Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Have You Learned? Jeff Francoeur

What Have You Learned is our very special off-season series that will outline what you've learned, what I've learned, and hopefully what the 2009 Mets have learned about themselves, others, and 2010. Today, we investigate whether Jeff Francoeur has really turned the corner, whether this is all part of his evil plan as a spy for the Braves, and my new quest to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

I've often thought about how I'm going to make my mark on this world. Should I write a book? Build a better mouse trap? Develop a seed that makes broccoli taste like cinnamon, thus combining health with great taste? Then, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize:

"I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century."
The President, with that speech, has inspired me to create a path towards my own Nobel Peace Prize ... and this is how I'm going to do it:

I'm going to bring the sabermetric guys and the scout types together.

If that's not a common challenge of the 21st century, I don't know what is.

And I'm not just talking about locking Theo Epstein and Omar Minaya in a room until they sing Kumbaya together (or until their eyes bleed, one or the other). I'm living on a grander scale. I want to bring everyone together, and make the baseball landscape one big Coca-Cola commercial. It's not going to happen in one post, it's going to take time. But it's going to be my life's mission. Because I want that Nobel Prize, dammit (can you win a Nobel Peace Prize if you say "dammit" all the time?)

It seems like y'all are for one or the other. And I think we can have both. If we had been so resistant to progress back in the fifties, we'd never have created the heaven we know today as Reeses Peanut Butter Cups because combining chocolate and peanut butter would have been akin to raising the dead with pagan rituals. And it's going to take the next genius GM to figure out what the right balance is between the batting eyes and the free swingers. Billy Beane brought us OPS. Then the landscape was changed with UZR. The next stat isn't going to be a stat at all ... it's going to be the one who figures out how to integrate everything including OPS, UZR, flat speed, straight slugging, and yes ... grit and heart (don't worry, I'll never become so blinded in my quest to win a Nobel Prize by ever suggesting this team signs David Eckstein), to build a better baseball team. The balance may not be 50/50 between the stats and the scouts. In fact it'll probably be closer to 78/22 or something. But the right balance will dominate for years.

What does this have to do with Jeff Francoeur? Everything. The three polarizing figures of the stats vs. scouts war are Francoeur, Adam Dunn, and Juan Pierre. Dunn and Pierre are probably the polar opposites in terms of how they're valued, yet the ironic thing is that both players can be of help to the Mets in different capacities. The Mets might need somebody like Pierre to cover the massive amount of ground at Citi Cave, but he doesn't walk. Dunn is a power hitter who walks a ton. But he also strikes out a ton and has as much range as a statue. Too bad you can't call in Dr. Alphonse Mephisto to splice their genes and make one super player that has defensive range and walks a lot ... although with the Mets medical luck, they'd hire a cheaper doctor to create a player who can't move, strikes out 215 times a year and has the batting eye of Mr. Magoo. (Think Dave Kingman ... 1982.)

So what have we learned about Frenchy, the third polarizing player? First off, I can't discount the fact that he's taken to New York quite well, and threw everything he had a smile on his face. On the 2009 Mets, a year where he's hit into a game ending triple play, and a game ending lucky stab by Mike McDougal, that's no small feat. When the trade was made, I thought Francoeur would be miserable going to a big city, going to a rival, and away from his hometown. It was the opposite. No doubt in my mind that put him in the right frame of mind to pick up his game. Amazing what you can accomplish when you're happy. Remember the Robby Alomar years, when he was clearly not happy as a Met? Didn't work out so well, did it?

And I was dead wrong about him in that I thought '09 would be dreadful, and '10 would bring us the new improved Jeff Francoeur. Instead, his '09 as a Met was as good as it could have been. If that was the sugar rush of a new team, much like the last part of '08 was attributed to that new manager smell, is it all downhill from here? If we have indeed seen the best of Frenchy, the saber guys will be all over him ... and rightly so, because that means that barbecue and batting cage time with Howard Johnson will have been a fruitless endeavor where Frenchy learns nothing. And what a waste of BBQ sauce that would be.

Here's where we bring the world together ... ready? Upon further review Francoeur, in the right situation, can be the right fit. Let's say he dips a little bit from the .311/.338/.498 line he put up wtih the Mets last season. If he's batting sixth in a lineup that has some serious juice up top, say, a healthy Reyes, Castillo or an improved version at second, an improved David Wright, a healthy Carlos Beltran, and a shiny new part like Jason Bay or Matt Holliday or Derrek Lee or whoever, Frenchy can be that guy crushing pitches down the middle with the bases loaded, instead of the Mets loading the bases with nobody out and having Anderson Hernandez up, followed by a 4-6-3 D.P. by Fernando Tatis.

Now, if you're going to depend on Francoeur to be your cleanup hitter, you might have problems. Because unless Hojo is part evolutionary psychologist, Frenchy is going to be who he is. It's up to the powers to put a team around him and continue to bring the best out in Francoeur where, walks or not, he can be somebody that everyone can love.

Peace and love. Peace and love.

13 comments:

James K. said...

Hi John,

I tried to find your email to contact you but couldn't so I figured this would be the best way.

I write at Amazin' Avenue, was at the last Two Boots Tavern event where you appeared and am a big fan of your work. That's why I was a little surprised to see this post about the fictional "stats vs. scouts" debate.

Statistical analysis and scouting are just 2 of the tools all smart organizations and baseball analysts utilize to form opinions about players, and, in the case of organizations, make personnel decisions. Anyone who eschews one for the other is doomed to failure.

Furthermore, the saber-inclined baseball sites out there (Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Beyond the Boxscore, the humble blog I write at) discuss scouting of players as well as sabermetrics, especially for younger players entering the MLB Draft. Just this morning on Amazin' Avenue, one of our writers dissected Jenrry Mejia's debut in the Arizona Fall League, looking at radar gun readings, pitch location and pitch movement, which are all generally associated with scouting.

The only people I generally see writing about "stats vs. scouts" are those who just flat out hate sabermetrics and the "nerds" who use it. Jon Heyman, notorious saber-hater, is a famous proponent of the fictional divide.

Anyways, anytime I see "stats vs. scouts" it grinds my gears and just wanted to share my opinion.

- James

tommy_calzone said...

seeing you write:
"Last season"

Made me stop and pause...

Then almost a smile.....nah.
Not there.

Ceetar said...

I agree about the middle of the road stuff. I think managers these days may be more important than ever, because they need to balance things like stats and splits. (Yes, Murphy has bad splits against lefties, but he had three hits against a lefty starter last night, Tatis has a long looking swing, as Keith mentioned, and has grounded into three DPs in the last two games. Who should I send up to bat?)

Or things like hmm, Castillo doesn't have a lot of power, and doesn't swing at a lot of pitches. Plus he didn't hit the ball far enough to get good sac flies for guys like Schneider or Murphy to score from third. Maybe I shouldn't be batting him 8th, instead putting him 2nd where he can use that OBP for the guys that actually do drive the ball..

Francouer _could_ be okay. Especially with a new big bat, playing behind those guys. maybe he truly will work hard and learn something. Maybe the Braves hitting coach sucks. Maybe he's allergic to the color red. I just hope the Mets don't bank on him giving them what he did at the end of last year, and have suitable backup plans in place.

Also, I don't think you can even consider signing a guy like Bengie Molina to put in the same lineup as Jeff. The amount of walking they wouldn't do is enough to make anyone fat.

Metstradamus said...

James,

Thanks for your input. Know that anything I write shouldn't be taken all that seriously because it's all tongue in cheek.

And I'm not a hater of sabermetrics at all. The analysis that you guys to at Amazin Avenue is extremely impressive and I learn more every day (obviously not enough). My only point is that Frenchy seems to be one of those guys you either love or hate for whatever reason.

Thanks again.

James K. said...

Thanks for the response John.

Frenchy is a polarizing player and a major sabermetric topic. Let's hope his 2nd half of 2009 performance is the norm going forward. Also, I know you're not a saber-hater, you're a pretty level-headed Met fan (which we need more of).

Ceetar said...

Isn't Jerry Manuel an example of the 'scouts' part of the debate? Maybe scouts is the wrong term, but guys that rely on what they see versus what the stats show. Scouts can try to sell you on things like 'poise on the mound' and can be impressed by the persona of the person themselves rather than the abilities represented by the stats.

Schneck said...

Slightly off topic but at least we know that with our wonderful stadium...no strike that..I mean our crack medical staff...oops strike that as well..I mean our supportive management and ownership...better strike that too...our unforgiving fan base...nope strike that...our wonderful local bloggers...yeah...we should be able to attract plenty of talent to our team.

chris brown said...

they should really leave Obama alone I mean really.

Anonymous said...

Sabermetrics? Whatever happened to "gut feeling?

Why would I (as a Mets fan) want Jason Bay back and sign him to an untradeable contract? And we know that Holliday will take a discount to bat behind Albert Pujols....so who is left...?

tommy_calzone said...

James,

Great job @ Amazin...

Ixnay on the Johnay around here though, capiche?

It's Damus, or Soothsayer in here ;)

Tina said...

Metstradamus, level-headed?!?

Metstradamus said...

Tina, thank you for pointing out the elephant in the room.

Hazeleyes said...

I don't mind Frenchy. He was the least of the team's problems and I suspect he will be all right in 2010. Not a guy one would build around but could be a productive player over the long haul.