Jeff Francoeur’s Big NightBy: Sabometrics
My very first post on this site was about Francoeur and my hope that he could change his approach at the plate and become the hitter he has the talent to be. We’re four games in, which is in no way a big enough sample to make any claims about how good a hitter Francoeur will be this year, but he has certainly started out strongly going six for his first 14 with two doubles, two Home Runs and even a pair of walks (which I think should have been three, if not for a bad call yesterday.) He’s coming off his best game of the season (though he didn’t walk) and I figured I’d take a look at his at bats and see if anything stands out.
Let’s start off by taking a look at Francoeur’s 2009 though the use of Batting Goggles. All of his at bats in the game were against right handed pitchers so let’s see how Francoeur did against righties by location of pitch.
While Francoeur had a rather mediocre year, he actually performed pretty well on pitches which were actually in the strike zone. This is just more evidence that his problem mainly lies in selectivity. His goal must be to swing at less balls, which will allow him to be more productive both by putting more strikes into play, getting himself into better hitting counts and taking more walks. It seems, from the chart that Francoeur is productive on just about any pitch from the middle in, also preferring those pitches to be low in the zone. When the ball is away (and either high or low) or outside of the zone he struggles more.
Without further ado let’s take a look at Jeff’s at bats from his big game. He first came up leading off the 2nd inning against Garrett Mock
We see some hints of plate discipline here. Francoeur didn’t swin at either of the first two change-ups which were both away. Mock probably felt that he had Francoeur looking away and that he could then come in on him. Francoeur did not agree and hammered the waist high inside change-up to left field for his first Home Run of the season. Mock made a couple of decisions which I find puzzling here, throwing 3 pitches which were all about the same speed at about the same height, and throwing the third one right in a zone where Francoeur was pretty strong last year.
Francoeur next came up with 2 outs and a man on first in the 3rd, once again against Mock
This time Mock started Francoeur off with an inside fastball off the plate. Perhaps remembering the inside change-up from the last at bat, Francoeur was first pitch swinging and got himself in an 0-1 hole. He made up for it by taking a low fastball to get back to 1-1. Mock went back outside with the slider which Francoeur swung at again to put himself in a 1-2 hole. It was pretty much over at that point as Mock came back with a great pitch, low and right on the inside edge of the plate which Francoeur weakly grounded to the shortstop. Good location by Mock and a lack of patience by Francoeur sum this at bat up pretty well.
Francoeur’s third at bat came against reliever Miguel Batista in the 5th with 2 outs and a man on 2nd.
There isn’t much to say about this at bat. Francoeur was more patient and didn’t swing at the first two pitches, which were both strikes. Batista mixed up the heights of the pitches (although a sinker that high does not seem like the best idea, that might have been a pitch for Jeff to hit) and got Francoeur in an 0-2 hole. He finished him off with a low fastball which Francoeur got under to end the inning.
For his last at bat Francoeur was facing Todd Walker, who was facing his first batter. Once again there were 2 outs and a man on base.
Perhaps remembering the way Batista attacked him (or possibly just seeing what a hanger Walker threw) Francoeur jumped on the first pitch and hammered it to left field for his second Home Run. Once again there’s just not much to analyze here, but perhaps this at bat is a good sign. Francoeur has exhibited a bit more patience at the plate, which is one key to him being a productive batter, but he has also been aggressive, which just as important. As I wrote, he has had year where he’s taken more walks and lost much of his power. The mixture of knowing when to be more patient, avoiding swinging at bad pitches but still aggressively attacking good pitches is what Francoeur needs to cultivate. Two walks in his first two games is a good sign and aggressively attacking pitches to hit like he did on his two home runs tonight is just as important.
Once again it’s far too early to say that Francoeur has successfully changed his approach at the plate, but the early signs are quite positive. After a couple of weeks we’ll know more and hopefully we’ll have seen more of the same.