

The big issue here is not that RBI is a bad metric, it’s that he’s not identifying these seasons as poor (OPS+ of 87 and 103) and in need of correcting.

— He noted that both Pat Burrell and Michael Young had seasons in which they batted in the low .200s and bounced back to have good seasons.

What he failed to note is that Burrell does other things well despite his batting average, holding a career OPS of .852—100 points higher than Francoeur’s OPS. Burrell has a low average, but walks and hits with power. Young isn’t the on-base and power guy that Burrell is, but he hits for a high average—something Francoeur has never managed to do for a full season at any level above Rookie ball. In addition, Young plays a defensive position and is a good hitter relative to his peers at his position. I’m also concerned about his focus on batting average.

There was more to the interview, but I didn’t have time to sit in the car and listen to excuses. The point here isn’t that Francoeur had a bad year, but that he is still clueless as to what his problem is. I’m amazed at his level of denial. You need confidence to succeed, but what Francoeur has is hubris.

23 Responses “Jeff Francoeur’s Head Is Still Up His Butt”

  1. Rick says:

    I am really starting to loathe Francoeur and his crap for brains attitude. It sounds like his idea of a good season is to have an OPS+ that hovers near the 100 range. “I want to be average!”. I’d really like to see what his attitude was if he was always hitting where he should be in the line-up, down around the 7 or 8 spot. He wouldn’t have those gaudy RBI totals to comfort him over the long cold winter. If his value wasn’t so low, I’d really like for the Braves to dump his sorry ass.

  2. leviinalaska says:

    Wow…hubris is exactly the right word to describe Francoeur’s attitude. What is concerning to me is that everything he said is true, it’s also irrelevant. Perhaps Jeff Francoeur should pursue a career in law rather than in the Braves right field. I hope he proves me wrong this year. I hope he develops into the natural that Sports Illustrated pegged him to be. I would love to be wrong. But I’ll bet anyone here a copy of JC’s book that he turns in another mediocre season.

    If you want to take the bet, post here and we’ll work out the performance standards for the friendly wager.

  3. Marc says:

    Maybe Francoeur should have went to Clemson.

  4. And you know what, JC? You’re a failed, worthless academic who wishes he were good enough for the ivory towers. But instead, you’re a nobody at a crappy local college that no one pays attention to.

    Yeah, how do you like it when people rip on your career like that, huh?

  5. Kristi says:

    This kind of attitude is what has made me turn on him as a fan.  He needs to be a man and admit that he struggled.  Isn’t admitting you have a problem the first step to recovery?  Do you think if Brian McCann had an off year this is what he’d say?  No, he’d talk about all the tapes he’s watched of himself, what he sees himself doing wrong and what he’s doing during the offseason to fix the problems.  He’d probably even apologize to his team and the fans.  Look at what Tim Tebow said to the national media, his team and the fans after his one loss this season.  He took it like a man, put all the blame on himself and swore he’d be the hardest working quarterback in college football for the rest of the season.  I know that’s what you’d hear out of someone like McCann who truly loves the game (not the fame or money) and cares about his team.  I’ve been nothing but disappointed in Francoeur for the past year for not admitting he’s been having issues and then for saying his relationship with the Braves was damaged by them sending him down for a few games.  Clearly his attitude hasn’t changed since the season ended, which means more of the same from him next year.

  6. Rick says:

    Hey Charlie-That was brilliant. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a detailed analysis of an economist’s career before. Where did you get your facts from. It’s always good to link to your sources so we can verify what you’re saying.
    Make sure you post again after giving Francoeur his daily rub down in the steam room. Make sure you wipe the oil off of your fingers so you don’t mistype anything.

  7. jason says:

    charlie,

    if you are going to insult someone, at least do it the right way.  your attempt was really just pathetic.  making unfounded assumptions about one’s state of mind, and self contradictory statements (i.e., saying no one pays attention to him, when obviously you, at least, do) just strengthen his point.  at least the author has data to back up his assertions.  you make me sad.

  8. Marc says:

    Frenchy, is that you?

  9. Doc Johnson says:

    So, Charlie, nobody pays attention to him, but here you are… umm.. paying attention to him? 

    Do you actually have an argument against what JC wrote, or do you just want to call him names?  Is he wrong? If so, why?  If he shot your dog or something, I can maybe see the reaction, but it sure seems like you’re being kind of an asshole. 

    You don’t like the blog, there’s a simple solution for you: Don’t read it.

  10. Tom says:

    I won’t go so far as Charlie Manning up there to insult Mr. Bradbury, but I do think this post is pretty far off-base.  Several things to point out:

    1) Even the statistically inclined love splits.  Open up the Baseball Prospectus annual…their brilliance is often an ability to pick out a period where a player struggled or overachieved, skewing the overall results in either direction.  Meaningful conclusions can be drawn from “a season minus 80 games.”  If you’re looking for a guy that’s going to produce an .800 OPS day in and day out, no matter what, join the club…there are 30 major-league GMs in pursuit of exactly that.  There’s no reason that a player (or an analyst, for that matter) can’t be optimistic on the basis of a part of a statistical sample.

    2) You claim that he’s not identifying his 2006 and 2007 seasons as poor.  First, I’d like to contend that maybe it’s our expectations that are out of line, since a 103 OPS+ is an average major-league player.  Then, you have to remember the culture from which Francoeur comes.  Really, when was the last time you heard a player refer to his OPS+?  Ask the vast majority of major-leaguers whether Frenchy’s 29-HR, 103-RBI season, and you’d likely get a fair number of “yes”es.  To the players and coaches, that’s a success because, believe it or not, there’s very little conception of the damage that a .293 OBP does, if the guy is “driving in runs.”  It’s only natural that Frenchy would consider that season a success.

    3) You’re concerned about Francoeur’s focus on batting average, huh?  Why?  Because it’s a “bad” metric?  Again, I refer you to the baseball culture.  After winning his NL MVP award this week, all Albert Pujols could talk about was how proud he was of his batting average.  No mention of leading the world in OBP, SLG, or WARP3.  Just batting average.  That’s what these guys understand, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

    4) The biggest point question here is “what did you want him to say?”  Did you want him to get on the radio and say, “you know what, the Braves might as well trade me now, because there’s no light at the end of the tunnel”?  Please.  You’re making a huge leap from his positive, forward-looking attitude to this idea of a player “in denial.”  I didn’t hear the interview, but this post contains nothing to substantiate the claim that Francoeur is denying that last year was rock bottom.

    I just can’t understand the hatred of Jeff Francoeur.  I see no evidence of this “hubris” people talk about.  Has anyone ever considered that his “inflammatory” comments upon being demoted to AA were simply the product of frustration, not some underlying feud with the organization?  No.  People forget that Jeff has been the Next Big Thing since he was 16 years old, and it’s only human that such a designation goes to your head, so to speak.  He got into a slump, and without any experience, he had no idea how to get out of it.  He gets demoted, and in his frustration, makes some comments that he regrets.  Wouldn’t be the first time a young player had done so, and people also tend to forget that–God forbid–maybe the organization didn’t handle the matter in the best way possible.

    I AM NOT SAYING that Frenchy is suddenly going to be an All-Star; in fact, I will consider the offseason a failure if the Braves do not acquire a “backup plan” for right field.  But I really object to this outcry, when much of these thoughts are being “read into” the text and audio of Jeff Francoeur’s comments.  I refer again to the idea that maybe it’s the expectations that have been out of line, but then again, fans have always preferred to simply blame something like that on the player.  I am curious to hear some real reasons why people accuse Francoeur of having his “head up his butt,” because this interview certainly isn’t a valid one.

  11. DB says:

    Tom,

     Well said.  Thanks for articulating this, as I was thinking some of these thoughts myself.

     I, too, have believed that expectations were out of line, and they were only fueled by Frenchy’s rookies season. 

     I agree that the Braves need to admit that a back-up plan for RF is a priority of sorts for next year, just in case…

  12. Rick says:

    The thing is thought that pitch recognition and what it adds to a hitter’s game isn’t that difficult of a concept to grasp. Working the count and having a high OBP is something that many hitters understand. Many teams teach that to their players throughout their system. If the Braves don’t a pox upon their house. The A’s, Red Sox and Yankees stress it because it does a couple of things besides getting you on base at a better rate. It gets the SP out of the game faster because of higher pitch counts early. It gives everyone on the team more of a chance to see all of the pitches that a SP has earlier in the game. It changes the defense because they have to position themselves differently to cover the bases. It gives the manager more options about what to do on offense etc.
    The most frustrating thing is that Francoeur can’t seem to grasp this very simple concept. Even if he does understand it, it seems as if is unwilling to work on it and make it part of his game. I know that’s why watching him frustrates the hell out of me. Listening to his rationalizations about why he does what he does frustrates me even more

  13. leviinalaska says:

    This isn’t comforting:

    Thanatos: What is the plan if Jeff Francouer struggles again next year? Will you try to acquire a solid outfielder to back him up?
     
    Wren: We are counting on that not happening.

    Sourced:
    From: http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20081120&content_id=3686789&vkey=news_atl&fext=.jsp&c_id=atl

  14. Marc says:

    What people want is humility. Francoeur ought to be saying, “Yeah, I absolutely sucked last year. There are no excuses. Braves fans have a right to be disappointed and I’m out to prove that last year was an anomaly.”

    Instead, he’s just making excuses and trying to weasel around the facts, saying that if you take 80 games away, it wasn’t that bad a season. Guess what? You can’t take 80 games away. If that were possible, why play 162?

  15. Tom says:

    Rick, I think you’re drawing some fuzzy connections between various types of baseball skills.  Pitch recognition, “working the count,” and OBP are three decidedly different skill sets.

    First, there’s pitch recognition, the ability to recognize fastball or curveball, ball or strike.  Obviously Frenchy needs some work on his strike zone judgment, but that’s a skill that takes a lot of time and effort to learn, and I’ve never seen him say that he isn’t working on his pitch recognition.  All that extra time he’s taken in the cages…I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that’s what he’s working on.  Players do not quickly develop plate discipline.

    Then, there’s working the count.  Again, this is a skill that’s understood within the game, but to players and coaches, patience isn’t always a virtue.  Some players get praised for their ability to “wait for their pitch,” but you see just as many players get praised for being “aggressive hitters.”  Keep in mind that aggressive is in many ways just a euphemism for a hitter that likes to swing early and often.  There’s such a thing as being TOO aggressive (which Francoeur is), but there’s a fine line between wanting to be more patient and wanting to become a patient hitter.  Jeff’s past success has all come out of a willingness to be something of a free-swinger, and as a result, I see no reason to change the approach entirely.  Some adjustments, absolutely, but he doesn’t need to make radical changes, and I’ve never heard him express an aversion to adjustments.

    High OBP is a yet different skill, and it is largely UNappreciated in dugouts around the majors.  When you talk about the Yankees and Red Sox and A’s preaching OBP, you’re talking about the front offices.  They tend to try to acquire players whose skill sets include patience and plate discipline, but on a coaching level, they aren’t trying to take free-swingers and turn them into walk machines.

    All these skills are different, but they are interconnected, under the umbrella of plate discipline.  And players rarely learn plate discipline overnight.  It takes several years if it comes at all.  And that is where Frenchy’s expectations may have been out of line…everyone expected that plate discipline to develop so Francoeur could be a star.  It hasn’t developed, but it would be a fallacy to insist that that is somehow Francoeur’s own fault.  Prospects fail all the time, and much more often it is because they simply didn’t have the skill set than that they had their heads up their butts.  Again, people look at all of Francoeur’s “tools” and think that means he should be a superstar, but sometimes the tools just don’t come together.

  16. Braves Fan says:

    If I can stick up for Charlie, slightly, I don’t necessarily think he meant what he wrote, as much as he just wanted to get across the idea that perhaps JC has moved from assessing Francoeur’s performance, to just blindly criticizing him.  I’m not sure I’d agree in full, because I think JC usually does a good job of backing up his analysis, but it is something to think about.  Even if it was bluntly stated.
    Thanks for the great comments Tom, especially the comments on the baseball culture.  When it comes to the “yes”es that you’d get from MLBers on his 2006 season, it is hard to argue that it wasn’t a good season based solely on the production.  Simply put, runs win games, and driving in runs within a single game is more important than getting on base.  Now there is an argument that it could’ve been a better season, or that the RBI and HR numbers alone aren’t good predictors of future performance, but we need to be mindful of these differences, and clear in our criticisms.
    Lastly, for our friend in Alaska, I chuckled at that comment from Wren too. If you read the whole conversation transcript, he made a lot of quick answers to a lot of, sometimes stupid and repetitive, questions, so I think we can hope that he was just being simplistic and optimistic.  I’m pretty sure that Frank has a backup plan if Jeff falters again this Spring.

  17. Larry says:

    Apparently, humor is lost on you.  To take that statement (the 80 games) and attempt to turn it into something more is just plain silly. All he actually said was that other players have had bad years and bounced back. Bill James recently released his list of the best players under 26 years of age in baseball.  Prince Fielder was first, Miguel Cabrara was 23rd and Joe Mauer was completely left of the list.  Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of baseball knows this is rubbish.  Sabermetrics is a long way from an exact science when applied to baseball.  To say that Burrell was better player that Jeff in ’07 is to ignore his defensive liabilities and Jeff’s defensive assets.  The player has to be considered as a whole. 

  18. Mark says:

    Francoeur’s OPS ceiling is around 800, which is fairly pedestrian for any outfielder. His numbers in 2006/2007 were due more to playing every inning of the entire two seasons than his talent level.  His attitude aside, no way should Francoeur been allowed to stay in the Braves starting line up for as long as he did. That mistake is on the head of Bobby Cox.

    No matter ones opinion concerning the talent level of Jeff Francoeur, 2009 is his make or break season for the Atlanta Braves.

  19. Tom says:

    Marc, why do you interpret his comments as “excuses”?  He’s done talking about last season, as well he should be.  He doesn’t have to explain to fans that he sucked last year.  He started off the interview by saying he’s putting last year behind him.  That suggests pretty clearly that he knows it was a poor season, and, as a result, he’s going to focus on NEXT season.  There’s no reason for him to keep rehashing everything that went wrong.  It’s not good for his mindset, and, as a fan, I sure don’t want to hear it.  Like him, I’ve moved on…the 2008 season is over, I’m focusing on 2010.

    Even though Frenchy makes some comments about last season (like the “80 games” comment), he still appears to be focusing on next season.  He’s pointing out some positives in order to say that there’s still hope.  There’s still reason for fans to believe in him, and there’s still reason for him to believe in himself.  Is it really so wrong for him to say that?

    On a side note, I already addressed Mr. Bradbury’s logical fallacy in his (and your) analysis of the “80 games” comment.  Any good statistician knows the value of analyzing splits.  It’d cost you a fortune to put out a lineup of eight guys who are star-caliber all the time.  You have to settle for at least three or four of those guys being star-caliber SOME of the time.

  20. Dawn says:

    Tom said about Francoeur:
    He gets demoted, and in his frustration, makes some comments that he regrets.  Wouldn’t be the first time a young player had done so, and people also tend to forget that–God forbid–maybe the organization didn’t handle the matter in the best way possible.

    First of all, I really don’t know how the Braves could have handled it any better than they did.  Secondly, you’re right — it could have just been frustration.  The thing is, who says he regrets making the comments?  He certainly hasn’t said he regrets it.  If he would say that, I would gain a lot of respect for him.

  21. Marc Schneider says:

    Well, I think the best excuse is that Jeff might have been kidding about the 80 games.  If he was serious, it’s a pretty stupid thing to say.    First, his other 80 games weren’t that good either–he only hit 11 home runs all year.  Second, how many good players would simply discount half the season; if it’s splits you want, then someone else should have been playing the other 80 games.

    But, after thinking about it, I think (and hope) he was being ironic. 

  22. John McCann says:

    The only way to tell when Jeff has grown up is when they sit him a few times versus RHP on the road, and he keeps his mouth shut.

  23. Rick Henderson says:

    Tom,

    After reading David O’Brien’s blogs and AJC stories pretty faithfully, I think part of the organization’s frustration with Francouer is that he pretty much took last winter off — except for body-building. He didn’t hit in a cage and came to spring training very rusty.

    Francouer’s strike zone recognition is pretty awful but he might be able to compensate for that by hitting constantly. He didn’t last winter and between the loss of muscle memory and his newly found bulk, he never recovered.

    I’ve alway thought he was a mediocre player with a lot of power — he never put up great minor-league numbers, unlike, say, Chipper — who caught lightning in a bottle. As a Braves fan I hoped that lucky streak would continue.

    Now I’d be just as happy if they got rid of him and let some other organization worry about his failure to achieve his “potential.”