The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Mark Bradley wants Braves fans to leave Jeff Francoeur alone . Bradley thinks the fans are being too tough on the locally grown phenom, even if Frenchy is off to a crappy start this season:
Jeff Francoeur is having a rough year. His batting average is .252, which isn’t good, and his on-base percentage is .300, which is bad. He has 10 hits – against 10 strikeouts and only two walks – in his past 10 games. Since hitting a walk-off homer against Arizona on May 24, he has eight RBIs in 96 at-bats.
As tepid as those numbers are, they don’t quite explain the rancor directed Francoeur’s way. In Sunday’s sports section he received three mentions (none flattering) in The Vent. If e-mails to a certain writer (namely, me) are any measure, the suggestions go like this: Bat Frenchy eighth; bench Frenchy; send Frenchy to the minors until he learns the strike zone.
You hear that? Fans are going so far as to send frustrated emails to the local paper. Call in the national guard! The situation is out of hand!
Bradley thinks fans should just chill out because, after all, Francoeur is still pretty young and, hey, he’s from Georgia. And, though Bradley doesn’t include this, it’s worth mentioning that Frenchy has the cutest hot baseball wife and that the Francoeurs are totally freaking adorable .
Here’s what Bradley does say about Frenchy:
It’s understandable fans would be anxious, especially at a time when the entire team is listing. What’s curious is how quickly we Atlantans seem to turn on the guy from Gwinnett. Has almost a decade of his derring-do, first at Parkview and now as a Brave, bred such contempt? Have we tired of the famous Frenchy? Have we forgotten that, for all his notoriety, he’s only 24?
First of all, I feel the need to point out that Atlanta fans are the most patient and forgiving fans in America. And if you’ve incurred their wrath than you probably deserve it. I’m a Phillies fan and I feel pretty confident saying that if Frenchy brought his .300 OBP to Philly he’d be dead in a week.
Of course, Francoeur doesn’t play in Philly. He plays in Georgia, the same place where he played in high school and college and in the minors. Should Frenchy’s Georgia roots matter to fans, as Bradley suggests? I don’t think so. He shouldn’t be rewarded for going to high school in Gwinnett any more than Mark Teixeira should be penalized for growing up in the Baltimore area. Players should be measured by their accomplishments, not their zip codes.
As for Frenchy’s feats as a Brave, well, that’s worth debating. He’s certainly had a lot of big moments. He’s been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, for crying out loud! But his stats are a mixed bag. In 2006, he hit 29 home runs, which is pretty good. But he also had an OBP of .293, which is really, really bad. The next year he had an OPB of .334, which is respectable. But he only hit 19 homers, which is only so-so.
This season, Frenchy reportedly worked out in the offseason in an effort to add muscle that would lend itself to more dingers. But so far this season he’s only got eight homers.
Francoeur has undoubtedly suffered from lofty – some might say impossible – expectations.
Here’s what the AJC’s Dave O’Brien predicted Francoeur would do last season. He made this prediction after 20 games:
I’m saying the Braves’ 23-year-old right fielder finishes this season at .280 with 32 homers, 120 RBIs and a .345 OBP, which would be one hell of a season and a huge improvement over last season.
Francoeur ended up with 19 homers, a .338 OBP and 105 RBI, which isn’t bad, but was well short of O’Brien’s prediction.
Here’s what Baseball America 2005 had to say about Frenchy, via Dave O’Brien’s Braves Blog :
“One of the purest five-tool players in the minor leagues. Scouts rave about the way he consistently gets the barrel of the bat on the ball. He uses his hands well in his swing and generates tremendous bat speed, which combined with his natural power should enable him to hit 30-plus home runs annually in the majors. Francoeur uses the entire field and used his season at pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach to his advantage, becoming adept at driving outside pitches the opposite way…. As impressive as his tools may be, Francoeur’s makeup may stand out even more. Of the most competitive players in the organization, he’s a fiery team leader, which could be just what the big league team needs.”
No pressure, right? Baseball America goes on to compare Frenchy to Dale Murphy and Chipper Jones, which is pretty elite company. So far, Frenchy has fallen far short of those comparisons. But, as Bradley points out, Francoeur is still young. So it’s too early to give up on him.
But it’s certainly not too early to boo Frenchy’s .300 OBP. And it’s not too early to worry that the local boy will never learn plate discipline. Francoeur was lobbying for a longterm contract in the offseason, but his performance thus far has hardly warranted one. When Frenchy learns to take a walk, he’ll get the money and the accolades, and he won’t see any more nastly fan letters. But until then, he’s bound to dissapoint.